STEREOTYPES. We are all guilty of lumping someone into a category.

Take victims, for example those who have been affected by domestic abuse. What do you imagine? A shrinking wallflower, shoulders slumped, hair over their face, who cowers at the mere hint of a raised voice? Perhaps.

I would hope that judges, and the amount of victims of crime they see, would not be so quick to judge over the victim sterotype. Victims come in many different forms. There are those who suffer from trauma and find it difficult to move on, and those who carry on with stoicism and utter strength. And of course there are many shades in between.

But a Teesside district judge, Helen Cousins, cleared Paul Measor, 35, of the relatively new offence of coercive control last week– simply because his victim Lauren Smith just wasn't enough of a victim for the judge's criteria.

Measor, from Hartlepool, taught their toddler son to call her a 'slag', held scissors to her throat and tracked her phone, wanting to know where she was at all times.

He was found guilty of common assault – but Judge Cousins ruled that Lauren was 'strong and capable' and that Measor had not had enough of a serious impact on her life to find him guilty of coercive control.

Judges are supposed to have been trained in domestic abuse. Perhaps there are some legal guidelines which I am not privy to, but how can this judge have ruled that her every movement being tracked, the fear her partner would cut her throat with scissors, or teaching his own son to call his mother a slag, could not have had a serious impact?

Of course Miss Smith is strong and capable. She left her abusive partner. That requires a core of steel. The very person she loved and trusted enough to have a child with chipped away at her self-esteem and slowly but surely took over her life, one little phone track at a time. Before she herself will have even realised it, her every movement would have been controlled. And it may have taken her some time to realise that it was happening, because her partner would have turned the blame on her, caused her to doubt herself.

Coercive control is the type of domestic abuse, that, taken on its own, doesn't leave bruises. But it is usually the first rung on the ladder towards partner violence, and underpins all violent relationships.

Had Lauren stayed, and tried to work things out for the sake of her son, in all likelihood the control would have led on to more violence.

Domestic abuse charities say the ruling showed the lack of understanding around controlling behaviour in relationships. Coercive control is abuse, but it doesn't necessarily involve physical abuse. It is the pattern of behaviour which leaves the victim fearful of doing anything wrong.

Another reason the judge gave for clearing Measor was that Lauren had left him. It seems these victims just can't win. People can't understand why they don't leave, yet, when they do, when they are 'strong and capable', their ex-partners are not held accountable.

Whatever appearance a victim has, whether they hold their heads up or cower in fear, let's not judge them, but their perpetrators.