Hundreds of offences for controlling and coercive behaviour were recorded in Cumbria last year, figures show.
The latest recorded crime statistics 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 Cumbria Constabulary received 249 reports of controlling and coercive behaviour in the year to March – though this is down from 335 in 2020-21, the first year such crimes are recorded in the data.
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.
Across England and Wales, 41,300 offences of controlling and coercive behaviour were recorded in 2021-22 – up more than a third from 30,800 the year before.
In Cumbria, 233 coercive control cases were closed last year, with 88.4 per cent abandoned due to difficulties gathering evidence and 5.6 per cent resulting in a suspect being charged or summonsed to court.
This is compared to 89.5 per cent abandoned and 5.6 per cent charged in 2020-21.
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 per cent of cases closed in 2021-22 ending in a charge or summons – down from 4.1 per cent.
Mr DeMarco said the rise in offences could be more people reporting abuse to the police, but it was 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.”
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 was 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.”