International Coercive Control Legal Network

De Montfort University launched the International Coercive Control Legal Network at a Justice Colloquium held virtually on 30th and 31st July 2020.

The Planning Committee consisted of: Prof Vanessa Bettinson (DMU), Prof Evan Stark (Rutgers University), Prof Julia Tolmie (Auckland University), Harriet Wistrich, (UK and Director of Centre for Women’s Justice) and Prof Liz Sheehy (University of Ottawa).

Statement of Purpose and Intent

Controlling or coercive behaviour lies at the heart of many cases of domestic violence. It does not describe a single incident but a repeated pattern of behaviour in which one person tries to control another through intimidation, threats, violence or sexual abuse.

This form of abuse only became a criminal offence in 2015 and there is still a lack of recognition within the criminal justice system, police and lawyers around how it impacts on victims, on families and on children.

To help tackle this – and to support victims – De Montfort University launched a high-profile International Coercive Control Legal Network at this Justice Colloquium in July 2020.

The network aims to fight for and develop offences and defences around the globe that can be used by people who have been subjected to coercive control – both as victims and where they have committed offences as a direct result of coercive behaviours by an intimate partner or family member.

The work of the new legal network aligns with a number of United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals: SDG 3, Good Health and Wellbeing; SDG 5, Gender Equality; SDG 16, Peace Justice and Strong Institutions.

The programme consisted of a prestigious international experts.

Professor Evan Stark

Dr Marsha Scott, CEO Women’s Aid Scotland

Detective Declan Daly head of the Specialist Unit addressing domestic abuse and coercive control

Caroline Counihan B.L.

Caitriona Gleeson, Safe Ireland

Robert Ewin, Detective Sergeant, North Crime & Safeguarding Hub, Durranhill Police Station

Prof Denise Wilson (Co-Director Taupua Waiora Centre for Mãori Health Research, AUT University, New Zealand)

Harriet Wistrich (Director of the Centre for Women’s Justice), Clare Wade QC (Garden Court Chambers) Prof Julia Tolmie (University of Auckland) and Prof Elizabeth Sheehy (University of Ottawa)

Katy Swaine Williams and Dr Jenny Earle from Prison Reform Trust, Paramjit Ahluwalia (Lamb Building), Harriet Wistrich, Centre for Women’s Justice

Access to the audio recordings for speakers in available upon request via email from Vanessa Bettinson (

New Book: Domestic Violence in Health Contexts: A Guide for Healthcare Professionals contains chapter by DMU colleague Dr Kathryn Hinsliff-Smith

This recently published edited text from Springer Publishers (December 2019) includes a chapter by Dr Kathryn Hinsliff-Smith from DMU. Kathryn’s chapter is entitled ‘Barriers and Opportunities to Effective Identification and Management of Domestic Violence and Abuse.” 

This book explores the complexities of health care and is foremost healthcare focused. The book is taking a broad health focused approach towards Domestic Violence and Abuse (DVA).

It is now well established that DVA exerts a significant and detrimental impact on the health and well-being of those who experience abuse. Universally healthcare professionals encounter individuals and families where DVA is or has taken place.

This book is beneficial to a range of health care professionals through an exploration of theories and classifications of DVA, consideration of DVA in different contexts and consideration of the core issues surrounding working with individuals and families where DVA has been identified. It provides a much needed evidence based addition to the existing texts in this field in terms of the inclusion of real life scenarios, reflective exercises and pointers for further practice development.

This book is a key point of reference for professionals working within a broad range of health care environments.

You can obtain a sneak peek of some of the content or purchase from the publisher here by clicking this link

Dr Melanie McCarry: Keynote speaker at conference 1st March 2019


Dr Melanie McCarry, Strathclyde University, School of Social Work and Social Policy, is presenting her keynote at DMU’s SVDV Research Network’s latest Conference to be held on 1st March 2019. The theme of the conference is Sexual and Domestic Abuse in the Lives of Children and Young People and Melanie’s work as lead researcher in the Equally Safe in Further and Higher Education project ( will provide an ideal insight into this area. Following the project a Toolkit was developed to implement Scottish Government Equally Safe strategy on gender-based violence in Further and Higher education. The Scottish Government have recommended that all HE and FE institutions implement the Toolkit.

