Non-Fatal Strangulation Is A Predictor Of Femicide

Non-Fatal Strangulation Is A Predictor Of Femicide

Non-fatal strangulation in intimate partner violence is a powerful predictor of femicide, the main cause of premature death for women globally. A woman who has been targeted for non-fatal strangulation by a partner or family member is 750% more like to be killed by the same perpetrator.

Non-Fatal Strangulation Is A Gendered Crime

Non-fatal strangulation, also known as non-fatal asphyxiation, affects 10 times as many women as men, making it a gendered form of domestic violence. It occurs in 45% of attempted femicides.

Non-fatal strangulation and stalking are considered two of the most serious red flags of escalating aggression that can lead to femicide.

“It actually takes about 7 seconds occlusion of the blood vessels to make someone unconscious,” Gail Starr, clinical coordinator for Albuquerque Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE).

Healthcare Workers Can Be A Lifeline For Victim-Survivors

Informed healthcare professional are often the only hope for women targeted for non-fatal strangulation by current and former intimate partner or family members. It is often overlooked as victim-survivors are often too terrified and disoriented to report the violence they are experiencing at the hands of their partners and family members.

Traces of non-fatal strangulation are only discernible in 50% of the cases. Therefore, learning to identify the signs of non-fatal strangulation is crucial in femicide prevention.

Some physical signs of non-fatal strangulation are:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Brain damage
  • Hoarse voice
  • Paralysis
  • Motor and speech disorders
  • Stroke
  • Bladder or bowel incontinence 
  • Dizziness
  • Memory loss
  • Tinnitus
  • Seeing dark spots
  • Tunnel vision
  • Memory loss

Non-fatal strangulation can lead to strokse as there is a risk of blood clots forming in the artery. The strokes can occur days or weeks after the act of violence occurred.

Some psychological signs of non-fatal strangulation include:

  • Post-traumatic stress (PTSD)
  • Depression
  • Suicidality
  • Dissociation
  • Compliance
  • Amnesia

Legislation Against Non-Fatal Strangulation

So far non-fatal strangulation has been criminalized in England and Wales, where it carries a sentence of up to 7 years in prison.

References


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Luke Mackie Jailed For Coercive Control

Luke Mackie, 21, has been sentenced to more than three years in jail after subjecting two women to malicious campaigns of coercive and control.

*Trigger Warning: This article discusses physical and emotional abuse. 

According to Edinburgh Live, Mackie terrorized his partner Nicole Connor, 23, with malicious threats to kill her family if she did not meet his demands. Mackie introduced violence into his relationship with his relationship with Connor within weeks of starting a relationship with her. She recalls how his mood would suddenly change “like a switch” had been flipped. After he abused her, she says he behaved as if nothing had happened.

Connor, an NHS nurse, was placed under a series of arbitrary rules and regulations by Mackie. He isolated her, restricting her freedom of movement by seizing her car keys. His control of Connor became so extreme that he did not allow her to use the bathroom unaccompanied.

Indeed Connor’s life was in danger as Mackie’s crimes against her escalated to several instances of non-fatal strangulation. During one of his outbursts, he threw her down on the floor. When Connor bravely exited her relationship with Mackie, he harassed and stalked her for two months.

Mackie’s behavior was ‘truly harrowing’ 

Mackie’s cowardly acts of violence against women eventually led to his arrest. At the Dundee Sheriff Court, he pled guilty to 12 charges, including coercive control of Connor from October 2020 to July 2021, four charges against another girlfriend, two attacks on law enforcement officers, and possession of cocaine.

After reviewing the evidence, Sheriff Gregor Murray described Mackie’s behavior as “truly harrowing” and dismissed the mitigating factors presented by the defense.

Mackie remained emotionless as he received his sentence on December 14, 2022. In a pitiful attempt to cling to his chauvinism, he gave his parents a wink as officers led him out of the dock to take him to prison.

A restoration of human dignity

Connor and her family were satisfied with the outcome. Although she still suffers from anxiety after Mackie’s cruel attacks, the court’s decision helped restore her human dignity.

She says, “I don’t think he thought this day would ever come. I’m relieved that he is behind bars. He can’t just walk away and do it to someone else – that was my biggest fear. He’s scum, and I will never forgive him.”

Connor explained that Mackie has not apologized or expressed remorse for his crimes against her, “He’s not sorry for any of it – he’s only sorry he got caught.”

This behavior is typical of perpetrators of gender-based domestic violence, as its perpetrators usually adhere to the sexist dogma that apologizing to women is a threat to their masculinity.

