Confidential help is available for anyone faced with coercive control. That is the message from a new campaign being launched today amid "worrying signs" that many people are unable to recognise the behaviour.
Safeguarding Ireland, partnering with An Garda Síochána, the HSE, and independent support groups, wants to raise awareness of what it says is a growing problem in this country, and how to stop it.
A Red C survey carried out for Safeguarding Ireland found that just 45% of people were confident they could identify coercive control if they witnessed it. Of those who did not recognise the term, when it was explained what coercive control meant, one-third said they had seen it happen.
Safeguarding Ireland chairperson Patricia Rickard-Clarke said this lack of knowledge can delay finding a solution and people need to be aware that help is available.
“If there was more awareness, we would have higher figures [reported],” said Ms Rickard-Clarke.
The survey also found that 71% of respondents believe the pandemic has helped to bring the problem of coercive control into the spotlight.
Ms Rickard-Clarke said there is growing awareness of control in intimate or sexual relationships. But the campaign also highlights issues between family members and other relationships.
The campaigners want people to know coercive control is a pattern of behaviour which is designed to exert control over another person. It is used — with intent by the abuser — to make a person dependent and isolated in order to exploit them.
Incidents of coercive control taking place since January 2019 are now a criminal offence under the Domestic Violence Act.
Ms Rickard-Clarke said abuse can include threats, humiliation, and intimidation. People with an intellectual disability or older frail people are particularly vulnerable to this.
“It can occur with people who are in close adult relationships, trust another person, or are dependent on another person.
"And it is worrying that people don’t recognise what it is.”
The campaign highlights different routes which can be taken for direct help or for advice:
- If someone is in immediate danger or knows of someone who is, they should contact the gardaí at 999 or 112. If the danger is not immediate, it can be reported to the local Garda station or, if more privacy is needed, the confidential phone line is 1800 666 111.
- Anyone needing help with an ongoing safeguarding issue can contact the HSE National Safeguarding Office at 061 461358 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Confidential help is also available, depending on the problem, through Safe Ireland at www.safeireland.ie, Women’s Aid at www.womensaid.ie, and Men’s Network at www.mensnetwork.ie.