Policing collective coercion: improving understandings of coercive control in honour-based violence and abuse

This 12-month exploratory study (May 2024 – April 2025) addresses a knowledge gap about how coercive control operates in honour-based violence and abuse (HBVA).

HBVA refers to crimes or incidents justified by the perpetrator(s) as carried out to protect or defend the ‘honour’ of a family or community.

Partnering with charity Karma Nirvana and West Yorkshire Police, Dr Lis Bates from the Connect Centre at University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) is leading this mixed methods study. The project will investigate how survivors experience coercive control in an HBVA context and how police identify and respond to it.

The project team aims to generate preliminary new knowledge and conceptual insights about what forms coercive control assumes in the context of HBVA . The overall goal is to help police and other agencies improve their understanding and practice around HBVA, putting survivor experiences at the core of that improvement.


Conceptual shifts over the last decade have moved understandings of domestic abuse from incident-based physical abuse in an intimate partner relationship towards a pattern of coercive control. Coercive control has been criminalised in England and Wales since 2015. The offence applies both to intimate partner and family member perpetrators. In theory, it also applies to honour-based violence and abuse. HBVA is frequently characterised by extreme controlling behaviour of victims by family members and/or the wider community.

Several evaluations have examined the effectiveness of the coercive control offence for intimate partner violence and its implementation by police in England and Wales. Yet there has been no specific investigation of how coercive control operates in HBVA and how police identify it.

Key gaps in knowledge include how survivors experience coercive control, whether the concept and criminal offence adequately reflects HBVA dynamics (e.g. multiple perpetrators) and how police identify and respond to coercive control in HBVA cases. This is a missed opportunity for policing, especially in a policy context where there are inconsistent police definitions and responses to HBVA.


The study will investigate:

  1. How do survivors experience coercive control in the context of honour-based violence and abuse (HBVA)?
  2. How do police currently understand and identify coercive control in the context of HBVA (including how they use the criminal offence and related guidance)?
  3. Are there elements of coercive control that are unique or specific to HBVA contexts?
  4. How can police understandings, definitions and tools to identify coercive control in the context of HBVA be better informed by survivors’ and specialist agencies’ knowledge?


This exploratory mixed methods project combines four datasets:

  1. analysis of existing HBVA helpline data;
  2. qualitative data from a focus group with HBVA support professionals;
  3. interviews with survivors;
  4. interviews with police.

The findings will be synthesised from helpline data analysis, interviews and the focus group using the research questions as a framework in a short project report and other outputs. Overarching findings will underpin a set of policy and practice recommendations on how best to understand, define and identify coercive control in the context of HBVA.


Lead Investigator


Project partners

Expert Advisory Group


Outputs will be linked once they are produced. Anticipated outputs include:

  • An accessible final summary report for a non-academic audience.
  • A one-minute guide for police officers on key findings.
  • An article in an international, peer-reviewed journal.
  • Paper(s) at key international domestic abuse conference(s).