Morecrofts abuse conference focuses on ‘coercive control’

Held at Liverpool’s Crown Plaza Hotel, the annual Morecrofts Domestic Abuse Conference heard from a man whose mother served 10 years in jail for the murder of her abusive husband. Tony McDonough reports

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The Morecrofts domestic abuse conference focused on ‘coercive control’


A man whose mother was jailed, and later released, for the murder of her abusive and controlling husband was the keynote speaker at the Morecrofts Domestic Abuse Conference 2020.

Held at Liverpool’s Crown Plaza Hotel, the now annual event organised by the leading Merseyside  law firm, welcomed 100 delegates, bringing together abuse survivors, parents, care providers, policy makers, academics and legal professionals.

David Challen’s mother Sally was eventually released after serving 10 years in prison for the murder of her husband. Speaking about the hidden impact that coercive control had on his mother, Mr Challen said that every person has “their own little CCTV cameras” that can be used to log examples of potential abuse.

These images, he added, can be used to build a body of evidence that may ultimately make victims feel equipped to leave an abusive relationship.

Sally Challen became isolated from friends and family and emotionally and financially dependent on her controlling husband, Richard, and ultimately killed him at the family home following a period of separation and reconciliation.

David said, rather than asking why she had acted in such a way, it was more important to recognise the loss of control that led up to those events.

Other speakers at the event included Jasvinder Sanghera who discussed the dangers of so-called ‘honour-based’ abuse, telling delegates: “Abuse is not part of any culture – cultural acceptance does not mean accepting the unacceptable.”

She also highlighted the many teenage girls who disappear from school registers in the UK to be forced into marriage and the coercive control that is exercised at the heart of the ‘honour’ system of some Asian communities in the UK.

Dr Frank Maguire, consultant clinical psychologist at Merseycare NHS Trust, told delegates that the care system needs to create a context for recovery by understanding the trauma of living in an abusive family system where dominance and control sit at the heart of the family.

More than 100 people attended the Morecrofts Domestic Abuse Conference 2020. Picture by Gareth Jones


His work shows there are long-term mental health implications for children, who become hard-wired from a young age and develop ‘mental maps’ of how relationships should function and live in a ‘lingering fear state’.

Charles Millett, employment law partner at Morecrofts, also spoke about the rights of employees suffering domestic abuse and what employers can do if they suspect an employee is a victim or perpetrator of domestic abuse.

There was also a dramatic performance by the Certain Curtain Theatre Company, presenting their award-winning play Lady in Red, which explores a woman’s attempts to leave an abusive relationship and the barriers she faces.

Morecrofts partner Julie Waring, who hosted the event, said: “This conference has created a platform where professionals can come together each year to discuss all forms of domestic abuse, including coercive control.

“Domestic abuse impacts on so many aspects of people’s lives, and we are incredibly proud to play our part in driving the necessary conversations and actions to root out the causes of this problem and support victims to break free from abuse.”

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