Connor has no illusions about Mackie, explaining, “He’s scum, and I will never forgive him. It now feels like justice has been served, and I can start putting this behind me.”


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What is a Domestic Violence Enhancer?

Domestic Violence Enhancer

Domestic violence enhancer is a legal term used to describe behaviors intended to cause harm, injury, or distress to a former or current intimate partner. It is used to add context to a variety of criminal offenses.

Colorado and Wisconsin do not recognize domestic violence as a criminal offense in its own right. Instead it is regarded as a sentence enhancer that adds context to various other crimes as an indicator of the perpetrator’s intention to frighten, intimidate or coerce the recipient of the abuse.

“In Colorado, domestic violence is not a separate charge, but rather something that can enhance sentencing, “explains Casey Krizman, a Criminal Defense Attorney, “In other words, you are unable to be convicted of domestic violence without being convicted of some other crime.”

Acts of aggression associated with domestic violence enhancers can be psychological or physical. It can be attached to any criminal offense, including assault, harassment, stalking, theft, trespassing, crimnal mischief, disorderly conduct, and property damage. While domestic violence is not illegal in its own right in Colorado and Wisconsin, attaching a domestic violence enhancer to a crime can significantly impact the severity of the punishment. 

The state of Colorado issues mandatory protection orders is all cases with domestic violence enhancers to safeguard recipients of the abuse from more criminal acts from the alleged perpetrators. Moreover, a domestic violence enhancer helps move such cases more swiftly through the legal system.

Domestic violence enhancers prevent alleged perpetrators from re-entering a shared residence with an at-risk intimate partner. Alleged perpetrators charged with crimes with domestic violence enhancers are prohibited from having contact with the minor children they share with the recipient of the abuse.

40% Child/Adolescent-to-Parent Violence and Abuse (CAPVA) Unreported

woman in blue shirt talking to a young man in white shirt

MORE THAN 40% of Child/Adolescent to Parent Violence and Abuse (CAPVA) is never reported to the authorities according to a study commissioned by the Mayor of London’s Violence Reduction Unit.

What is Child/Adolescent to Parent Violence and Abuse (CAPVA)?

Child/adolescent to parent violence and abuse CAPVA) is a term used to described acts of violence perpetrated by minor-, adolescent-, and adult children against their parents or caregivers.

Violence is any act that uses fear, intimidation, threats and/or harm to cause someone to do something against their will, or prevent them from doing something they want to. Violence can be physical and psychological.

Jane Griffiths of Capa First Response CiC explains how it might show up, “For many families it is their children that are using violent and abusive behavior in the home directed at parents or caregivers. Spitting, hitting, name calling, destroying property, threats of violence […] causing parents to ‘tread on eggshells.” 

What does child-to-parent look like?

According to the study, 89% of the recorded incidents show that CAPVA shows up as:

The study also found that 81% of the perpetrators of child-to-parent violence were adolescent boys acting out against their mothers with physical violence.

Fear of stigma stops parents from reporting

The study looked at pre-pandemic data from 2011 to 2020 and found that 40% of the parents and caregivers experiencing CAPVA did not report because they encountered stigma when they reached out for help.

“Parents feel huge shame around this behaviour; they feel judged and blamed for how their child behaves towards them.” explains Jane Griffiths, “It is a hugely isolating issue, with parents feeling unable to talk about what is happening or seek support.” 

Parents and caregivers in this situation require specialized support, which is available through organizations like the PEGS – Parental Education Growth Support program.

How does the UK plan to address the issue?

CAPVA occurs in approximately 1 in 10 British families and experts say the number increased during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London has suggested taking a multi-agency ‘joined-up approach’ to reducing child/adolescent-to-parent abuse.

He explained that the underlying causes for the aggression were often undiagnosed mental health issues, unidentified disabilities, and unidentified special educational needs. Perpetrators of CAPVA may also be acting out in response to trauma such as exposure to domestic violence and others harms.

For in-depth analysis of this report, read How Coercive Control Perpetuates The Cycle of Violence in Families.


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Why It’s So Hard To Prove Coercive or Controlling Behavior

man in green dress shirt holding woman in black dress

IN 2015, A NEW LAW introduced a criminal offence of “controlling or coercive behavior in an intimate or family relationship”. Yet it remains difficult to prove this kind of abuse in court.

freedom of information request made by law firm Simpson Millar found that the new offence was used just 62 times in its first six months between the end of December 2015 and end of June 2016 and, out of 22 police forces in England and Wales, eight have not charged a single person with the offence. This has led to the implementation of a new pilot scheme by the College of Policing to help officers spot the signs of controlling and coercive behaviour.

