California Passes Coercive Control Bill

California Governor Gavin Newsom | State Senator Susan Rubio | Coercive Control

On September 29, 2020, California became the second state in the USA to adopt coercive control legislation. State Senator Susan Rubio‘s Coercive Control Bill was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom.

“I thank Governor Newsom for signing this bill. My hope is that it empowers victims to come forward, and it becomes something that our society understands and recognizes as domestic violence,” said Senator Susan Rubio (D-Baldwin Park). “I’m grateful to be at the forefront of such groundbreaking domestic violence policy, and I look forward to working with my partners and allies to spread coercive control legislation across the nation.”

What is Senate Bill 1141 Domestic Violence: Coercive Control?

The new bill is an amendment to California’s existing Family Code for domestic violence prevention. Formally known as Senate Bill 1141 Domestic Violence: Coercive Controlit allows survivors to include incidents of coercive and controlling behavior as supporting evidence in family court hearings and criminal trials.

“This legislation will help empower survivors of crime and abuse to speak out against their abusers and provide them more time to seek justice,” said Governor Newsom. “California is committed to protecting survivors and supporting them and the organizations that provide them with essential services, especially during this challenging time.”

“SB 1141 advances the rights of domestic violence victims under state law,” said Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer. “My office was proud to sponsor the legislation, and I thank the Governor for signing the bill.”

How does California Define Coercive Control?

This bill defines coercive control as “a pattern of behavior that unreasonably interferes with a person’s free will and personal liberty,” and recognizes it as a regime of oppression that includes isolating the recipient of the abuse from their support system, threats, and harassment.

Psychological abuse

The bill also defines coercive control as “disturbing the peace of the other party” and highlights that the coercive and controlling behavior “destroys the mental or emotional calm of another person.”

Child Custody

incidents of coercive control can be used as evidence of domestic violence when arranging child custody in family court. Custody of children will not be awarded to a parent who is proven to be a perpetrator or coercive control campaign against a current or former partner or spouse.

How will coercive control perpetrators be held accountable?

California’s new coercive control bill authorizes the court to issue ex parte orders to stop perpetrators of coercive control from abusing their current or former partner or spouse. Violation of the court order will constitute contempt of court and be punishable as a misdemeanor.

Under California law, a misdemeanor is a crime that is less serious than a felony and includes such offenses as driving while under the influence (DUI) and shoplifting.

The new legislation comes into force on January 1, 2021.

Resources


Confidential support is available 24/7/365 to anyone experiencing abuse. In the USA call 1-800-799-7233 or log on to thehotline.org. In the UK call 0808 2000 247 or log on to nationaldahelpline.org.uk.


NAR’s Journalistic Standards and Practices • About NAR • Report Typo or Error.

Children are targets for Coercive Control

Children Are Targets for Coercive Control | Narcissistic Abuse Rehab

CHILDREN ARE OFTEN TARGETS for Coercive Control as part of a wider campaign of intimate partner abuse.

In dysfunctional families with malignant narcissists or psychopaths at the helm, it is not uncommon for the abuser to target and weaponize children to further isolate the recipient of the abuse. 

Why are children targeted for Coercive Control?

Abusers seek to maintain total dominance over the people they target by isolating them. Manipulation of the victim-survivor’s perception is easier to achieve without outside influences, which could be accessed through children or the child themselves.

Therefore, it is in the interest of the abuser to undermine the authority of the victim-survivor in their parental role and willfully sabotage the relationship between the targeted individual and their children.

Dr. Katz’s study found that children raised in a coercive and controlling ecosystem suffered from entrapment similar to the targeted parent.

In his research Dr. Evan Stark, author of the book ‘Coercive Control’, found that this kind of abuse has a far more damaging and pervasive effect on the a targeted individual than acts of physical abuse.

Dr. Stark’s research found that the violence model of domestic abuse was too limited to gauge the extent of injury because much of suffering inflicted on survivors was not prohibited by law at the time.

“Over the years, we’ve been able to amend the understanding of partner abuse that limited it to violence,” Dr. Stark told Welsh Women’s Aid, “And we’ve talked a little bit about the extent to which it involved Coercive Control. We rejected the violence model in part because we heard from women themselves about the range of harms they were experiencing beyond violence.”

The impact of Coercive Control on children

Child abuse occurs mainly in connection to domestic violence. Dr. Stark’s research found that in 45% of domestic abuse cases, the abuser was hurting the spouse and the children. Exposure to and direct abuse were harmful to children.

Dr. Stark explained, “As I began to interview children and looked at the research of Emma Katz and others – which was based on my work but went way beyond it by looking at the qualitative effected of Coercive Control on children. It really became clear to me that children were being coercively controlled as well as women.”

The study showed that child abuse is closely linked to the abuse of the targeted parent.

Dr. Katz’s study found that children raised in a coercive and controlling ecosystem suffered from entrapment similar to the targeted parent.

She explains, “Children’s access to resilience-building and developmentally-helpful persons and activities were limited.”

The abuse children experienced at the hands of an abusive parent were low-level assaults, comparable to the abuse inflicted on the targeted parent.

The research findings were the same regarding the sexual assault of children.

Batterers would weaponize children. They would use them as spies. They would use them as co-abusers.

Dr. Evan Stark

According to Dr. Stark, “There was sexual assault of children, some of it dramatic, but most of it fell on a continuum of sexual coercion: touching, inappropriate dressing [of] boys as well as girls.”

The research also found that children experienced the same patterns of isolation, intimidation and control as the targeted parent.

Children are weaponized in coercive and controlling relationships

The evidence gathered by the researchers discovered that children were often “weaponized” against the targeted parent by the abuser.

Abusers use Coercive Control tactics to modify the identity of the child and turn them against the targeted parent.

Dr. Stark explains, “Batterers would weaponize children. They would use them as spies. They would use them sometimes as co-abusers if they were older children. They would use them as pawns in court processes as ways of extending their abuse.”

What can be done when children are targets of Coercive Control?

Raising children with a high conflict personality, such as a narcissist or psychopath, can be extraordinarily challenging.

This is especially true, for survivors who have left the relationship and are targets for their abusers vindictiveness.

For information on how to approach this situation please read our interview with Michael Kinsey, Ph.D. ‘How To Co-Parent with a Narcissist.’

Have your say

Have you or someone you know experienced coercive and controlling behavior? Does Dr. Stark’s descriptions of the power dynamics in a dysfunctional family resonate with you? Please share your thoughts in the comments.