Coercive control is “a pattern of behavior which seeks to take away the victim’s liberty or freedom to strip away their sense of self” (Cedar Network). This term was developed by Evan Stark. Stark is a sociologist, forensic social worker, and a professor at Rutgers University-Newark. Stark is the author of several books. One book in particular caught my eye: Coercive Control: How Men Entrap Women in Personal Life (2009). This book draws on interviews he’s conducted and court records. As the synopsis explains, domestic violence is neither primarily domestic nor necessarily violent, but a pattern of controlling behaviors more akin to terrorism and hostage-taking. I definitely plan to purchase this book.
One thing you have to remember is that domestic violence is ongoing. It doesn’t stop at violence; it goes on in dealing with mental abuse. And, as you know, mental abuse leaves lingering scarves. When dealing with coercive control, there are several signs that you are in an abusive relationship.
- Unreasonable demands – if you do not agree to them, they are usually followed by threats and pressure. And quite possibly physical restraint.
- Degradation – this is where name calling and bullying comes in. An example of this could be your abuser embarrassing you in public.
- Restricting daily activities – keeping you from things that were your natural routine. Stopping visits with family and friends and daily exercise routine is a way to hinder you from socializing with others.
- Threats or Intimidation – this pretty much speaks for itself. If you “disobey” in any way, shape, or form, your abuser threatens you with bodily harm in order for you to do what they want. This also includes sex.
- Financial control – unfortunately a lot of people do not know that this is a form of abuse also. This basically means that your abuser controls all of the money (even yours). They can monitor your spending habits and how much money you bring into the home. Your abuser will also give you an allowance that they feel suitable to the things that you need.
- Monitoring time – your abuser gives you time limits on how long you can be away from the house. Basically you are given a curfew.
- Taking away your phone – this is total control of who you talk to and how often.
- Destruction of possessions – your abuser destroys things that mean a lot to you. Family photos, heirlooms, and even clothing and other items that you may have purchased yourself.
These are only some of the signs given that point out if you are in a coercive control/abusive relationship. One thing stands out throughout the research that I did for this article. And that is the fact, there are still not enough laws to protect the victim. Whether it’s man or woman, there is still a stigma out there that domestic violence doesn’t exist. That if we don’t talk about it, that it will somehow go away. Well, it won’t. It will only get worse and that means more lives will be loss. When will congress make the decision to make laws that keep us safe from abusers and ex-lovers that are killing us in large numbers?
Our laws have to be stricter and victims have to be able to depend on the courts to protect them. How else can these women and men move on with their lives. We are in life and death situations and to be told or even shown that there is very little help out there for us, is devastating. We have to do more!
As always, I have attached two videos and a link to Mr. Stark’s book. I hope you will take a look at them.
Evan Stark, Rutgers University, Author of Coercive Control