The new offence looks for “controlling or coercive” behaviour that is engaged in “repeatedly or continuously” by person A and has a “serious effect” on person B. This is either by making them afraid that violence will be used against them, or by causing serious alarm or distress which has a substantial adverse effect on their usual daily activities.

For traumatized witnesses, the process of giving evidence in court may trigger a traumatic flashback, panic attack or episode of dissociation where the brain becomes foggy, perceptions are distorted and they become confused and disorientated.

Charlotte Bishop, Ph.D.

It’s typical for police investigations into domestic violence cases to face difficulties, and this new offence is no different. The realities of the way evidence and testimony is currently used in court may seriously limit the effectiveness of prosecutions for this offence. 

Recognising Coercive Control

Research conducted by anti-domestic violence campaigner Evan Stark has shown how coercive control, most often perpetrated by a male against his female partner, can be very hard to recognise. This is because it involves micro-regulation of some of the daily activities already commonly associated with women in their “traditional” role as home-makers, mothers and sexual partners.

Given the persistence of such gender-role expectations, it may be difficult to distinguish coercion and control from romantic love. Research has suggested that jealous and possessive behaviours such as restricting what the victim wears, who she sees and where she goes may be interpreted as signs of the abuser’s love and so not recognised as abusive – at least at first. 

A witness is required to provide a coherent account in court, but a traumatic experience commonly cannot be recalled as a cohesive memory due to the impact trauma has on the brain’s memory processes.

Charlotte Bishop, Ph.D.

Unlike in cases of physical violence that can leave external bruising or broken bones, it’s difficult to objectively assess whether coercive control has taken place. The abuser will typically use signals and covert messages to exert and maintain control and often these have meaning only in the context of that particular relationship. For example, the perpetrator may use a specific look, phrase or movement to convey to the victim that they are close to breaking an unspoken “rule”. 

But these signals may be hard to classify as abusive in and of themselves. Compliance with demands about dressing, shopping or cooking in a particular way to avoid repercussions may seem voluntary to an outsider with little or no understanding of the dynamics in the relationship. This makes it very difficult for those involved in the prosecution process to determine, beyond reasonable doubt, that the behaviour was controlling or coercive for purposes of the offence. 

The Crown Prosecution Service has produced guidance on the types of behaviours to look for and how evidence could be gathered in relation to the new offence. These include diaries kept by the victim, text messages and emails, and testimony from friends, family and people living in the area. Yet, these things may not always provide sufficient evidence of the extent of the harm inflicted on the victim. 

Witness Credibility

If a victim of domestic violence appears in court to testify against an abusive partner, this can also create obstacles to successful prosecution. Despite a shift in favour of reliance on evidence other than testimony, such as photographic evidence of the scene or police descriptions of the demeanour of the alleged witness and perpetrator in the immediate aftermath of the incident, oral testimony is still the preferred form of evidence.

But let’s not forgot the trauma these victims have gone through. Any event or set of enduring conditions which overwhelm an individual’s ability to cope can cause psychological trauma. Victims of domestic abuse and coercive control often live in a permanent state of hyper-vigilance where they are constantly trying to do the right thing and second-guess the reactions of an abuser whose expectations may change minute by minute. This results in a continuing state of siege which may cause the victim to experience ongoing symptoms of trauma.

For traumatised witnesses, the process of giving evidence in court may trigger a traumatic flashback, panic attack or episode of dissociation where the brain becomes foggy, perceptions are distorted and they become confused and disorientated. Without information on trauma, the shaking, confusion, disorientation and an inability to maintain eye-contact which often result from these reactions may lead magistrates, judges and the jury to doubt the credibility and veracity of her testimony. The reactions may also be seized upon by the defence barrister and portrayed as suspicious in an attempt to undermine witness credibility. In addition, a witness is required to provide a coherent account in court, but a traumatic experience commonly cannot be recalled as a cohesive memory due to the impact trauma has on the brain’s memory processes. Again, this is likely to affect perceptions of credibility.

In my own research, I’m looking at whether information given to the jury on the possible impacts of trauma on witness testimony would be appropriate to help overcome some of these obstacles. Without appropriate understandings, the impact of trauma may severely undermine perceptions of the credibility and reliability of the witness and so further reduce the likelihood of a conviction.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published at The Conversation and is republished here under Creative Common License.


