Book review: In Control: Dangerous Relationships and How They End in Murder

Jeremy Gibson is the Named GP for Safeguarding Children at Derby and Derbyshire Integrated Care Board.

Jane Monckton Smith is a professor of public protection, specialising in interpersonal violence. She has played in a band, worked as a police officer, and is a mother to a daughter who experienced a 2-year coercive and controlling relationship.

In this book, she argues that people rarely murder their partners or ex-partners on a whim. Rather, almost invariably, the killing is the culmination of a clearly defined eight-stage timeline. They know what they are doing. Forceful and manipulative, ending their partner/ex-partner’s life, and convincing others they were justified in doing so (often in a court of law), is their ultimate demonstration of their power.

So, what are these eight stages?

  1. ‘A history of control or stalking’; not necessarily a criminal history, but a mindset, a tendency to dominate earlier partners.
  2. ‘The commitment whirlwind’; everything from the first meeting moves at an unhealthy, breakneck pace.
  3. ‘Living with control’; because their partner aims to control everything about them, the victim adapts their behaviours.
  4. ‘Trigger’; something (for example, potential split, pregnancy, or illness) threatens to break the circuit of control.
  5. ’Escalation’; the controlling behaviour intensifies.
  6. ‘A change in thinking’; something switches, the coercion may appear to lessen, or the perpetrator changes tack.
  7. ‘Planning’.
  8. ‘Homicide and/or suicide’; either murder or, because of prolonged and relentless coercion and control, the victim commits suicide.

By breaking down the domestic homicide timeline into these eight distinct phases, Monckton Smith has shown us what to look out for in controlling and coercive relationships and, just as importantly, what to target to arrest the progression, to save a life.

Featured book: Jane Monckton Smith, In Control: Dangerous Relationships and How They End in Murder, Bloomsbury, 2021, PB, 256pp, £9.99, 978-1526613202

Featured photo by Susan Q Yin on Unsplash.

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7 months ago

Vasumathy Sivarajasingam is a GP in West London and an Honorary Clinical Research Fellow at Imperial College London. She is also the Northwest London Primary…

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