Cygnet Family Law and EVA Women’s Aid are helping to raise awareness of coercive control as part of the UN’s campaign to eliminate violence against women and following its inclusion in soap operas Eastenders and Coronation Street.
The firm, which has a specialist department dedicated to working with survivors of domestic abuse, has a long-standing relationship with EVA Women’s Aid, and has raised money for the charity with many events, including a sponsored dog walk.
As part of the UN campaign, Cygnet Law and EVA held a showing of the film Rattle Snake, performed by Newcastle-based Open Clasp Theatre Company. The film is based on real-life stories of women who have faced and survived coercive controlling domestic abuse.
Coercive or controlling behaviour as domestic abuse became a crime in 2015, and the film has been used to train officers in Durham Constabulary and Teesside Police to deal with both perpetrators and victims.
Over the past few months, Eastenders and Coronation Street have also highlighted the issues of coercive control in domestic violence through the relationships of Chantelle and Gray in Eastenders and Yasmeen and Geoff in Coronation Street. Both programmes worked closely with domestic abuse charities to ensure the portrayals are sensitive and supportive of survivors.
Gemma Brooke, a director and solicitor at Cygnet Law, said: “Even though soaps are known for their ‘doom and gloom’ plotlines, it is essential that they cover coercive control, so that people who are potential victims are aware of the signs. I would say exactly the same about Rattle Snake, it is another accessible way of raising awareness.
“We have worked with a lot of domestic abuse survivors who either did not realise that they could seek help for coercive control and thought that it only became a crime when they had physical violence inflicted on them. This is not the case, and manipulative behaviour including humiliation, controlling what a partner does, making threats and intimidation can lead to prosecution.
“We’re delighted that so much is happening in the media at the moment to get people talking and, more importantly, seeking help when they need it.”
Richinda Taylor, CEO of EVA Women’s Aid, said: “In 2018, EVA worked with more than 1000 women to support them through, and beyond, the trauma of abuse. Many of these cases included coercive control and we as a society must shine a light on it in order to help stop it.
“As part of the UN campaign to eliminate violence against women, we were delighted to screen Rattlesnake at EVA Women’s Aid. It is a fantastic piece of theatre that has a real impact on those who view it as it gives a very real insight into the destructive dynamics of domestic abuse. We were also pleased to be hosting members of Cygnet Staff here too, who work closely with us in many ways to support victims of abuse. ”
Catrina McHugh MBE, who won Writer of the Year for Rattle Snake at the 2018 Journal Culture Awards, explains, “Rattle Snake holds the voices of those who have survived coercive control and our aim is to make the best theatre we can to ensure those voices are heard. This play matters because we live in a world where there is a sense of entitlement to take away another person’s liberty, to control and threaten.”
Rattle Snake is available to watch online for free until 10 December on the Open Clasp website.