Love-bombing recognised as a sign of abuse
Samantha Farndale explores how family lawyers can recognise and address love-bombing in abusive relationships
The recent inclusion of 'love-bombing' in the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) guidance regarding the prosecution of abusive partners for controlling and coercive behaviour has shed light on this tactic used by perpetrators to confuse survivors and gain control.
Coercive and controlling behaviour, which became an offense in December 2015, encompasses actions intended to intimidate, restrict, and control a partner's behaviour. These actions can include isolating a person from friends and family, depriving them of basic needs, taking control of their daily lives, restricting access to technology and social media, putting them down repeatedly, enforcing rules to humiliate and degrade and gaslighting.
These behaviours are often subtle and difficult to identify, leading to their unnoticed persistence. Survivors gradually become isolated from their friends, family and support networks, manipulated, and lose the confidence and ability to leave. The impact of coercive and controlling behaviour is devastating and often intertwined with other forms of domestic abuse, such as physical violence, sexual violence, emotional, economic and technology-facilitated abuse.
What is love-bombing?
Love-bombing, a red-flag of abuse in the early stages of a relationship, involves manipulating a partner through excessive attention and affection. It can manifest in various ways, including constant compliments, gifts, mirroring the partner's preferences, continuous communication, wanting to spend all their time together, offering help, displaying jealousy, expressing a desire for commitment and a future, and sharing intense feelings of connection and love. Initially, the attention feels positive, but it gradually becomes overwhelming and suffocating due to the manipulative nature of the behaviour.
Love-bombing is often used early in the relationship to pressure the survivor into committing quickly, thereby increasing the perpetrator's control. This tactic breaks down emotional barriers and fosters dependence, as the perpetrator assumes control over various aspects of the survivor's life under the pretence of assisting them. Love-bombing may continue throughout the relationship, even after incidents of abuse, to confuse the survivor and discourage them from seeking help.
Implications for abuse victims
The updated CPS guidance is a positive development, as it highlights the diverse and subtle ways in which perpetrators exert control. This awareness is crucial since such behaviours can be challenging to detect and recognise for survivors. Many clients have only realised the extent of the abuse they endured after ending the relationship.
The guidance also aids family lawyers in protecting survivors by providing a clearer legal framework for obtaining protective orders from the family court and considering the perpetrator's conduct in a broader context, such as child arrangements or financial matters during a divorce settlement.
The updated guidance will also enhance prosecutors' understanding of the various manipulative tactics employed by perpetrators, potentially allowing more survivors to seek justice. However, it is essential for law enforcement and the courts to demonstrate that this behaviour is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
Support for survivors of abuse
The impact of stalking, controlling, and coercive behaviour should not be underestimated, as it leaves survivors feeling powerless, isolated, vulnerable, and consumed by the control exerted upon them.
Professionals involved in safeguarding, including family lawyers and the police, need to comprehend the broader context and overall behaviour of perpetrators, particularly when it comes to recognizing subtle signs like love-bombing.
Proving or establishing coercive control can be more challenging than providing evidence of physical injuries or violent actions. While expanding the legal framework provides clearer guidance for professionals to support survivors and their families, there is still much more work to be done.
Samantha Farndale is a partner at Stowe Family Law stowefamilylaw.co.uk
If you, or someone you know, are struggling with domestic abuse, you can access free and confidential support from Refuge’s 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247 and digital support via live chat Monday-Friday 3-10pm via nationaldahelpline.org.uk.
The free and confidential National Stalking Helpline can be reached on 0808 802 0300. Alternatively, visit suzylamplugh.org for help and advice.