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CPD training on offer in spotting coercive control

17 Jun 2020 / family law Print

CPD training on offer in spotting coercive control

A workshop has been developed for legal professionals who need support in dealing with instances of domestic abuse and coercive control, when working with separating or divorcing clients.

“Given that divorce is listed as the second most stressful life event (death of a loved one being number one), it is important that legal orders, whether on financial matters, safety, or custody, are made with an explicit awareness of coercive control,” say relationship counsellors Laura Cahill and Emma Keane.

The pair have now developed a continuous professional development (CPD) workshop training module for legal professionals who want to enhance their ethical, professional and personal awareness of coercive control, when representing family law clients.


Client-needs assessment evaluations often include such areas as extended family, childcare, conflict and communication, but don’t tackle the issue of domestic abuse.

Spotting abusive or controlling behaviour generally requires specialist training, using specific therapeutic assessment tools with a couple or individual client, the counsellor believe.

They say that professionals can also be duped by practised manipulators, if they don’t have specific training in the area of domestic abuse.


The counsellors believe that the nature of abuse means that a target is often groomed from the very first meeting so that there may be little, if any, awareness of the presence of abuse in a relationship.

Coercive control perpetrators are both male and female and their targets are equally vulnerable.

A 2014 study from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago compiled data from four previous research articles involving 30,000 participants. 

It found that same-sex relationships show higher levels of domestic abuse than those in heterosexual relationships. 

The research showed that domestic violence affects between 25-75% of lesbian, gay and bisexuals.

However, a lack of representative data and under-reporting of abuse paints an incomplete picture of the true landscape, suggesting even higher rates.


“Domestic violence is exacerbated because same-sex couples are dealing with the additional stress of being a sexual minority. This leads to reluctance to address domestic violence issues,” the researchers said.

An estimated one in four heterosexual women experience domestic abuse, with rates significantly lower for heterosexual men.

The training may be booked by emailing emma.keane3@mail.dcu.ie

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland