Cut Your Strings – controlling and coercive behaviour is domestic abuse

21 March 2018

The Duchess of Cornwall gives her support to animated films created by Bournemouth University students to demonstrate common types of controlling and coercive behaviour. 

Her Royal Highness recorded a video message introducing the animations which are a collaboration between the Dorset High Sheriff John Young, Bournemouth University, the Dorset Criminal Justice Board (DCJB) and the Safer Poole Partnership to raise awareness of controlling and coercive behaviour.

There are an average of 459 reports of domestic abuse per month in Dorset. But it is known that domestic abuse is often under reported and victims suffer in silence. In some cases victims may not realise or acknowledge that the controlling and coercive behaviour they are enduring is abuse.

Controlling and coercive behaviour is domestic abuse and is illegal. It was introduced as a criminal offence in December 2015 to close the gap in the law around patterns of controlling or coercive behaviour, which amounts to psychological and emotional abuse, but stops short of physical abuse.

To raise awareness of what constitutes controlling and coercive behaviour, Bournemouth University students were asked by the Dorset High Sheriff John Young, to create an animated film. The resulting ‘Cut Your Strings’ animated videos depict puppet-like characters that are attached to their perpetrators by strings. Three different stories are featured and demonstrate some of the most common forms of controlling or coercive behaviour; making serious threats, tracking and monitoring someone’s day to day activity, and isolation from friends, family and interests.

Watch the animated videos here:

The videos were launched at the High Sheriff’s Law Lecture on Wednesday 21 March, and featured an introduction by HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, who is a passionate supporter of charities which work to end domestic abuse and sexual violence. To watch the full introduction and videos click here.

Dorset High Sheriff, John Young, said: “I chose domestic abuse as the subject for the legal lecture this year, because having sat as a magistrate in Dorset since the 1980s, I have seen the treatment by law enforcement agencies of this behaviour change from being ‘a domestic’, and therefore something to be left well alone, to where we are now which includes the non-violent offence of controlling and coercive behaviour.

“Bournemouth University's Faculty of Media and Communications and digital animators in particular, were asked to make a short film illustrating the characteristics of the crime, with the full support of Dorset Police, Wessex Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and victim support agencies.

“The aim is to raise public awareness. Full credit goes to the film making and advisory team who have worked tirelessly on the project which has had the full support, from the start, of HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, the Dorset Police & Crime Commissioner, the Safer Poole Partnership and the members of the Dorset Criminal Justice Board (DCJB).”

The High Sherriff’s Law Lecture took place at Bournemouth University. Chaired by ITN News presenter Mary Nightingale, the lecture took the form of a debate on the subject of controlling and coercive behaviour. A distinguished panel analysed the animated videos and discussed the topic and issues surrounding it. The panel featured; Circuit Court Judge for the Family Division at Bournemouth Crown Court HHJ Martin Dancey, Dorset based domestic abuse case worker with 21 years’ experience Pauline Collier, copywriter and filmmaker Ian Weatherby, CPS Director of Prosecution Policy and Inclusion Baljit Ubhey OBE, Dorset Police Deputy Chief Constable (DCC) and Chair of the Dorset Criminal Justice Board (DCJB) James Vaughan; and NHS England Lead on Health and Justice System, Hong Tan.

Chair of the DCJB, DCC James Vaughan said: “Controlling or coercive behaviour can cause significant harm to victims and their children. It is a priority for all of the DCJB members to support victims of any form of domestic abuse, encourage the reporting of these crimes and work to bring those who inflict abuse to justice. Perpetrators need to know that reports of this sort of abuse will be pursued and investigated.

“The DCJB has supported this awareness raising campaign and the development of the animated videos with the aim of working to ensure that victims of controlling and coercive behaviour know that they do not need to suffer and be subjected to sustained patterns of abuse, which can lead to total control of their lives by the perpetrator. There is help and support available and I urge anyone who is affected by controlling or coercive behaviour, or any other abuse to seek help and report it.”

The closing information on the videos was voiced by actress Louiza Patikas, who played Helen Titchener within a domestic abuse storyline in The Archers radio soap opera. Current Bournemouth University students or graduates were responsible for all other aspects of production, including producing the animation, writing the scripts, composing the music and conducting the voice acting for the characters.

Bournemouth University’s Head of Regional Community Partnerships Ian Jones said: "This project provides an ideal opportunity for BU students to work with a number of external partners to explore the issue of controlling and coercive behaviour. I am really pleased to see how the project has brought BU and the wider community together which shows our commitment to equality and diversity.”

Visit: for more information and support, as well as information about the making of the animation. Support and follow #CutYourStrings on Dorset Police Twitter and Facebook.

Reporting Concerns:
If you are experiencing domestic abuse, or if you know someone who is, there are many organisations that can help. Call the National Domestic Violence Helpline on: 0808 2000 247 or visit:

In an emergency – if a crime is in progress or life is in danger – please dial 999. For non-emergencies please visit  or call 101.

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