McCarry, M., Donaldson, A., McCullough, A., McGoldrick, R. and Stevenson, K. (2018) Equally Safe in Higher Education Research Tookit. Glasgow: University of Strathclyde.

Melanie is also the Programme Director for the BA Social Policy and teaches across this programme and the Masters in Social Policy programmes. Melanie has published widely on men’s violence against women and children, including domestic abuse, sexual violence, forced marriage and abuse in same-sex relationships and on gender constructions specifically masculinity. For over two decades Melanie has worked collaboratively with colleagues in both academia and the feminist activist movement. Melanie is also currently developing the first MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) on Forced Marriage to be launched spring 2019.

Pat Branigan from the NSPCC delivered keynote at Conference on Sexual and Domestic Abuse in the Lives of Children and Young People. 1st March 2019

DMU’s SVDV Research Network partnered with Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland’s Civil and Criminal Justice Working Group to host a conference for practitioners and academics on Sexual and Domestic Abuse in the Lives of Children and Young People in March 2019. We had the pleasure of welcoming Pat Branigan from the NSPCC to join our other excellent key note speakers . He leads on the NSPCC’s response to child sexual abuse, with a focus on the prevention of harmful sexual behaviour adopted by children and young people.

SVDV Co-convenor Chairing Inside Government Event: Tackling Sexual Violence and Harassment in Higher Education, 20th Nov 2018

Vanessa Bettinson chaired this Inside Government event at the Congress Centre in London. The event provided a forum for attendees to discuss and examine new guidelines for tackling sexual misconduct across the higher education (HE) sector alongside leading organisations such as Universities UK and Office for Students.

Key note speakers include:

  • Fiona Waye, Senior Policy Lead – Inclusion, Equality and Diversity, Universities UK
  • Sarah Lasoye, Women’s Officer, National Union of Students
  • Dan Aldridge, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Policy Advisor, Office for Students

Further details about the event can be found here!

Highly Regarded Sexualised Trauma Specialist delivered keynote at conference on March 1st 2019

We were delighted that Zoe Lodrick accepted our invitation to join our other excellent keynote speaker, Pat Branigan (NSPCC) at our March 2019 conference, organised with our friends from the Civil and Criminal Justice Working Group (DV). Of her many credentials Zoe was honoured to deliver the inaugural Moira Jones Memorial Lecture, at COPFS Annual Conference in Glasgow, and to be awarded the Moira Jones Memorial Bowl in recognition of her work to increase understanding of sexualised trauma within the criminal justice system in 2010.

She is an inspirational speaker for the delegates at our conference on Sexual and Domestic Abuse in the Lives of Children and Young People, which included practitioners in statutory agencies and voluntary organisations, academics, students and members of the public. We welcomed people from local, national and international regions.

SVDV Seminar: John Worboys and Parole Board decision-making? 24th September

DMU’s SVDV Research Network’s were delighted to host Danielle Bates and Professor Gavin Dingwall from DMU’s School of Law on 24th September 2018.

They presented a paper entitled:

How has the John Worboys decision altered Parole Board decision-making?

Danielle and Gavin provided an overview of the High Court decision to quash a recommendation to release serial sex offender John Worboys taken by the Parole Board. After discussing the background to the case, they focused on three aspects of the ruling: that the decision made by the Parole Board was not irrational; the use of evidence in decision-making; and the changes that were made to the Parole Board rules following the decision. They assessed how these changes are operating in practice and how it will affect those offenders coming before the Parole Board in future.

Danielle graduated from DMU Law School this summer and has been working with Professor Dingwall as a research assistant.

Professor Gavin Dingwall has interests in a number of areas of criminal law and penology and is author of several esteemed publications including Blamestorming, Blamemongers and Scapegoats: Allocating blame in the criminal justice process (with Tim Hillier, Policy Press, 2016).

The seminar was well attended by members of the network and wider friends, which prompted a lively debate.

Sexual Abuse & Domestic Abuse in the lives of Children and Young Adults: Conference

De Montfort University Sexual Violence and Domestic Violence (SVDV) Research Network Conference 2019

Sexual Abuse and Domestic Abuse in the lives of children and young people

In partnership with Criminal and Civil Justice Working Group (CCJWG)

Friday 1st March 2019


This is an event of key interest to practitioners, policy makers, academics, students, victim/survivors and members of the public.

