Playlist teacher guide - Controlling behaviours

Playlist information

Playlist summary

This playlist explores the types of behaviours that can be used to control and manipulate a partner in an abusive relationship.

Playlist purpose

Through engaging with this playlist students will:

  • Understand the nature of controlling and manipulative behaviours
  • Explore some of the strategies used by controlling partners to maintain power over their partner
  • Understand the laws related to controlling behaviours as abuse and where they can seek help for themselves or others who may be experiencing this type of abuse.

Please note that some third party websites may not operate in all internet browers. If you're having difficulty accessing a site, try using alternative browsers (such as Chrome) in the first instance. If you're still unable to access the site, contact us.

Learning objectives

  • Understand the nature and extent of family and domestic violence in Australia.
  • Understand how to recognise a range of disrespectful behaviours that can occur in relationships (including coercion, leverage, manipulation).
  • Understand the signs of an abusive relationship and the factors that can lead to a relationship becoming abusive.

Key messages

  • Violence, harassment and abuse in relationships is an ongoing problem in Australia and needs to be addressed.
  • Relationships can turn abusive when there is loss of respect, trust and power.
  • Violence is never OK and never excusable, and perpetrators can take responsibility and seek support to deal with their behaviour.
  • Leaving an abusive relationship isn't always easy – it can be complicated and may involve risks to personal safety.
  • No-one should ever have to put up with abuse – there is always help out there.
  • Even if a relationship has ended, respect is still important and required.

Year level(s) appropriate for

Year 10, Year 11, Year 12

Australian curriculum links

Investigate how empathy and ethical decision making contribute to respectful relationships.

Plan, rehearse and evaluate options (including CPR and first aid) for managing situations where their own or others’ health, safety and wellbeing may be at short or long-term risk.

Media items

Recognising controlling behaviours

Type: Page.

Duration: 10 minutes.

Source: The Good Society.

Summary: 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.

Survey questions:

  1. Question number 1. Are there situations where it could be appropriate for someone to have control over their partner? Answers
    1. a.Yes
    2. b.No
    3. c.Maybe
    Discussion points:

    A person taking control of aspects of a couple’s life because they have the time, skills, experience to do so can be totally appropriate.

    For example, controlling the finances and bills, or being responsible for the cars always being serviced and running well, taking control of the cooking and grocery shopping. It is only when that person’s control becomes oppressive and makes their partner feel as if they can’t make their own decisions in relation to that aspect of their life that the behaviour has become controlling and abusive.

    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 can progress so that one person loses their ability to make their own choices. They lose 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.

Love Control Victoria

Type: Video.

Duration: 4 minutes.

Source: WHIN Women. ()

Summary: The occasional bad mood becomes an everyday occurrence. An offhand comment becomes constant criticism. It doesn’t take much for controlling behaviour to quickly escalate into violence.

Survey questions:

  1. Question number 1. If you were in a similar situation to the woman in the video would you see the early cues that your relationship was becoming abusive? Answers
    1. a.Yes
    2. b.No
    Discussion points:

    Often controlling behaviours start out as small incidents – things you can justify or excuse in your mind.

    Controlling behaviours can also be several incidents – which if you looked at them in isolation wouldn’t be significant but when you look at them as a whole, show a pattern of behaviour that is becoming abusive.

    One of the most obvious cues are when you start having to lie or make excuses to others because of decisions that your partner is making for you. This is when you need to consider just how much control they have over your life and whether that control is limiting what you are able to do without fear or threat.

Things about Relationships I wish someone…

Type: Video.

Duration: 10 minutes.

Source: Jaiden Animations. ()

Summary: Every relationship is different, and no-one starts out as an expert. You learn about what does and doesn’t work for you in a relationship by having relationships.

Survey questions:

  1. Question number 1. Is it easier to spot manipulative and controlling behaviours in a stranger? Answers
    1. a.Yes
    2. b.No
    3. c.Maybe
    Discussion points:

    If we are an outsider looking at another person’s relationships it is often easier to identify manipulative behaviour because we are not invested in the relationship.

    Once we enter an intimate relationship with someone, we are individually invested in making that relationship work. Often controlling behaviours are not present in the early part of the relationship. If they are present, they tend to be small incidents that can be dismissed or excused.

    Usually controlling behaviours will intensify over time once the relationship is reasonably established. This makes it more difficult to identify the manipulation and control as you have built up an image of your partner as a good person, who loves you and wants to be with you.

Controlling behaviours and the Field Model

Type: Page.

Duration: 7 minutes.

Source: The Good Society.

Summary: The Field Model is all about preserving our own individual freedoms and rights, and recognising that others have the same freedoms and rights. But when someone ignores the rules and takes action when there is no shared agreement and no consent, that’s moving the line. All line moves are disrespectful, and some are abusive.

Survey questions:

  1. Question number 1. Have you ever experienced or witnessed controlling or manipulative behaviour by someone? Answers
    1. a.Yes
    2. b.No
    Discussion points:

    Discuss controlling behaviours further by asking the following questions:

    • What sorts of controlling or manipulative behaviour have you witnessed?
    • How did it impact on the target of the behaviour?
    • Did you or anyone else respond to the behaviour or try to intervene? Why do you think that is the case?
    • What strategies could be used to respond to controlling behaviour without escalating the issue?
    • Where could someone go to get support or advice if their partner was being controlling?

