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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Ireland’s First Coercive Control Conviction

Ireland's first coercive control conviction

Ireland’s first coercive control conviction highlights the importance of active bystanders. Judge Elma Sheahan sentenced 52-year-old Daniel Kane to 10.5 years in prison for coercive control, intimidation, and repeated assaults on his 43-year-old ex-partner. Kane’s campaign of domestic abuse took place over twenty months between 2018 and 2020.

Coercive control is a pattern of acts used by one person to secure emotional, psychological, and financial dominance over another person. It is the most extreme form of domestic abuse in existence. It was criminalized in Ireland in 2018. 

Neighbors feared for victim’s life

Kane is the first person in Ireland to receive a coercive control conviction after a trial. Judge Sheahan found that his aggression was unprovoked and motivated by his contempt for the 43-year-old victim.

His daily alcohol-fueled attacks on his partner caused neighbors to  fear for her life. Consequently, the police were called to the premises on five different occasions.

One  neighbor recalls, “There were genuinely times I thought he was going to kill her — that’s how bad it was. The level of violence and aggression heard inside those walls was very distressing at times, at all hours of the day and night.

“And it wasn’t just normal rows. It was frightening what you would hear, between his aggression and her screams.  I called the gardai and reported it to the ­management company, that’s all you can really do.”

The extent of Kane’s control over his partner terrified her to such an extent that she initially refused to make a complaint leaving the police unable to intervene.

In 2019, emergency medicine consultant Dr. Niamh Collins contacted investigators and expressed fear of  a “real and substantial” threat to her life. Armed with medical evidence, police were able to charge Kane.

From victim to survivor

After Kane was charged, the victim felt safe and found the courage to tell her story. Moreover, she was able to provide a detailed victim impact statement about the intimate terrorism he inflicted on her. Yet he continued to threaten her from behind bars. Between March and July 2020, he told her he would send nude videos of her to her family and friends and publish them online if she didn’t withdraw her statement.

In a display of remarkable courage, she went ahead with the case, testifying to the court that she “might be dead or in a vegetative state” if not for the intervention of the  doctor and police. She encouraged other victim-survivors to reach out to services like Woman’s Aid and the National Domestic Violence Hotline for support.

Orla O’Connor, the chief executive of the National Women’s Council of Ireland and Chief Superintendent Finbar Murphy at Blanchardstown Garda Station praised the survivor.

Chief Superintendent Murphy said, “This brave woman’s evidence in this investigation was vital.

“This case shows that any victim of domestic abuse shouldn’t suffer in silence — the abuser will convince them the [police] won’t listen but this is wrong.

“We will listen, we will investigate and the fault always lies with the aggressor. The Garda are skilled and experienced to deal with these types of investigations.”

“There are other tools at our disposal such as barring orders and we will continue to use those. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are from — it’s against the law for anyone to behave in this appalling fashion. Everyone is entitled to dignity and respect.”

For more information visit Ireland’s National Police and Security Service.

Cruelty of the most vicious nature

The court found that Kane’s coercive and controlling behavior began in earnest once he had isolated his partner from her family and friends. 

Judge Sheahan said Kane showed disdain for the victim with totally unprovoked and unpredictable acts of “cruelty of the most vicious nature”, including:

  • Financial abuse
  • Punching
  • Burning her foot with a cigarette
  • Cutting her face and neck with a pizza slicer
  • Stomping on and fracturing her arm
  • Head-butting when she was recovering from nasal surgery, and
  • Strangling her, leaving bruises on her throat

He subjected her to humiliation by forcing her to sit naked on a sofa while he ranted verbal abuse at her. Because Kane took all of the victim’s money she could not escape.

A contributing factor to this lengthy coercive control conviction was Judge Sheahan’s disconcerting observation of Kane’s refusal to accept responsibility for the pain he caused – behavior that is typical of dark triad personalities high in narcissistic and anti-social traits.

In addition to his coercive control conviction, Kane was charged with intending to pervert justice for trying to intimate his ex-partner into withdrawing her statement. He pled guilty.

Domestic abuse occurs in the context of coercive control

Sarah Benson, chief executive of Women’s Aid, underscores the role coercive control plays in domestic abuse relationships. She describes the pattern of abuse as “tactics designed to isolate someone, erode their self-esteem and their sense of self-worth.”

Signs of coercive control include but are not limited to:

  • Isolation
  • Obstruction of employment
  • Monitoring time
  • Deprivation of basic needs
  • Monitoring communication
  • Taking control of daily life
  • Put-downs
  • Rules and regulations
  • Financial abuse
  • Threats
  • Criminal damage
  • Assault or rape

“It would be true to say that the vast majority of domestic violence and domestic abuse relationships occur in the context of coercive control.” said Ms. Benson, “Criminalizing coercive control is an incredibly important piece of legislation because that is how domestic violence and abuse manifests itself, in a pattern of behavior. To see that recognized and vindicated by a jury is excellent progress.”

