Jennifer’s Law Could Bring Coercive Control Legislation to Connecticut

Jennifer's Law | Coercive Control | Domestic Abuse

Connecticut State Senator Alex Kasser is sponsoring Jennifer’s Law in honor of Jennifer Dulos in the 2021 Legislative session. The new bill will widen the definition of domestic abuse to include coercive control.

“When women are the victims of abuse, they seek safety for themselves and their children. Often that means staying with the abuser because the danger of leaving is too great,” Sen. Kasser said in a statement about the bill, “But when victims do summon the courage to leave, we have a responsibility to believe and protect them. Too many women have lost their lives just trying to get free. And too many children have become collateral damage in this struggle. It’s time for us to shine a light on DV in all its forms and protect those who need protecting. Women often feel shame and fear when they’re with their abuser and when they leave they are re-traumatized by a society that doesn’t believe them. DV is a public health crisis that’s been exacerbated by the pandemic. And oftentimes the signs are invisible.”

What is Coercive Control?

Coercive control is a pattern of acts used by one person to secure emotional, psychological, and financial dominance over another person. It is a distinct form of psycho-emotional abuse that is used as a tool to frighten the recipient into submission. Coercive control starts 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., MSW, Professor Emeritus at Rutgers University in his book Coercive Control (2007). Perpetrators of coercive control often harm children as part of a wider campaign to isolate the primary recipient of the abuse.

Signs of Coercive Control

GaslightingThe perpetrator deliberately distorts the victim-survivors’ reality.
IsolationThe perpetrator isolates the victim-survivor from family and friends. 
Control of Daily LifeThe perpetrator dictates where the victim-survivor can go, see, wear, and eat.
Monitoring timeThe perpetrator oversees where the victim-survivor is, where they are going, and what they are doing at all times
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.
Monitoring CommunicationThe perpetrator may use spyware to track the victim-survivors’ digital communication.
Rules and Regulations The perpetrator creates a set of ever changing rules which they enforce by humiliating, degrading, or dehumanizing the victim-survivor.
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.
Deprivation of Basic NeedsThe perpetrator restricts the victim-survivors’ access to healthcare and food.
Obstruction of EmploymentThe perpetrator may stop the victim-survivor from obtaining employment, going to work, and earning their own money.
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.
Criminal DamageThe perpetrator may damage or destroy the victim-survivors’ personal property.
Assault or RapeThe perpetrator may physically abuse, sexually assault, or rape the victim-survivor.

How Will Jennifer’s Law Help?

Jennifer’s Law will expand and modernize the definition of domestic violence to include Coercive Control in Connecticut state law.

  • The bill will also require coercive control training by professionals with firsthand experience working with domestic abuse survivors.
  • It also seeks to give precedence to child safety when determining custody in family court by making domestic violence assessments a priority.
  • It seeks to furnish victim-survivors seeking a protective order from the Court with legal support.
  • The bill would require judges to recognize victims of domestic abuse and child abuse and provide them with adequate safety and protection.

Jennifer’s Law and Interpersonal Femicide in Connecticut

Jennifer’s Law was created in honor of  Jennifer Dulos, a mother from New Canaan, Connecticut, who is missing and believed to have been murdered by her husband while appealing for protection for herself and her children in family court.

According to Connecticut Protective Moms interpersonal femicide sees approximately 28 cases of femicide and filicide committed every year by perpetrators of coercive control.

Some coercive control murders in Connecticut over the last few years include:

So far, two states in the US have expanded the definition of domestic violence to include coercive control: Hawaii and California. Find out more about which states have coercive control legislation.

References

Photo by Jackson David.


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.


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