A rising number of offences for controlling and coercive behaviour are being recorded in Bedfordshire, figures show.
The latest recorded crime statistics – which also show a rise in offences nationally – come amid criticism of ITV over the alleged “misogyny and controlling behaviour” of several male contestants on popular dating show Love Island.
Home Office figures show Bedfordshire Police received 258 reports of controlling and coercive behaviour in the year to March – up from 196 in 2020-21, the first year such crimes are recorded in the data.
Earlier this year, Bedford Today revealed how police had investigated almost coercive control crimes during pandemic and lockdown
Coercive control, which is punishable by up to five years imprisonment, has been a criminal offence since landmark legislation was introduced in 2015.
Abusers can be punished for subjecting a partner or family member to controlling behaviour such as isolating them, exploiting them financially, depriving them of basic needs, humiliating, frightening or threatening them.
Domestic abuse charity Women’s Aid recently confirmed it was in talks with ITV after viewers expressed concern over “misogyny and controlling behaviour” allegedly portrayed by some of the male contestants on Love Island.
The charity said it had been tagged in “a stream of Twitter posts” by viewers who were worried about the way female islanders were being treated by some of their partners.
Jeffrey DeMarco, assistant director at the charity Victim Support, said: “It is so important that we recognise emotional abuse for what it is and call it out when we see it.
"TV, streaming and other social media has normalised coercive and controlling behaviour, and this has serious consequences.
"Domestic abuse isn’t only physical violence – and manipulative behaviour has no place in healthy relationships.”
Different figures suggest victims are becoming less likely to get their day in court, with just 3.9% of cases closed in 2021-22 ending in a charge or summons – down from 4.1%.
Mr DeMarco said the rise in offences could be more people reporting abuse to the police, but it is "concerning" that the number of charges for these crimes are also dropping.
He added: "This absolutely needs to change and victims need to know they will be listened to and get the justice they deserve when they come forward."
In Bedfordshire, 241 coercive control cases were closed last year, with 90.9% abandoned due to difficulties gathering evidence and just 4.6% resulting in a suspect being charged or summonsed to court.
This is compared to 91.9% abandoned and 5% charged in 2020-21.
ITV previously said in a statement: “We cannot stress highly enough how seriously we treat the emotional wellbeing of all of our islanders.
“Welfare is always our greatest concern and we have dedicated welfare producers and psychological support on hand at all times, who monitor and regularly speak to all of the islanders in private and off camera."
The Home Office said controlling or coercive behaviour is a "particularly insidious" form of domestic abuse, and it does not always end at the point of separation.
A spokeswoman added: “That is why our landmark Domestic Abuse Act 2021 extended the controlling or coercive behaviour offence so it will apply regardless of whether the victim and perpetrator live together."