Cut Your Strings

Controlling and coercive behaviour is domestic abuse. It is illegal.


Does your partner often make serious threats to control and manipulate you? 

Does your partner often track your movements and monitor your devices to control you?

Does your partner often isolate you from your friends, family or interests?

These are just some examples of controlling and coercive behaviour. It is domestic abuse. It is illegal.

Don’t suffer abuse - #CutYourStrings and get help now. There is lots of support and information available below. 

Watch the #CutYourStrings animations below. 

Get help and support now

Remember you are not to blame for what is happening and help is available.

A number of agencies work together in Dorset to provide specialist services for victims. Please find details below:


Outreach workers can support you wherever you are. Outreach workers can talk to you on the phone or meet you on a one to one basis. They also run drop-ins across Dorset where you can meet other people in similar situations and receive on-going support.

  • Bournemouth 24 hour helpline: 01202 547755
  • Poole Outreach Service and 24 hour helpline: 01202 748488
  • You First (Dorset County Outreach): 0800 0325204

Victim Support: 0300 3030 163.

Dorset Police Domestic Abuse Unit: To report domestic abuse call 101. In an emergency always dial 999. Dorset Police have specially trained officers that can record and investigate domestic abuse offences.

The Shores – Dorset’s SARC (Sexual Assault Referral Centre): 01202 552056 Offers support for victims of rape or sexual assault including crisis support, counselling referrals and health and welfare support.

Dorset Rape Crisis: 01202 308855 Offers practical and emotional support to anyone who is being abused or harassed.

Over the Rainbow: 01202 257 478 - lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender support


  • Bournemouth Housing Department  01202 451451
  • Poole Housing Department              01202 633804
  • Dorset:
    • Christchurch & East Dorset   01202 495256
    • North Dorset                       01258 454111
    • Purbeck                              01929 557370
    • Weymouth & Portland          01305 838400
    • West Dorset                        01305 251010

Visit for further information of local services.

24 Hr Women’s Aid and Refuge Helpline: 0800 2000247 Independent support and advice for victims or families experiencing domestic abuse.

National Men’s Advice Line: 0808 801 0327 Helpline for male victims.

National Stalking Helpline: 0808 802 0300 Helpline run by the Suzy Lamplugh Trust.

Karma Nirvana: 0800 5999247 Helpline for victims of forced marriage and honour based abuse.

National Centre for Domestic Violence: 0800 970 2070 Provides fast, free emergency injunction services to survivors of domestic abuse.

Childline: 0800 1111 If you are under 18 years old and experiencing domestic abuse within your own relationship or if domestic abuse is taking place in your home (perhaps between parents or siblings), speak to a teacher or someone you can trust, or contact Childline.

SafeDATE provide useful advice for young people about healthy relationships:

Samaritans free 24 hour helpline: 116 123 Talk to the Samaritans at any time you like, in your own way – about whatever’s getting to you. You don’t have to be suicidal.

MIND: 0300 123 3393 Provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem.


Respect Helpline (for perpetrators): 0808 802 4040 Guidance and advice to change perpetrator behaviour.


For any further information and support options click here.

Tell me more

Coercive and controlling behaviour is psychological and emotional abuse and is a criminal offence.

Controlling behaviour is: a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour. 

Coercive behaviour is: an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.

Such behaviours might include, but are not limited to:

  • isolating a person from their friends and family;
  • depriving them of their basic needs;
  • monitoring their time;
  • monitoring a person via online communication tools or using spyware;
  • taking control over aspects of their everyday life, such as where they can go, who they can see, what to wear and when they can sleep;
  • depriving them of access to support services, such as specialist support or medical services;
  • repeatedly putting them down such as telling them they are worthless;
  • enforcing rules and activity which humiliate, degrade or dehumanise the victim;
  • forcing the victim to take part in criminal activity such as shoplifting, neglect or abuse of children to encourage self-blame and prevent disclosure to authorities;
  • financial abuse including control of finances, such as only allowing a person a punitive allowance;
  • threats to hurt or kill;
  • threats to a child;
  • threats to reveal or publish private information (e.g. threatening to ‘out’ someone).
  • assault;
  • criminal damage (such as destruction of household goods);
  • rape;
  • preventing a person from having access to transport or from working.

