Say the words domestic abuse, and what do you picture? A woman getting punched in the face by her partner? Yes, that happens. Northern Ireland has a horrific problem with men beating up the women they claim to love, often in front of their children. It is an unconscionable crime.
There were 31,817 domestic abuse incidents recorded in 2019/20, the highest level since records began.
Since the pandemic, many victims have suffered further injury and despair, due to being locked up with their abusers. Five NI women have been killed.
But there's more to domestic abuse than punching or kicking. That's why new legislation, passed by Stormont this week, is so important. It means that for the first time in Northern Ireland, coercive control is now an offence.
Coercive control is a vile, insidious form of abuse that destroys a person from the inside out. It leaves victims paralysed by fear. There may not be any visible scars, but the damage can be as great, if not greater, than that caused by physical violence. In many cases, however, the two forms of torture go hand in hand.
Louise Kennedy of Victim Support NI says that coercive control is "a systematic pattern of psychological attack on a person to rob them of self-esteem, isolate them from friends and family, restrict their freedoms, restrict their access to money or threaten violence to make sure they stay subordinate".
TUV leader Jim Allister has described the new bill as "wrong-headed and ill-advised" and claimed that it "creates criminality where no harm need be proven".
In addition, a local newspaper has championed concerns about "criminalising non-violent, non-threatening behaviour within relationships", reporting that "the PSNI has been telling the public - before the law has even been passed - that 'domestic abuse' includes giving your partner 'the silent treatment'."
The paper's editorial said that "anyone who knows the first thing about human interaction will realise that silence encompasses a large range of conduct, including people who are non abusive but prone to huffing."
The paper also noted that Justice Minister Naomi Long had "previously suggested that for someone to 'whistle a tune or hum a song' could fall under the ambit of 'domestic abuse' if the tune has hidden negative overtones for their partner".
I'll never forget interviewing a woman called "Jane" (not her real name) who was a victim of coercive control. "I was wiped out as an individual," she told me. "I thought I was going to die."
The power of this man came from the abject fear he had hardwired into Jane's mind.
"I was locked into rooms with my children, with him banging on the door, shouting that he was going to kill me," she said.
"I had my mobile phone with me. I could have called 999. But the coercion prohibited me.
"I thought I had to have evidence - broken bones, black eyes. In my head, I thought you needed that for people to believe you."
And the trauma is still there, lodged deep in the victim's mind, even if she escapes. Jane had panic attacks when she saw nail polish for sale, because her abuser kicked a bottle of nail polish at her baby.
Despite having put Jane and her children through this horrendous ordeal, her ex-partner was not jailed for domestic abuse, because there was no law against coercive control in Northern Ireland at the time.
Sadly, the experience of England and Wales, where coercive control laws were brought in five years ago, shows that legislation alone is not enough. In the year ending March 2020, there were 24,856 offences of coercive control recorded by the police in Britain, yet in 2019, only 293 offenders were convicted of controlling or coercive behaviour.
That's why Women's Aid is calling for all judges, prosecutors and police officers to receive specialist training about the insidious nature of coercive control and its devastating, often lifelong impact. Coercive control isn't about having an occasional huff when you don't get your own way. It is a form of psychological warfare, and it destroys lives. Survivors deserve justice and the full protection of the law.
Now, at last, they have a chance to get it.