This conference is a forum to discuss all the various ways the lives of children and young people (aged 0-26) are affected by all forms of sexual violence/abuse and domestic violence/abuse. The spaces children and young people experience these issues either as victims or perpetrators is no longer confined to the ‘domestic’ location of home, expanding into virtual spaces and university campuses for example. The conference allows delegates to consider abusive behaviours that contribute to sexual violence and domestic violence of our children, adolescents and young adults, such as sexual harassment, stalking and intimidation methods from the perspectives of those who are subject to it and those who carry it out.

This subject concerns everybody, regardless of discipline or practice, organisation or age, in order to achieve a world free from sexual violence and domestic violence. That is why this conference invites you to participate and share you research and practice, regardless of your field or level of experience.


  • To increase knowledge and understanding of these issues in respect of children and young people across a broad range of experiences, professional roles, responsibilities and subject disciplines.
  • To advance understandings of diverse experiences of such behaviours and their impact from victim/survivor and perpetrator perspectives.
  • To develop and advance understandings of good practice across disciplines and agencies in addressing sexual violence and domestic violence as experienced by children and young people.

To achieve this by:

  • Knowledge transfer and the sharing of creative innovations in this field
  • The creation and expansion of networking opportunities
  • The facilitation of an open dialogue between key stakeholders.

Coercion, Trauma and Women in the Criminal Justice System (12 May 2017, 2-4pm)

I Felt Trapped And I Couldn’t See Another Option: Women Co-offenders’ Pathways Into Crime And Experiences Of Coercion

Dr Charlotte Barlow (Lancaster University) will discuss the growing body of literature which supports the claim that women follow distinct and often gendered pathways into crime. (Daly, 1992; Belknap & Holsinger, 2006).

Women Offenders, Trauma and Community Based Interventions

Sara Swire, CEO (New Dawn New Day) will discuss the work of the charity New Dawn New Day, which has sought to improve the lives of women and girls particularly those who have complex needs for almost 30 years.

This seminar will focus on women in the criminal justice system, but it will also be of wider interest to colleagues in other fields of discipline and practice whose work relate to trauma and the use of coercion.
This seminar is open to all staff, students, statutory and voluntary sector.

Registration: Email Vanessa Bettinson

Took place 12 May 2017

Flyer for Coercion and Trauma seminar (PDF)


Coercion and Control Conference hosted at DMU (11th Nov 2016)

The Coercion and Control in the commission of sexual violence and domestic violence  conference was a great success at De Montfort University on the 11th November 2016. With fantastic inputs from: Ruth Aitken from REFUGE, Vanessa Bettinson from DMU and Professor Anne-Marie McAlinden from Queen’s University Belfast. Cross cutting discipline presentations from Media, Law, Arts, Social Work, Health and Criminology. Pictured here are the Written Foundations company that include actors, writers and directors who produced a powerful piece of drama for the event, drawing upon the real life experiences of survivors and practitioners.

For more information, see:

2016 Conference – Keynote Speakers

2016 Conference – Keynote Abstracts

Dr Lisa Oakley, ‘Exploring Spiritual Abuse and the implications for policy and practice’: SVDV seminar hosted at DMU (8 June 2016)

On Wednesday 8th June 2016, Dr Lisa Oakley (pictured) presented a seminar at DMU entitled: “The whole thing is based on fear- this is abuse and people need to know that” – Exploring Spiritual Abuse and the implications for policy and practice.

Lisa-story-pic-560x300pxThis seminar explored the topic of spiritual abuse. This form of abuse is attracting growing attention in light of changes to the definitions of domestic violence to include coercion and control and in response to the prevent agenda. Understanding psychological and emotional abuse in faith settings is of increasing importance. This seminar firstly explored what Spiritual Abuse is, the impact it has on the individual and links between spiritual abuse and other forms of abuse. It then considered challenges for safeguarding policy and practice and report recent advances in these areas.

Dr Lisa Oakley is programme leader for the only undergraduate course in Abuse Studies in the UK based at Manchester Metropolitan University. Her research is principally in the area of Spiritual abuse and safeguarding in faith based organisations. In 2013 Lisa co-authored a book entitled ‘Breaking the Silence on Spiritual Abuse’ this was published by Palgrave MacMillan and is the first book based on empirical research on this topic in the UK. Lisa has spoken extensively on the topic of spiritual abuse across the UK at national and international conferences. Lisa has taught in Higher Education for over 20 years.