Domestic abuse legislation under the Serious Crime Act was introduced on 29 December 2015, to make actions of coercive or controlling behaviour a criminal offence.

This means that victims who experience coercive and controlling behaviour that stops short of serious physical violence, but amounts to extreme psychological and emotional abuse, could bring their perpetrators to justice.

The offence does not apply retrospectively.

The legislation closes a gap in the law around patterns of controlling or coercive behaviour in an ongoing relationship between intimate partners or family members. The offence carries a maximum sentence of five years’ imprisonment, a fine or both.

The offence applies when the behaviour takes place repeatedly or continuously, meaning on an ongoing basis. The pattern of behaviour has to have a “serious effect” on the victim - this means that they have been caused to either fear that violence will be used against them on 'at least two occasions', or they have been caused serious alarm or distress which has a substantial adverse effect on the victim’s usual day-to-day activities.

The behaviour must be such that the perpetrator knows or 'ought to know' that it will have a serious effect on the victim.

The victim and perpetrator must have been personally connected when the offences took place. It is not necessary for the perpetrator and victim to still be cohabiting or in a relationship when the offence is reported, as long as the incidents took place when they were 'personally connected', and after the offence came into force.

Dorset Police take any reports of abuse very seriously, however other agencies detailed on this page can help if you do not wish to speak to the police. 

It is recognised that these behaviours can cause significant harm to victims and their children. These behaviours are criminal and Dorset Police has specially trained officers to investigate domestic abuse and support victims. Information about the Criminal Prosecution Service (CPS) process is in the next section below.

Dorset Police has specially trained officers to investigate domestic abuse and support victims. Call 101 to report a crime. Always call 999 in an emergency.

What will the police do? 

Dorset Police’s officers are trained to deal with domestic abuse. They will listen, treat you with respect, sensitivity and:

  • Conduct a full risk assessment with you and consider your needs.
  • Investigate all incidents which occur and take positive action against the abuser - where there is sufficient evidence.
  • Inform social services and health agencies of any domestic abuse incidents involving children so they can provide further help and support for you and your family.
  • Keep you informed on developments of any legal proceedings. If you are required to go to court, the police and other specially trained workers can provide support, and arrange support whilst attending court with you where necessary.
  • Put you in contact with victim services, advocacy support and other partner organisations.

Dorset Police will seek to bring offenders of domestic abuse crimes to justice and will work with victims to help safeguard them from further abuse.

We will also work to make sure that you and any other witnesses to the offences feel confident enough to report offences and give evidence in court.

All victims and witnesses involved in cases going through the court process are referred to the Victim and Witness Support Team; they provide a single point of contact until the court case is finished and will contact you, keep you informed about your case and arrange on-going support.

Your Witness Care Officer can work with you to overcome any issues or problems you may have about coming to court, ranging from childcare issues to fears of intimidation. 

Dorset Police and the CPS work together with Victim Support, Witness Services and partner agencies to provide a service in which victims and witnesses of crime can feel confident.

The CPS prosecutes criminal cases that have been investigated by the police and other investigative organisations in England and Wales. The CPS is independent and makes their decisions independently of the police and government.  

When deciding whether to prosecute a criminal case, prosecutors must follow the Code for Crown Prosecutors. This means that to charge someone with a criminal offence, prosecutors must be satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction, and that prosecuting is in the public interest.

The CPS prosecutes all forms of domestic abuse and we encourage everyone to recognise it and report it.

We work closely with the police and our other criminal justice partners to make sure that we build strong domestic abuse cases, and that we provide specialist support to victims so that they feel they can give their best evidence.

You can find out more about the CPS domestic abuse campaign, #DAinfocus, take part in the government consultation on domestic abuse, and find out more information about our legal policy and guidance here.

If you need support or help regarding suicide, self-harm or emotional distress contact the Samaritans on 116 123 or visit

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The Cut Your Strings campaign was made in collaboration with Bournemouth University, the Dorset High Sheriff John Young, Dorset Police, the Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner, Wessex Crown Prosecution Service and the Safer Poole Partnership.

Supported by HRH The Duchess of Cornwall and the members of the Dorset Criminal Justice Board (DCJB)

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