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Reproductive Coercion Affects 50% of Women Ages 18-44

crop man covering mouth of woman

A RECENT POLL showed that 50% of women between the ages of 18 and 44 have been targeted for reproductive coercion, in which a person or group influences another person’s right to reproductive freedom and self-determination.

Studies show that women targeted for coercive control and women who have unplanned pregnancies are more likely to be targeted.

There are three main types of reproductive coercion:

  • Pregnancy coercion
  • Birth control sabotage, and 
  • Controlling the outcome of a pregnancy

The practice is also known as coerced reproduction, reproductive control, or reproductive abuse.

The poll, commissioned by BBC News, also showed that:

  • 2/3 women were pressured by a current or former partner or family member not to use contraception. 
  • 1/5 women were forced to have sex without contraception.
  • 1/10 women said their contraception had been intentionally tampered with, hidden, withheld, or deliberately damaged.
  • 1/10 women reported that their partner had removed the condom during sex without their consent.
  • 15% of the women in the survey were pressured to undergo a pregnancy termination against their will.

Forcing women to have sex without a condom turned out to be the most common type of reproductive coercion.

Non-consensual condom removal is a form of sexual assault in which a man removes or sabotages a condom during sex without the consent of his partner. Colloquially known as stealthing the practice has been on the rise in dating culture since 2017. Non-consensual condom removal is classified as rape under UK law and in some US states.

Why Do Men Practice Reproductive Coercion?

Men who practice reproductive coercion tend to be highly narcissistic. It is an act of abusive power and control driven by desire to dominate, manipulate, and dupe their partner to satisfy the perpetrator’s sense of entitlement.

There are online groups that encourage men to practice this insidious form of sexual assault that is ultimately a manifestation of misogyny.


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What Is Coercive Control?

What is Coercive Control?

COERCIVE CONTROL IS AN ACT or a pattern of acts used by one person to harm, punish or frighten another person to secure psycho-emotional dominance. It begins with occasional incidents of strategic aggression that escalate over time to full-scale campaigns of intimate terrorism.

Coercive control was conceptualized by Evan Stark, Ph.D. in his book Coercive Control: How Men Entrap Women in Personal Life. Perpetrators of coercive control also harm their children as part of their wider campaign to isolate the primary recipient of the abuse.

Signs of Coercive Control

1. GaslightingThe perpetrator deliberately distorts the victim-survivors’ reality.
2. IsolationThe perpetrator isolates the victim-survivor from family and friends. 
3. Control of Daily LifeThe perpetrator dictates where the victim-survivor can go, see, wear, and eat.
4. Monitoring timeThe perpetrator oversees where the victim-survivor is, where they are going, and what they are doing at all times
5. Put-DownsThe perpetrator may repeatedly tell the victim-survivor that they are worthless or useless, they may publically humiliate the victim-survivor by calling them degrading names or by criticizing their appearance, intelligence, etc.
6. Monitoring CommunicationThe perpetrator may use spyware to track the victim-survivors’ digital communication.
7. Rules and Regulations The perpetrator creates a set of ever changing rules which they enforce by humiliating, degrading, or dehumanizing the victim-survivor.
8. ThreatsThe perpetrator may threaten to hurt or kill the victim-survivor, their child, family members, friends, or pets; they may threaten to take away their child; they may threaten to reveal private information such as intimate photos or revelations about your sexuality.
9. Deprivation of Basic NeedsThe perpetrator restricts the victim-survivors’ access to healthcare and food.
10. Obstruction of EmploymentThe perpetrator may stop the victim-survivor from obtaining employment, going to work, and earning their own money.
11. Financial AbuseThe perpetrator takes control of the victim-survivors’ finances, making sure they have little access to money so that the victim-survivor is dependent on them.
12. Criminal DamageThe perpetrator may damage or destroy the victim-survivors’ personal property.
13. Assault or RapeThe perpetrator may physically abuse, sexually assault, or rape the victim-survivor.

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What Is Reproductive Coercion?

gray scale photo of a pregnant woman

REPRODUCTIVE COERCION is a kind of abuse in which one person or group controls another person’s right to reproductive freedom and self-determination. Perpetrators of reproductive coercion use manipulation tactics, from psycho-emotional abuse and rape to restricting access to healthcare.

Perpetrators may oscillate between covert and overt expressions of coercive control. They may also use intermittent reinforcement. For this reason, some people impacted by reproductive coercion may not immediately recognize the behavior as dysfunctional or abusive. Moreover, the perpetrator’s aggression may become normalized over time.