A landmark coercive control case

Ireland’s first coercive control conviction demonstrates a departure  from the culture of silence in which domestic abuse thrives. It also shows  the vital role played by informed bystanders in preventing domestic abuse.

With the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, Ireland is now  the only country in Europe with definitive coercive control legislation.

“This is a landmark case in Ireland and we hope that it will encourage many other women living with the terrorizing pattern of coercive control to come forward and to know that they will be believed and understood,” Catríona Gleeson, a spokeswoman for Safe Ireland said, “This case also sends a strong message to abusive men that if they think that it is acceptable to control, isolate, intimidate or degrade a woman, as this man did on a prolonged basis, they will have to stop this behavior or they will be convicted of a very serious crime.”

A gendered crime

While holding space for male survivors and recognizing that it happens to some men, it is important to understand that coercive control is a gendered crime. In other words, the extreme levels of violence and domestic homicide associated are more likely to happen to women.

Forensic social worker Dr. Evan Stark of Rutgers University who first coined the term, explains, “coercive control is a strategic course of oppressive behavior designed to secure and expand gender-based privilege by depriving women of their rights and liberties and establishing a regime of domination in personal life.”

He characterizes coercive control as:

  • Rational, instrumental behavior and not a loss of control
  • Ongoing rather than episodic, and
  • It is based on multiple tactics i.e. violence, intimidation, degradation, isolation, and control.

Global Incidence of Domestic Homicide

The systemic nature of coercive control is such that every year 50 000 women are killed by intimate partners or family members.

Men20%
Women80%

Source: UNDOC Homicide Statistics. Page 18.

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.


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FKA Twigs Sues Shia LaBeouf for Coercive Control

FKA twigs Sues Shia LaBeouf for Coercive Control

FKA Twigs and Karolyn Pho have filed an explosive joint action complaint against Shia LaBeouf at the Los Angeles Superior Court on December 10, 2020. The document gives a searing account of the catalog of atrocities that both women allegedly experienced at the hands of LaBeouf during their respective relationships with him, including:

  • Sexual battery.
  • Battery.
  • Assault.
  • Intentional infliction of emotional distress.
  • Gross negligence.

FKA Twigs’ Allegations Against Shia LaBeouf

FKA Twigs met LaBeouf on the set of the film Honey Boy and dated him over a nine month period from 2018 to 2019.

In her complaint, the 32-year-old singer and multiple award-winner claims that 34-year-old LaBeouf groomed her with a charm offense before subjecting her to “brutal” and “degrading” treatment, including:

  • Non-fatal strangulation
  • Constant criticism
  • Symbolic violence
  • Forcing her to follow an ever-changing rule book, and
  • Deliberately infecting her with a sexually transmitted disease.

Karolyn Pho’s Allegations Against Shia LaBeouf

Karolyn Pho describes Shia LaBeouf’s behavior during their year long relationship as, “jealous, impulsive, and irrational.”

Pho alleges that on one occasion during her relationship with LaBeouf, he climbed on top of her and, “held her down by her arms, causing intense pain and leaving multiple bruises, and then head-butted her violently, causing her to bleed on the hotel bed.”

Pho dated him from 2010 to 2011.

Like Twigs, she alleges that LaBeouf is a perpetrator of abusive power and control.

California’s Coercive Control Legislation

Legislation prohibiting coercive control was signed into law in California by Governor Gavin Newsome. Senate Bill 1141 defines coercive control as:

  • “Disturbing the peace of the other party” [with] conduct that destroys the mental or emotional calm of the other party, as specified.
  • Coercive control […] is a pattern of behavior that unreasonably interferes with a person’s free will and personal liberty and includes, among other things, unreasonably isolating a victim from friends, relatives, or other sources of support.

According to the new bill, coercive control includes but is not limited to:

  • Isolating the other party from friends, relatives, or other sources of support.
  • Depriving the other party of basic necessities.
  • Controlling, regulating, or monitoring the other party’s movements, communications, daily behavior, finances, economic resources, or access to services.
  • Compelling the other party by force, threat of force, or intimidation, including threats based on actual or suspected immigration status, to engage in conduct from which the other party has a right to abstain or to abstain from conduct in which the other party has a right to engage.
  • This section does not limit any remedies available under this act or any other provision of law.

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

Sia Claims She Was Also Abused By Shia LaBeouf

Australian singer Sia tweeted her support of FKA twigs and spoke of her own experience of emotional abuse by Shia LaBeouf:

“I too have been hurt emotionally by Shia, a pathological liar, who conned me into an adulterous relationship claiming to be single. I believe he is very sick and have compassion for him AND his victims. Just know, if you love yourself – stay safe, stay away.”

I too have been hurt emotionally by Shia, a pathological liar, who conned me into an adulterous relationship claiming to be single. I believe he’s very sick and have compassion for him AND his victims. Just know, if you love yourself- stay safe, stay away.

LaBeouf appeared in the 2015 music video for Sia’s song Elastic Heart, which featured on her album Girls Of Pop, alongside Dance Moms star Maddie Ziegler. 