Stalking for Love

Type: Video.

Duration: 24 minutes.

Source: Pop Culture Detective. ()

Summary: Stalking for Love is a popular media trope where invasive stalker-like behaviour is presented as an endearing or harmless part of romantic courtship. The hero will often go to extraordinary lengths to coerce, trick or otherwise manipulate his way into a woman's life.

Survey questions:

  1. Question number 1. Does this Hollywood portrayal of stalking as romantic send an inappropriate message? Answers
    1. a.Yes
    2. b.No
    Discussion points:

    The messages about relationships and appropriate behaviour that are portrayed in the media are very influential on the social and cultural norms that are deemed acceptable. All of the behaviours highlighted in this video would be deemed inappropriate and in many cases criminal if they occurred in real life.

    To explore other media tropes that condone abusive behaviours towards women you can view the Abduction As Romance video by Pop Culture Detective.

    To explore the nature of stalking behaviours and what to do if you or someone you know is being stalked, watch the Stalking I video by public.StudentSuccess.org.

The facts and getting support

Type: Page.

Duration: 4 minutes.

Source: The Good Society.

Summary: The use of controlling behaviours is a gendered issue, with women more commonly experiencing abuse than men. Laws target abusive behaviours and support services are available for anyone that needs them.

Survey questions:

  1. Question number 1. Are there situations where it may be safer to stay in an abusive relationship in the short term? Answers
    1. a.Yes
    2. b.No
    3. c.Maybe
    Discussion points:

    When it is assumed that a woman who is a victim of domestic violence stays by choice, blame is taken away from the perpetrator. This puts the responsibility for dealing with the violence on the victim, who might not be able to leave a relationship because she fears for her life or the safety of her children.

    1800RESPECT

    1800RESPECT has a video that provides practical tips for how to make a safety plan.

    For young people in abusive relationships ReachOut.com has a very accessible factsheet that provides great practical steps for staying safe and leaving a violent relationship.

No Excuse for Abuse - Technological, social…

Type: Video.

Duration: 1 minute.

Source: Our Watch. ()

Summary: All abuse is serious and harmful - whether it’s technological, social or financial abuse there is No Excuse for Abuse.

Survey questions:

  1. Question number 1. Have you heard people make excuses for someone’s abusive behaviour? Answers
    1. a.Yes
    2. b.No
    Discussion points:

    All abuse is serious and harmful - whether it’s technological, social or financial abuse there is no excuse for abuse.

    Discuss the following questions:

    • What excuses have you heard being given for abusive or controlling behaviour?
    • Have you heard someone make excuses for another person’s controlling behaviour?

No Excuse for Abuse - Emotional, financial…

Type: Video.

Duration: 1 minute.

Source: Our Watch. ()

Summary: All abuse is serious and harmful - whether it’s emotional, financial or technological abuse there is No Excuse for Abuse.

Survey questions:

  1. Question number 1. Are there times when it is OK to look through your partner’s phone without permission? Answers
    1. a.Yes
    2. b.No
    Discussion points:

    Looking through your partner’s phone may seem innocent enough, however, if it is done without their permission then that is a line move and is an invasion of their privacy.

    If you have a strong and respectful relationship, there should be no reason for you to be checking their phone without permission.

    If you have concerns about where they are or who they are in contact with the respectful way to deal with it is to have an open and honest conversation about it.

Controlling behaviours wrap-up

Type: Page.

Duration: 3 minutes.

Source: The Good Society.

Summary: A quick wrap-up of the Controlling behaviours playlist.

Activities and extras

Some people think that relationship abuse is just about violence, or physically forcing somebody to do something they don’t want to – but that isn’t true. Abuse can be emotional and verbal, and could escalate to physical or sexual abuse. All types are serious and they’re never OK.

Most young people understand what constitutes sexual and physical violence, but they are less knowledgeable when it comes to other non-physical, non-violent forms of abuse. (See Consent topic for further details about recognising sexual violence).

Recognising the signs of emotional abuse

Some people use emotional abuse to control people. These signs can be more difficult to spot, but could include:

  • getting angry when you want to spend time with your friends
  • isolating you from friends and family
  • threatening to spread rumours about you
  • saying things like “If you loved me you would…”
  • putting you down all the time, using names like ‘frigid’ or ‘slut’ to control what you do, humiliate you and destroy your self-esteem
  • trying to control your life (telling you how to dress, who you hang out with and what to say)
  • threatening to harm you or to self–harm if you leave them
  • demanding to know where you are all the time
  • monitoring your calls and emails, threatening you if you don’t respond instantly
  • getting really angry, really quickly
  • using force during an argument
  • blaming others for their problems or feelings
  • being verbally abusive
  • using threatening behaviour towards others
  • pressuring you to send them nude pictures
  • if someone is lesbian, gay, bi or transgender and not ‘out’, their partner might threaten to ‘out’ them if they don’t do what they want.

To explore some real-life experiences of how relationships turn abusive and the consequences of that abuse, watch the episode of You Can’t Ask That on Domestic and Family Violence (34 mins).

To unpack more about emotional abuse and where to seek support direct students to the following website:

1800 RESPECT