The trans­for­ma­tion from charm to con­trol­ling can be so grad­ual you hardly no­tice it hap­pen­ing. Here’s what to look out for

The Mail on Sunday - You - - In This Issue - Anna Moore RE­PORT Or­lando Hoet­zel IL­LUS­TRA­TIONS

The shift from so­li­cio­tus ot sti­fling can be sub.tle We flag up thear­wn­ing signs


‘When I ask women what their abusers were like when they first met, they of­ten say “charm­ing,”’ says San­dra Hor­ley, CEO of Refuge and au­thor of Power and Con­trol. ‘Whether builders or bar­ris­ters, these men are car­ing and at­ten­tive at the start. They know how to make women feel spe­cial.’ Flow­ers, sur­prise trips, grand ges­tures or just 24/7 at­ten­tion – he’ll put you at the cen­tre of his uni­verse to bowl you over. ‘It’s a weapon and a dis­guise,’ says Hor­ley. It con­vinces you that he is your ‘ideal man’, your ‘happy end­ing’. And when abu­sive be­hav­iour creeps in, he can turn the charm to ma­noeu­vre, con­fuse and pull you back.


He de­clares his love, pushes you to go on a hol­i­day, move in to­gether, get en­gaged, try for a baby… Rac­ing through key stages is a def­i­nite red flag, says Dr Jane Mon­ck­ton- Smith, for­mer po­lice of­fi­cer, crim­i­nol­o­gist and do­mes­tic vi­o­lence ex­pert. ‘A man who acts like this wants to take full con­trol very quickly. He will of­ten push things at a rate that makes ev­ery­one else think, “Whooah!” It may be flat­ter­ing and ex­cit­ing but if you feel you need to slow it down, do so. A good man will be fine with that.’


‘A con­trol­ling man can’t deal with any kind of chal­lenge,’ says Mon­ck­ton- Smith. ‘So a key per­son­al­ity trait is of­ten that he’s hy­per­sen­si­tive to any kind of crit­i­cism, how­ever low-level.’ Per­haps he gets angry sim­ply be­cause you take a breath when he ac­cel­er­ates on a cor­ner (‘You have a prob­lem with my driv­ing?’) or he sulks at an

in­no­cent com­ment such as, ‘Have you had your hair cut?’ (‘Why? What’s wrong with it?’) If you’ve learnt to bite your tongue rather than risk any­thing be­ing ‘mis­con­strued’, be wary.


A con­trol­ling man needs to iso­late you to make you de­pen­dent on him. ‘The first stage will of­ten be get­ting rid of the peo­ple who are clos­est to you, those who care the most and can ques­tion what he’s do­ing,’ says Mon­ck­ton- Smith. ‘Of­ten that’s your par­ents, then your best friend.’ He may in­sti­gate prob­lems: ‘Your mum doesn’t like me,’ or ‘I feel in­ad­e­quate around your fam­ily.’ He of­ten does it so well that he seems rea­son­able – but the end re­sult is the same: a grow­ing dis­tance be­tween you and the peo­ple you love.


It starts small. A hurt look when you plan a night out with friends or a sad sulk when you go for spon­ta­neous af­ter-work drinks with col­leagues. He may say, ‘I just want you all to my­self,’ or ‘I can’t help it, I love you so much, I hate shar­ing you.’ ‘This may seem flat­ter­ing, but it’s not a sign of love,’ warns Hor­ley. ‘Drip by drip, it iso­lates you from con­tact and sup­port, and makes you de­pen­dent on him.’


There are things he likes ‘just so’, and they may seem so mi­nor that it’s easy to go along with them. It could be rules about the house – per­haps he doesn’t like any­one go­ing in his of­fice or hates peo­ple re­ar­rang­ing the book­shelves. There may be cer­tain pro­grammes he has to watch or cer­tain times he likes to eat. On their own, they’re triv­ial. Col­lec­tively, they be­come op­pres­sive. ‘He’s mak­ing the rules,’ says Hor­ley. ‘He’s say­ing, “I’m in charge, I get my way, you can’t chal­lenge me.”’ 7 HE’S CHANG­ING THE WAY YOU LOOK ‘It starts with com­ments about your ap­pear­ance that aren’t com­pli­men­tary,’ says Mon­ck­ton- Smith. ‘“Are you go­ing to have an­other bis­cuit?” “How much make-up are you wear­ing?” “You’re not putting on that dress, are you?” These re­marks don’t go away – they al­ways es­ca­late.’ So you go lighter on the lip­stick and ditch your favourite dress. ‘You try to reflect back to him the im­age he wants to see,’ says Clare Phillip­son, di­rec­tor of Wear­side Women in Need. ‘And lit­tle by lit­tle, your sense of self fades away com­pletely.’


‘He of­ten sets the stage by in­tro­duc­ing the idea that he’s bet­ter at man­ag­ing money,’ says Dr Ni­cola Sharp-Jeffs, di­rec­tor of char­ity Sur­viv­ing Eco­nomic Abuse (sur­vivinge­co­nom­i­ Maybe he says you’re a bit of a spend­thrift, that you could live a lot bet­ter with a bit more care. ‘That’s of­ten fol­lowed with the ro­man­tic, “I’ll look af­ter you” prom­ise.’ He may rush you into hav­ing joint bank ac­counts and shared fi­nan­cial ar­range­ments be­cause you’re ‘part­ners’. Grad­u­ally, you find you’re ‘frozen out’ of fi­nan­cial de­ci­sions, you don’t know what he earns or how much is in the ac­count, pass­words are changed – and you can’t spend money with­out feel­ing anx­ious, guilty or fear­ful.


He likes to know where you are and how long you’ll be out, and usu­ally checks up, call­ing or tex­ting to make sure you’ve ‘arrived safely’ or you’re ‘home on time’. He’ll claim it’s only be­cause he wor­ries about you. Tech­nol­ogy is an­other means of mon­i­tor­ing you, says Hor­ley. Per­haps he knows your phone ac­cess code or your in­ter­net pass­word, or he men­tions things that re­veal he scru­ti­nises your so­cial me­dia. Be­fore long, it be­comes spy­ing. ‘The pos­si­bil­i­ties are end­less,’ says Hor­ley: phone num­bers are stored on a shared cloud so he knows who you speak to; there’s spy­ware on your lap­top and a tracker on your car so he knows your ev­ery move. 10 HE PUTS HIS HANDS ON YOUR THROAT Per­haps it was one heated row, and he was so sorry af­ter­wards but you drove him crazy and no one else has that ef­fect on him… Women can be hes­i­tant to la­bel ‘hands on throat’ as se­ri­ous – af­ter all, it may be over quickly and with­out leav­ing a mark, ‘but I can’t stress enough how se­ri­ous it is’, says Mon­ck­ton- Smith. ‘Even if he doesn’t hurt you, plac­ing his hands on your throat or over your mouth in­di­cates that his de­fault po­si­tion is to threaten your life.’ In fact, one study found that it is as­so­ci­ated with six-fold higher risk of at­tempted mur­der fur­ther down the line and seven-fold of mur­der. ‘If it hap­pens just once, ir­re­spec­tive of any­thing else, get out of that re­la­tion­ship,’ warns Mon­ck­ton- Smith.

The Na­tional Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence Helpline is a part­ner­ship be­tween Refuge and Women’s Aid, 0808 200 0247. For more in­for­ma­tion, visit Refuge also runs a web­site with in­for­ma­tion on sup­port­ing some­one who may be in a con­trol­ling re­la­tion­ship, 1in­4­

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