Chapter 3 - Situations Subchapter: Controlling behaviours

Controlling behaviours wrap-up

Self-control is you managing and controlling yourself.

Control is power or influence used to direct another person’s behaviour or actions.

When we talk about controlling behaviours, we mean behaviours that use power and influence in a negative way. A controlling behavior is when one person uses their personal power or influence to make another person behave in a way they might not otherwise, or limit their ability to freely make decisions, or convince them their reality is different to what they know it to be.

When one person attempts to control the other person’s time, or expects to always know where they are and who they are with, or control where they go and who they spend time with, their behaviour has become controlling.

Emotionally controlling behaviour: a person aims to take advantage of another person’s positive feelings towards them as a way to manipulate and exploit. Verbal abuse is another form of emotional control. The use of language to demean a person’s intelligence, sexuality, body image or abilities, positions the controlling person as superior and in charge.

Socially controlling behaviour: a person attempts to undermine essential social connections by damaging or removing support networks—family, friends and colleagues.

Technologically controlling behaviour: a person uses technology to control another person by monitoring their social media, email, phone calls and text messages, or using a location tracker to monitor their every step.

Financially controlling behaviour: a person uses access to money to control another person. By restricting a person’s access to money, that person becomes reliant on whoever controls the finances.

Spiritually controlling behaviour: spiritual abuse is anything that damages your spiritual self or denies you the right to use or practice what you believe. It might be that your partner ridicules your faith, or makes it difficult for you to practice your faith, or insists you convert to theirs.

These types of controlling behaviour are often combined, and relationships which contain this can be very difficult to leave.

Violence against women and children involves more than sexual and physical abuse.

Controlling behaviours develop over a period of time. At first, the behaviour may seem positive, a sign of affection and commitment, but over time it progresses so that one person relies more and more on the other person. The other person loses self-confidence and trust in their own judgement to make the best decisions for themselves.

The controlling person has engineered a situation where the other person doubts themselves, their decisions—their self-worth and identity.


Laws and support

The law recognises that controlling behaviour in intimate relationships can have serious impacts on the victim and attempts to identify and deal with ongoing patterns of abuse sustained over a period of time.

The law also protects victims from threatening behaviour via digital or other means, such as:

  • using a mobile phone to make a threat, menace, harass, or cause offence
  • using a postal service to make a threat, menace, harass, or cause offence.


1800RESPECT is a confidential service available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

They provide support for:

  • people experiencing, or at risk of experiencing, sexual assault, domestic or family violence
  • their friends and family
  • workers and professionals supporting someone experiencing, or at risk of experiencing sexual assault, domestic or family violence.