A man who didn’t talk to his wife would not be funny. He would be an abuser | Lola Okolosie

It’s been presented as a lighthearted story, but reports of a Japanese husband who stopped speaking to his wife 20 years ago fits the pattern for coercive control

Since in 2016 turning on the news invariably resulted in a rush of negativity, it’s fair to say that by 31 December we were all fed up with the prevailing sense of doom. This perhaps explains why a story – the authenticity of which has been questioned – about a Japanese husband who didn’t speak to his wife for 20 years was reported as a bizarre-yet-comical, and ultimately cheery, item. Better that than to see it as an example of coercive control, something violence against women’s charities have been highlighting for decades.

Last December, ironically rather close to the dawn of the year just gone, some types of controlling domestic abuse became a crime in the UK, punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment. For many though, their understanding of “domestic violence” remains limited to its physical manifestations.

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