A common tactic of reproductive coercion is so-called stealthing, which is the non-consensual removal of a condom during sexual intercourse.

Reproductive coercion includes: 

  • Forced sexual intercourse without the use of contraceptives
  • Stealthing, or the non-consensual removal of a prophylactic during sex
  • Contraceptive sabotage
  • Refusing to use a prophylactic though the woman requests it
  • Lying about having had a vasectomy 
  • Forced continuation of a pregnancy 
  • Forced termination of a pregnancy 

Is reproductive coercion illegal?

Many forms of reproductive coercion do not yet have status in the criminal justice system. However, in the UK stealthing is classified as rape and coercive control has been criminalized since 2015. However, these crimes are seldom prosecuted and convictions are rare due to a lack of evidence.

Forced termination of a pregnancy

Forced termination of a pregnancy, also known as coerced or forced abortion, is illegal in the United States.

Coerced abortion can look like:

  • Pressuring a person to have an abortion against their will
  • Restricting their access to healthcare providers
  • Withholding relevant information

1 of 4 survivors of human sex trafficking have been subjected to forced termination of a pregnancy.

Resources are available at the Center Against Forced Abortions.

References

  • Rosenfeld EA, Miller E, Zhao X, Sileanu FE, Mor MK, Borrero S. Male partner reproductive coercion among women veterans. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2018 Feb;218(2):239.e1-239.e8. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2017.10.015. Epub 2017 Oct 19. PMID: 29056537; PMCID: PMC5807143.
  • Harte, A, Stonehouse R (2022, March 14). Reproductive coercion: ‘I wasn’t allowed to take my pill’ BBC News. Retrieved on March 22, 2022.
  • Lederer, Laura; Wetzel, Christopher A. (2014). “The health consequences of sex trafficking and their implications for identifying victims in healthcare facilities” (PDF). Annals Health. Retrieved March 22, 2022.

Confidential support is available 24/7/365 to anyone experiencing abuse.
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Child-To-Parent Violence Occurs in Up to 1 in 10 Families

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CHILD-TO-PARENT VIOLENCE (CPV) is estimated to occur in up to 1 in 10 families. ITV News reports that a growing number of people are experiencing parental abuse by children. Experts say that the incidence of child-to-parent violence increased during the coronavirus pandemic. Due to the stigma associated with this most taboo form of domestic abuse, two out of three parents experiencing child-to-parent violence are unable to get the support they need.

It should be noted that children can be used as part of a wider campaign of coercive and controlling behavior waged by one parent against the other in order to isolate them. Dr. Evan Stark, author of the book Coercive Control: How Men Entrap Women in Personal Life, describes how batterers weaponize children, explaining that older children are sometimes used as “co-abusers” in dysfunctional families. It is in the abusers interest to undermine the targeted person in their parental role and willfully sabotage their relationship with their children.

Dr. Joanna North specializes in providing support for people affected by child-to-parent violence, also known as child/adolescent to parent violence and abuse (CAPVA). She says it happens far more than one might imagine. She underscores that the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns exacerbated stressors many young people are experiencing, leaving them frustrated and angry – even children who were not normally aggressive.

Because of the stigma associated with child-to-parent violence, it can be difficult for parents to seek support.

“Parents often find themselves blamed and shamed,” says Doctoral Researcher Thien Trang Nguyen Phan, “It’s essentially a lose-lose situation for parents because they often get that blaming language when they try to get help.”

Michelle John is the founder of PEGS – Parental Education Growth Support , a service provider for people experiencing child-to-parent violence. The organization receives hundreds of referrals of people experiencing parental abuse by children. PEGS recognizes that child-to-parent violence should be treated like any other kind of domestic violence.

She explains, “We would never, ever send an intimate partner victim of domestic abuse on a program on how to be a better partner – it just wouldn’t happen. But, automatically, parents are told ‘you’re at fault, you’re to blame.”


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Domestic violence isn’t about just physical violence – and state laws are beginning to recognize that

Domestic violence isn’t about just physical violence – and state laws are beginning to recognize that | Lisa Aronson Fontes

Three or more U.S. women are murdered every day by their current or former intimate partner. 

That may in part be due to a failure of state laws to capture the full range of behavior that constitutes domestic abuse. The law continues to treat intimate partner violence like a bar fight – considering only what happened in a given incident and not all the prior abuse history, such as intimidation and entrapment. 

