Close up of a mobile phone

Digital Coercive Control

What is the nature of digital coercive control; what policing responses exist and where are improvements needed; and what training and tools do police officers need?

Technological advancements and smart technologies continue to change the nature and impact of interpersonal violence, meaning that whilst the ‘offence’ often remains the same, how abuse is perpetrated changes. Today, technology makes some new forms of abuse easy, instantaneous, and harder to detect.

This research will contribute to uncovering the nature of digital coercive control, by examining current police responses and identifying areas of improvement.

The project, awarded £34.2k from the N8 Policing Research Partnership as part of the N8PRP Police Priority Project 2023, partners with the College of Policing, Merseyside Police, Durham Police, and Cumbria Police

Recent research has uncovered the intersections between forms of domestic abuse and technology, in which technology is often used to control, intimidate, degrade, and isolate partners. However, police officers have reported a lack of understanding in this area, in relation to the nature of the offence and a lack of confidence with digital data collection.

This study, with Dr Antoinette Huber as Principal Investigator and Professor Barry Godfrey as Co-Investigator, aims to fill the knowledge gap by undertaking research which investigates the nature of digital and electronic coercive control (DECC) and policing response from the perspective of the victims and survivors. The project, entitled ‘What is the nature of digital coercive control; what policing responses exist and where are improvements needed; and what training and tools do police officers need?’, will take place September 2023 – June 2024.

Victim and survivor’s experiences as service recipients of the criminal justice system will provide unique insight into what constitutes effective practice. Following reports of problematic policing responses, the outcomes of this research will provide recommendation for best practice. This will be embedded in police training to upskill officers, to ensure they can effectively respond to the increasing use of digital devices within coercive control, and provide better protection for victims.

The research team for this project are looking to speak with victim-survivors of digital coercive control. This includes any kinds of abuse or control from former partners which is facilitated by technology. Some examples include, but are not limited to, phones, social media and other online platforms/apps, tracking devices, digital devices in the home (i.e. smart devices). We would like to speak with victim-survivors regardless of whether they have reported their experiences to the police as understanding the nature of such abuse is a key part of the project.

Potential examples of digital coercive or abusive behaviour include, but are not limited to, the following: harrassment on social media; stalking using GPS data; clandestine and conspicuous audio and visual recording; threats via SMS; monitoring email; accessing accounts without permission; impersonating a partner; publishing private information (‘doxing’) or sexualised content without consent.

If you think you may be able to help by sharing your experiences with the research team, or would like more information on the study, please get in contact with Antoinette Huber by emailing

Your participation will remain confidential and anonymous. If you are unsure whether your experiences fall within the remit of the study, please still get in contact and we will be happy to discuss this with you.  




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