Care or control?

Main image - bearThis campaign, launched on Valentine’s Day 2010, highlighted the more subtle controlling behaviours used by domestic violence perpetrators.

Research shows that too few women recognise the non-physical signs of domestic violence. The campaign encouraged women to question whether their partner’s behaviour was ‘caring’ or ‘controlling’.

Four dramatic posters were displayed across the country. Each used teddy bears to depict a common technique of control – and how abusers disguise their behaviour as ‘care’. Each ‘male’ teddy bear is shown holding a love heart bearing a message. At a first glance, the messages appear to be harmless – the type of slogans commonly seen on Valentine’s Day. But on closer inspection, the words reveal a more sinister intent.


The posters

jealousy 250Your partner insists on knowing what you are doing every single moment. Because he cares? Or wants to control you? He meets you every night after work. Without fail. He picks you up from friends’ houses, girls’ nights out, trips to the gym. He always has to know who you’re speaking to, texting, emailing or even thinking about. He says he thinks about you constantly, that he has to know what you’re doing – all of the time.

Being asked to account for every minute of your day is a sign that your partner is trying to limit your freedom. Jealousy and possessiveness might initially seem like expressions of love, but they are forms of control, which can easily escalate into emotional abuse and physical violence. Click here to view the full poster.

Blame 250Your partner says he only gets angry because he cares. But is he using anger to control you? Your train’s delayed. You’re running late. You know he’ll be angry; he insists you’re on time so you can have dinner together. When you’re not, he lashes out. He says he wouldn’t have to if you weren’t so selfish. Besides, he’ll spend the next two weeks making up for it – his flowers and gifts will prove how much he cares for you.

Being constantly told you’re to blame for his behavior is a way of dominating and controlling you. Over time you may start to believe him. But nothing you do justifies any form of abuse. No woman can make a man hit her – violence is a choice he makes. Click here to view the full poster. 

Isolation 250Your partner likes to have you all to himself. Is this so he can care for you? Or control you? He tells you you’re the only one that matters. That he can’t bear the thought of sharing you. With anyone. Not even your friends or family. He says you should spend all your time with him, that all he wants is you. You’re enough for him. Isn’t he enough for you?

Isolating you by cutting you off from your friends and family is a common form of control. Although his desire to spend all of his time with you might seem romantic, he’s actually trying to make you dependent on him so that he can control you. Click here to view the full poster. 

Charm 250Everyone thinks your partner is charm itself. So why are you frightened of him? He’s charming, considerate and attentive to your every need. He’s your ideal man, your life partner. You love him, and your friends think he’s the perfect gentleman. Your world revolves around him and you hang on his every word, especially when his charm switches to rage – because then you find out what he really thinks of you.

Charm can be a weapon of abuse, used by men to manipulate and deceive. By switching between charm and aggression, his behaviour is designed to confuse you and make you doubt your judgment, which leaves you treading on eggshells as you anticipate his next outburst. Click here to view the full poster.


“The stereotypical view of domestic violence is a woman with bruising and black eyes. But I’ve learnt, through my work with Refuge, that violence is just one aspect of abuse.


“I’ve met many women who have been controlled in more subtle ways, but have still lived in fear, walking on eggshells.


“I believe this campaign has the ability to reach out to thousands of women so they can escape a lifetime of misery.”


Helena Bonham Carter Actor and Refuge supporter, who launched the campaign