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What would you do?

Scenario: Your brother is controlling his wife

You’ve noticed your brother’s relationship with his wife has been difficult lately. The last few times you’ve seen them she’s seemed subdued, she rarely goes out any more and constantly puts herself down.

While visiting one day, you overhear your brother telling her that she’s worthless. Later that evening when you’re alone with her she says things have been tough for a while. She reveals that he has been stopping her seeing some of her friends as well as checking her phone and internet history. 

This could amount to a form of domestic abuse called coercive control. It’s harmful and it’s a criminal offence.

How could you intervene in this situation?

  • It may not be safe to say anything at that moment. It may trigger an angry or defensive response from your brother, which could make things worse. Consider waiting until you can speak to your sister-in-law alone outside of their home. Reassure her that what’s happening is not her fault and ask her if she wants your help to find support or report the abuse.

  • If possible, write down what you saw and heard. You might also be able to collect photos, social media posts, text messages or videos. These can become evidence at a later date, as long as your sister-in-law agrees to you sharing them. Evidence can back you up if you decide to call out your brother’s behaviour directly with him. It will also help you to be a witness if the abuse gets reported to the police.

  • If you think it’s safe, and your sister-in-law is happy for you to do so, speak to your brother and tell him clearly and calmly that what he is doing is unacceptable. You could offer to help him find support to change his behaviour.

Remember, there’s no single answer. Calling out and reporting abuse can be especially difficult when it involves a family member. You should do what you think is best to keep you and the person being abused safe - and always check the person being abused is OK with what you are doing.

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