This article explores the “It’s Not Nothing” campaign which was created by the Vodafone Foundation and ultimately aims to help people recognise coercive control. Domestic abuse is not always physical; coercive control can be an act or pattern of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation that is used to either harm, punish or frighten a victim1. This campaign is extremely important as it highlights the amount of people who are still unaware of what coercive behaviour is and the different types that exist. The overall results of this study suggest that although the media has covered and portrayed aspects of coercive behaviour throughout popular tv dramas such as Eastenders, millions of individuals still fail to recognise the warning signs of coercive control.
During this study, individuals were asked to consider behaviours consistent with coercive control in their own relationships; 23% reported that they had been isolated from their friends and family during the time of their relationship2. 19% reported that they had their time monitored, whilst 24% stated that they had been made to feel humiliated or degraded. Based on these figures overall it was reported that more than a quarter of those who were asked were victims of coercive control (28%). Sadly, almost one in four of those asked to contribute to the study stated that they would not know how to help a friend, colleague or loved one experiencing domestic abuse.
What is Coercive Behaviour?
The “It’s Not Nothing” campaign provides examples of coercive behaviour over text message and reinforces that this is a form of abuse. Bright Sky was developed by Hestia, Thames Valley partnership and the Vodafone Foundation, and was launched in the UK in 2018. The app details the different types of abuse, signs to look out for and a wide range of information for supporting friends and family. Recently, Hestia reported a 30% increase in the demand for domestic abuse refuge spaces and support during the first quarter of 2022. Hestia has provided support and hope for more than 50 years; in 2021 Hestia supported 15,238 men, children and women, including victims of modern slavery, domestic abuse, young care leavers and elderly people. They supported these people by providing them with adequate housing and access to mental health services.
The impact of the “It’s Not Nothing ” campaign
Bright Sky has been downloaded more than 177,000 times since its launch, which therefore gives a clear indication of success. However, additional findings from this research show that 19% feel confident recognising elements of coercive control against themselves or others. Despite coercive control being a criminal offence in the UK since 2015, 48% - which is almost half of those who participated in the survey - stated they did not know that this form of abuse can carry up to a five-year prison sentence.
Domestic abuse is a wider issue which needs to be assessed. When considering the consequences of domestic abuse, we must consider the impact that it can have on the victim whether that be physical, emotional, financial, or mental3. In the findings from the Women’s Aid annual survey, 46.2% of women in domestic abuse refuges had been in an abusive relationship for between two and ten years, with 17% of women having endured a violent relationship for more than ten years4. It is also evident that women who live in poverty are at a particularly high risk of experiencing the most extensive violence and abuse during their lifetime. One research report had found that 14% of women in poverty have experienced some form of extreme violence or abuse in comparison to those who are not in poverty at 6%5. Sadly, these figures have not dramatically changed over the years indicating that this is still a huge problem in society today. A survey of women using Black Minority Ethnic and Refugee domestic abusive services found that 96% experienced psychological, emotional, and verbal abuse, 72% of whom experienced physical violence and 30% experienced attempted and or threats of murder from the perpetrators6.
Grievously, the majority of BMER women are at a greater risk of experiencing repeat victimisation due to the barriers they face when reporting abuse and seeking help. These facts give clear indication as to why the “It’s Not Nothing” campaign is so important, these figures are shockingly high, and this campaign raises awareness among all adults about coercive control as a form of domestic abuse. There are many women who still believe that abuse is only physical and therefore the aim of the Bright Sky app is to give information and support to those who are enduring coercive behaviour.
Written by Cherelle McAnoy