Research shows, however, that domestic abuse is not about arguments, short tempers and violent tendencies. It’s about domination and control.

Men who kill their female partners usually dominate them first – sometimes without physical violence. Indeed, for 28% to 33% of victims, the homicide or attempted homicide was the first act of physical violence in the relationship.

Most state laws intended to protect people from violent partners and ex-partners do not account for this kind of behavior, which violence experts now call “coercive control.” Yet coercive control is nearly always at the core of what is usually called “domestic abuse” or “intimate partner violence.” 

Some states are stepping up to incorporate coercive and controlling behavior, not just episodes of violence, into laws that protect victims. These laws make clear: Intimate partner abuse isn’t about just physical violence.

Behind the violence

Typical coercive control tactics include isolating, intimidating, stalking, micromanaging, sexual coercion and often – but not always – physical abuse. 

Abusers inflict these tactics on their partners over time in a variety of ways, ultimately reducing the victim’s ability to live as a free person. Survivors often say that the physical violence was not the worst part.

Forensic social worker Evan Stark’s landmark 2007 book, “Coercive Control: How Men Entrap Women in Personal Life,” set the stage for an outpouring of research and legislation on coercive control. Stark changed the conversation from “Why doesn’t she leave?” to “How can anyone survive this intimate torture?” and “How can society protect these victims?” 

The concept has also entered popular culture through podcasts and television shows such as ‘Dirty John’.

I wrote the second book on coercive control, Invisible Chains: Overcoming Coercive Control in Your Intimate Relationship.’ I serve as an expert witness in legal cases in which coercive control might be present, and I research related topics.

Advocates for victims of domestic abuse say that new state legislation on coercive control could substantially change the way domestic abuse is handled by police and the courts. New laws would lead to more prosecutions before the control evolves into physical violence, or even homicide, they say.

And addressing coercive control is important not simply because it will reduce intimate partner homicides; one person should not be able to deny another basic freedom simply because they are married or in a relationship.

Helena Phillibert, director of legal services at the Rockland County New York Center for Safety, said in an interview I conducted: “Legislation against coercive control is critical to broadening the range of abusive behaviors recognized in the law. The advantages to victims and survivors are numerous but most significantly, legislation that recognizes coercive control necessarily expands the understanding of domestic violence beyond physical abuse.” 

Since we know most mass killers are men who have also attacked family members, earlier intervention in domestic abuse may also reduce mass killings, making everyone safer.

States taking lead

In the past half-dozen years, new laws in the U.K. and elsewhere in Europe have established “coercive and controlling behavior” as a distinct and serious criminal offense, with maximum sentences extending from five years in prison in England to 15 years in Scotland.

In the U.S., about a half-dozen states now incorporate elements of coercive control into their civil and criminal orders of protection. These are court-issued orders that require a person to stop harassing or abusing someone else, and may bar all contact. 

Another half-dozen new legislative proposals aim to establish and flag coercive control as an important factor in family court decisions on divorce, child custody and visitation.

California law SB-1141, which was passed in 2020, defines coercive control as a pattern of domestic violence that “unreasonably interferes with a person’s free will and personal liberty.” 

The law also recommends against awarding child custody to a person who has perpetrated domestic violence, unless the abuser can prove that he or she is not a risk to a child. 

State Sen. Alex Kasser based Connecticut’s proposed Bill 1091 on California’s but added additional examples of common coercive control tactics. 

Her bill includes “forced sex, sexual threats and threats to release sexualized images” as well as a section on vexatious litigation, which Kasser defines as “how abusers use the legal system to harass their victims, dragging them to court repeatedly to drain their resources and make them lose their jobs, homes, savings and sometimes their children.”

Kasser emphasizes that the Connecticut bill would also protect the children of an abused parent. The bill would establish the physical and emotional safety of the child as the first of 17 factors to be considered in custody decisions. The bill passed the Connecticut Judiciary Committee in April 2021 with bipartisan support and is awaiting further consideration and votes.

The New York State Senate’s proposed Bill 5650 would establish coercive control as a Class E felony, meaning that a person convicted of coercive control could serve up to four years in jail for the crime. This is more in line with the laws in the U.K. and some other European countries. 

While it is still too early to know whether coercive-control laws will predominate in U.S. civil or criminal law, it seems pretty clear that times are changing. I believe victims of coercive-control partner abuse will soon have access to legal protections in many more states across the country. 

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published at The Conversation and is republished here under Creative Common License.


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