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  1. ITV Report

Coercive control abuse causes 'invisible lost lives'

Luke Hart's sister and mother were killed by his father in 2016. Credit: ITV News

Domestic abuse affected an estimated 2 million adults in England and Wales last year and while most people think of it as an act of violence, domestic abuse can be much more.

Often abuse can be subtle, making it difficult to identify and to recognise as wrong but those experiencing it are often left feeling belittled and isolated.

This type of abuse is known as Coercive control and since 2015 has become a criminal offence.

Today the Welsh Government has launched the 'This is not love, this is control' campaign to raise awareness and help educate people about the affect and dangers of coercive control.

The Welsh Government's campaign on Coercive Control. Credit: ITV News

Supporting the campaign is Luke Hart, whose father after inflicting years of control over the family, went on to murder his mother and sister in broad daylight in Spalding, Linconshire in July 2016.

While Lance Hart had had never been physically violent towards his family he had tried to control everything they did. He would not allow his wife Claire, to have a mobile phone or to access the web.

"We'd never considered him to be dangerous, we'd considered him to be immoral, we considered him to be nasty, we considered him to be a narcissist and selfish and simple minded but we'd never considered him to be dangerous because we thought violence would be the indicator.

– Luke Hart
Luke's mother Claire (left) and sister, Charlotte (right) were killed.

Luke describes his mother, Claire, as a kind and loving woman who never spoke of her pain and suffering at the hands of the mental abuse she suffered.

However, he says that along with his brother Ryan and sister Charlotte knew how unhappy she was and would often see her sitting in her car composing and preparing herself before entering the family home.

I think coercive control unfortunately remoulds you to the abusers whim and people lose a lot of themselves in those environments.

A lot of people who don't get all the way down to being murdered they are eroded, whole parts of them disappear.

There's a lot of invisible lost lives I think from Coercive control that we all have a responsibility to do something about.

– Luke Hart

The television advert launched by the Welsh Government highlights how limiting a person's access to money, dictating what they can wear and making them cut contact with their friends and family are examples of some common coercive control behaviours.

There are lots of ways people are being poorly, badly treated, wrongly treated in their relationships because of this controlling, coercive behaviour, it is a crime this behaviour.

It's the sort of thing that people are being belittled in their relationships, being deprived of money, being bullied in their own lives, their own homes.

– Jane Hutt AM, Deputy Minister and Chief Whip
The Welsh Government television ad.

In 2018 9,053 offences of coercive control were recorded by police across England and Wales and those being prosecuted faced on average 17 months imprisonment.

For help or more information about Coercive Control or any type of domestic abuse there's a 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.