“People don’t realise this is what they’re going through.”
A powerful campaign raising awareness about coercive control in teenage relationships has been launched across Wales.
Part of the Welsh Government’s successful “This is Not Love. This is Control” campaign, social media adverts aim to help young people and their parents identify coercive control behaviours in their or their child’s relationships.
Coercive control is an often subtle and non-violent kind of domestic abuse, meaning it can be difficult to recognise and identify. Those experiencing it can be left feeling belittled and isolated from friends and family.
Dictating what someone can wear, messaging or phoning constantly when apart and forcing the cutting of contact with close ones are all examples of coercive control.
The adverts will run on Facebook, Instagram and Spotify over the next month and will target 16 to 18 year olds. Guidance is also available for adults to learn how best to support young people they may be concerned about.
A criminal offence since 2015, last year 17,616 offences of coercive control were recorded by Police across England and Wales.
A recent survey by ONS showed 9.6% of women and 6.5% of men aged 16 to 19 had experienced domestic abuse more than once.
A group of young people from Coleg y Cymoedd’s Rhondda campus helped launch the latest phase of the campaign, speaking about experiences among their friends.
Dan*, 16, said: “I know of a lot of people who have had to deal with it. I think it is really common in our generation, especially with social media. So just tackling it as early as possible is really the key to helping get through it.
“If you’re dealing with it in everyday life, you can become desensitised to it and feel like it is not as much of a problem as it is. It’s a lot easier to manipulate someone over text because every person has their own interpretation of what someone is saying.”
Jamie*, 17, said: “I feel like people don’t realise this is what they’re going through. I think it can break a person’s self-esteem and make them feel trapped. It’s really good to be able to raise awareness so some can think, ‘oh that is happening to me.’
“A lot of it is around but you might not be able to see it. If a person isn’t aware they might get defensive over that person that they are getting controlled by. You should know your worth and that it is not ok. If this is happening to you, speak to anybody who can possibly help.”
The Deputy Minister and Chief Whip Jane Hutt said: “Young people may not have had the experience of a healthy relationship to know what is and isn’t normal behaviour and it is important we take every opportunity to talk to them about what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour.”
“Earlier this week we marked White Ribbon Day and the beginning of 16 days of action against abuse and violence. I met a number of youth advocates who are working hard among their peers to get the message out there that certain behaviours, language and attitudes are not going to be tolerated.”
“I hope this campaign will raise awareness of this toxic behaviour and empower young people to say it is not ok.”
If you’ve experienced coercive control or any kind of domestic abuse or want to help someone you know, call the Welsh Government-funded free and confidential Live Fear Free helpline on 0808 8010 800 or visit livefearfree.gov.wales to message an adviser 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
* names changed