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Coronation Street’s portrayal of controlling and coercive behaviour

As domestic abuse helplines and websites report a huge increase in the number of enquiries from those seeking help from an abuser during lockdown, Coronation Street’s recent storyline of controlling and coercive behaviour is described by the actors as a huge responsibility on the behalf of all abuse victims.

The soap’s Geoff Metcalfe’s increasing bullying, humiliation, lies and cruelty towards his wife Yasmeen Nazir has left her a shadow of her former self; with Geoff himself describing her as a “husk” of a woman.

What is controlling and coercive behaviour?

S76 Serious Crime Act 2015 means controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship is an offence punishable with a term of imprisonment of five years. 

The government defines controlling or coercive behaviour as follows:

  • Coercive behaviour: abuse intended to harm, punish or frighten a victim, including assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation
  • Controlling behaviour: acts aiming to make an individual subordinate and/or dependent. This may be achieved by isolating them from support, exploiting them, depriving them of independence, resistance or escape and controlling their everyday life

Coronation Street’s storyline

The writer of Coronation Street has been careful in realising that incidents in isolation, without any witnesses, will not in themselves lead to a conviction for controlling and coercive behaviour. Examples in the storyline are:

  • Geoff slaughters one of Yasmeen’s chickens and, in an act of cruelty, tricks her into eating it. Her neighbour Gail finds her crying in the garden but is not convinced by Yasmeen pretending everything is ok
  • Eileen overhears Geoff berating Yasmeen in the street but in chatting to Cathy about this and how all couples don’t get on from time to time, Eileen recalls being shocked by Geoff locking his wife in the house
  • Cathy forgets her handbag and leaves it at Yasmeen’s and pops back round for it.  Geoff doesn’t realise she is in the house and Cathy overhears a particularly nasty tirade about how he had timed Yasmeen going to the shop and back
  • Geoff knows his wife is claustrophobic and deliberately locks her in his magic box.  He goes to the pub and leaves her trapped and his son Tim finds her locked in the box in a state of distress.  Geoff pretends it is an accident
  • Geoff starts to use prostitutes through an online agency. He buys one of them a red dress and forces his wife to wear the inappropriate outfit to the local pub. It hangs off Yasmeen and he belittles her, humiliating her about her body and appearance and insulting her that it was meant for one of his prostitutes. Her behaviour in the pub baffles her friends and neighbours

Coercive and controlling behaviour may take place over a few weeks of lockdown, or years of a relationship or marriage. It can be difficult and frightening to take the first steps in identifying that you are a victim of domestic abuse. 

Emsleys Solicitors’ highly experienced team can support you in obtaining injunction orders to protect you and your children and prevent your abuser from contacting you, ensuring you have a safe place to live away from your abuser. We can offer Legal Aid to those who are eligible. Please call 0113 201 4900 or email family.law@emsleys.co.uk to speak in confidence.

Gabbie  Clasper

Written by

Gabbie Clasper

Head of Family Law

Gabbie has over 20 years’ experience in family law. She has expert knowledge in complex issues including financial aspects following divorce; pre and post-nuptial agreements; cases with an international element; and civil partnerships. Gabbie is regularly instructed by clients based across the country and abroad. She...

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