Coercive Control: Guest Interview with Samantha Billingham

Coercive Control: Guest Interview with Samantha Billingham
If we aren’t talking about coercive control, we aren’t talking about domestic abuse.

...That’s the direct message that greets you when you visit Samantha Billingham’s ‘Stronger Beginnings’ website. Samantha is a domestic abuse survivor who has been unfaltering in her campaign to raise awareness of coercive control and the impact it can have, as well as her work providing a safe online space for those affected to talk about their own experiences.

At Next Chapter, it’s our duty to talk about every aspect of domestic abuse and we were grateful for the opportunity to delve in to the topic of coercive control with Samantha…

Next Chapter: Hi Sam. Thank you for chatting with us. Firstly, what inspired you to start Stronger Beginnings, and how has your campaigning journey been?

Samantha Billingham: As a survivor turned advocate, for me, Stronger Beginnings is about bringing professionals and organisations together, to put survivors of coercive control and domestic abuse at the heart of what we do.  It’s about building stronger connections and conversations and creating changes for survivors of coercive control and domestic abuse.

NC: What are some common misconceptions about coercive control that you aim to address through your training programs?

SB: I think the biggest misconception about coercive control is that it doesn’t exist! It is completely misunderstood and minimised, making it difficult for survivors to make a disclosure through fear of not being believed or understood.

I existed in a controlling situation for three years, but it was only when I found the strength and courage to escape, that I realised how controlled I had been.  In the midst of it all, I accepted and tolerated his behaviour toward me as normal.

Coercive control is dangerous because you don’t feel the impact immediately; you aren’t even physically touched by the perpetrator so you don’t really understand what is happening to you.

It was only when I was handed a questionnaire that I realised how controlled I had been.  

It’s also an important message to get out there that coercive control also affects and has an impact on children and young people too.  In line with new legislation, children are victims of domestic abuse in their own right.  As a Trustee for the Buddy Bag Foundation, who provide bag packs to children going into refuge, full of toiletries, PJ’s socks, underwear, a book, something they can call their own, this is needed more than ever.

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Samantha delivers training to professionals to help them understand coercive control

NC: What role do you see employers playing in supporting employees who are victim survivors of domestic abuse?

SB: Employers can play a significant role in supporting employees who make a disclosure in the workplace.   The important thing for employers to remember is they do not have to get directly involved at all.  Support can be creating a safe and supportive workplace environment.  This could include implementing policies that address coercive control and domestic abuse, providing training for managers and employees on how to recognise signs of abuse and allowing flexible arrangements to accommodate survivors’ needs.

When I was in abusive situation, at the ‘honeymoon period’, I made my first, and last, disclosure to my former employer. I was instantly sacked.  He didn’t want to even listen to what I was trying to explain to him, which at that point was extremely difficult as I didn’t really understand what was happening to me at the time.  The perpetrator has isolated me from my friends, family and locked me in the flat I shared with him, throwing my mobile phone out of the 7th floor window, preventing me from calling into work.  When I managed to escape two days later, the first place I went was to my workplace, at least to be heard.

Simplified, support looks like acknowledging, adapting and addressing coercive control and domestic abuse in the workplace. Sadly domestic abuse doesn’t stay at home, it follows the survivor into the workplace, and this is through no fault of their own.

For some, the workplace might be their only safe haven and it is important employers recognise that.  They might notice subtle difference in their staff, for example, they might be constantly on their mobile phone.  This is because the perpetrator is bombarding them with calls, text messages and voicemail message and, if the employee doesn’t respond there will be consequences for them.  

I am a proud Ambassador for Employers Imitative on Domestic Abuse (EIDA) who provides resources, handbooks and tools for employers on how to support staff who make disclosures in the workplace.  

Over 1 in 10 of those who do experience domestic abuse report that the abuse continues in the workplace, 81% of cases confirm that this is through abusive emails or phone calls.

Also, perpetrators themselves might turn up at the workplace unannounced, maybe with flower and gifts as a surprise for the employee, when in reality they are checking up on them; making sure they aren’t talking to anyone of the opposite sex.

It is vital that employers have an understanding of coercive control and controlling behaviour because this is the type of abusive behaviour that their employees will be experiencing at work.  

NC: Could you tell us more about the inception of your online group, SODA (Survivors of Domestic Abuse), and the kind of support it offers to its members?

SB: After escaping the domestic situation I was once in, I was a lone parent with a young baby in a new area, so one of the first things that I did was register with, what was then known as, a local Sure Start Centre.  It was there that the volunteering co-ordinator planted the seed and asked me if I had ever thought about helping others.  At the time my initial reaction was no but the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to be the support I had never had.

SODA is an online safe space for men and women who have experienced domestic abuse to come together without judgement.  We don’t offer crisis support as there are already amazing local and national charities, such as the Paul Lavelle Foundation, Mankind Initiative and Women’s Aid who provide specialist crisis support but we focus on life after coercive control and domestic abuse.  SODA reduces isolation, raises awareness and gives hope, that there is life after abuse.

Members within the group can share as much or as little about their lived experience as they feel comfortable with.  Only members within the group can see posts and comments, and there is an option to post anonymously too.  It’s an extremely safe group.  It cannot be found, members are added to the group by me.  It is open to men and women up and down the country.  There is no waiting list to be added to, it’s not a postcode lottery and there isn’t a criteria to fit.

We provide a signposting service, we provide Zoom meetings and focus on building member’s self-esteem.

NC: What are your future goals for your work in the field of domestic abuse awareness and prevention?

SB: My future goals are to continue conversations around coercive control, domestic abuse and its impact by using as many platforms as possible, whether that is podcasts, radio, TV, blogs.  

I am currently completing my IDVA coursework which I’m going to pass so I can support survivors in a stronger way than I am currently doing.

I’m really interested in public speaking at conferences and sharing my lived experience as well as starting conversations that can create real change.


Thank you to Samantha Billingham for joining us for this guest interview.

You can learn more about Sam’s initiatives at

If you are based in Mid/North Essex and you’ve been affected by domestic abuse or any of the themes mentioned in this article, we can help. Click the ‘Get Help’ button for support.

In an emergency, call 999.

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