Coercive behaviours

It’s really important to have respect for people’s boundaries, especially when it comes to relationships and sex.

Coercive behaviours are defined as an act or a pattern of acts involving assault, threats, humiliation, intimidation and/or other abuse. Coercive behaviours are used to harm, punish, or frighten people. Coercive behaviour could look like:  

  • Pressuring, threatening or forcing someone to do something they don’t want to do.
  • Sulking or passive aggressive behaviour.
  • Abusive manipulation such as gaslighting. Gaslighting is when someone denies responsibility by misappropriating blame or dismissing another person's points and emotions. 
  • It can be direct and easy to see (overt), but more often that not it is subtle (covert).  

Sexual coercion is “the act of using pressure, alcohol or drugs, or force to have sexual contact with someone against their will” and can include “persistent attempts to have sexual contact with someone who has already refused. Sexual coercion is a spectrum - it can vary from someone verbally pressuring another, or someone forcing another to have contact with them. It can be verbal and emotional, in the form of statements that make people feel pressure, guilt or shame.  

Examples of coercive behaviour:  

“A female student is working on their thesis with a male supervisor. There have been a number of times where he has made her feel uncomfortable, and one day he tells her of an important networking opportunity that would be great for her career. He promises her an invite if she lets him take her out for dinner.”  

“A group of students are intoxicated at a party and things start to heat up – a group of students start taking their clothes off and say to another student who looks really uncomfortable, everyone else is taking their clothes off so you should too.” 

“A rainbow couple have been engaging in casual sex for a couple of months, but one of them isn’t “out” yet. One night they’re having sex – person B decides part-way through that they’re not feeling it, but person A is really keen. Person A keeps trying to touch person B, even though they’ve said no. Person A says to Person B, if you don’t have sex with me, I’ll out you to your friends.”  

“A student discloses to their tutor, that a staff member in the university has been sexually harassing and propositioning them for sex, for months. The tutor knows the perpetrator on a personal level and to protect them, they tell the student to just drop the matter because it isn’t a bit deal.”   

If you are worried you are experiencing  any coercive behaviour, have a chat to someone about your concerns.