On December 13, 2020, FKA Twigs responded to Sia on Twitter: 

“I’m sorry @sia this reinforces why I had to publicly share my experience. We need to support each other <3”

Update: Sia later shared in an interview with the Sunday Times that LaBeouf was surreptitiously dating her and FKA Twigs at the same time.

“It turns out he was using the same lines on me and Twigsy, and eventually we found out because we ended up talking to one another. Both of us thought we were singly dating him. But that wasn’t the case. And he was still married.”

Sia had previously cast LaBeouf in the role of an alcoholic father in the video of her 2015 hit single Elastic Heart.

A History of Abusive Behavior

Shia LaBeouf has been accused of violent behavior in the past. He has been arrested several times for drunk and disorderly behavior, and most recently in September 2020 for theft.

In 2017, LaBeouf pleaded guilty to one count of obstruction after he was arrested on charges of disorderly conduct and public intoxication in Georgia.

In 2015, he was involved in a dispute with his then-wife, Mia Goth, in Germany and reportedly told his friends, “I don’t want to touch a woman, I don’t want to hit a woman, but I’m getting pushed,” He also told a local, “If I’d have stayed there, I would have killed her.” He was no charged after this incident.

He has previously issued manifold apologies for his behavior, which he attributes to his battle with substance dependency.

Photo by Bobo Boom.

Resources


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Coercive Control Legislation Around The World

What countries have coercive control laws?

Coercive control legislation is a cutting edge tool for law enforcement in domestic abuse prevention. Research has shown that coercive control (also known as intimate terrorism) is the high risk marker for domestic homicide, specifically femicide, filicide, and familicide.

According to the 2018 Global Study on Homicide: Gender-Related Killing of Women and Girls, 50 000 women were killed globally by an intimate partner or family member.

More countries around the world are recognizing that to end the scourge of domestic homicide coercive control must be criminalized.

Please consider taking action in your country by reaching out to your local representatives, informing them about coercive control, and asking for this lifesaving legislation.


Africa

CountryBillStatusSponsorDate
Algeria
Angola
Benin
Botswana
Burkina Faso
Burundi
Cabo Verde
Cameroon
Central African Republic
Chad
Comoros
Congo
Cote d’Ivoire
Djibouti
Egypt
Equatorial Guinea
Eritrea
Eswatini
Ethiopia
Gabon
Gambia
Ghana
Guinea
Guinea-Bissau
Kenya
Lesotho
Liberia
Libya
Madagascar
Malawi
Mali
Mauritania
Mauritius
Morocco
Mozambique
Namibia
Niger
Nigeria
Rwanda
Sao Tome and Principe
Senegal
Seychelles
Sierra Leone
Somalia
South Africa
South Sudan
Sudan
Tanzania
Togo
Tunisia
Uganda
Zambia
Zimbabwe

Asia

CountryBillStatusSponsorDate
Afghanistan
Armenia
Azerbaijan
Bahrain
Bangladesh
Bhutan
Brunei
Cambodia
China
Cyprus
East Timor
Georgia
India
Indonesia
Iran
Iraq
Israel
Japan
Jordan
Kazakhstan
Kuwait
Kyrgystan
Laos
Lebanon
Malaysia
Maldives
Mongolia
Myanmar
Nepal
North Korea
Oman
Pakistan
Palestine
Philippines
Qatar
Russia
Saudi Arabia
Singapore
South Korea
Sri Lanka
Syria
Taiwan
Tajikistan
Thailand
Turkey
Turkmenistan
United Arab Emirates
Uzbekistan
Vietnam
Yemen

Australia

CountriesBillStatusSponsorDate
New South Wales
QueenslandIn developmentIn development as of February 19, 2020Annastacia Palaszczuk
South Australia
Tasmania
Victoria
Western Australia

Central America

CountriesBillStatusSponsorDate
Belize
Costa Rica
El Salvador
Guatemala
Honduras
Mexico
Nicaragua
Panama

Europe

Although 39 European states have signed the Istanbul Convention, only twenty one (21) have ratified it and only six (6) states are in compliance with Article 33: Psychological Violence: “Parties shall take the necessary legislative or other measures to ensure that the intentional conduct of seriously impairing a person’s psychological integrity through coercion or threats is criminalized.”

Ireland alone has passed legislation using the term coercive control.

CountryBillStatusSponsorDate
Albania
Andorra
Armenia
Austria
Azerbaijan
Belgium
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bulgaria
Croatia
Cyprus
Czech Republic
Denmark
Estonia
Finland
FranceLaw on Violence Against Women Within Couples

Istanbul Convention: Art. 33
EnactedSeptember 10, 2010,
Amended 2015
Georgia
Germany
Greece
Hungary
IrelandDomestic Violence Act 2018, Section 39Enacted2018
Italy
Latvia
Liechtenstein
Lithuania
Luxembourg
Malta
Monaco
MontenegroIstanbul Convention: Art. 33Compliant
Netherlands
North Macedonia
Poland
PortugalIstanbul Convention: Art. 33Compliant
Republic of Moldova
Romania
San Marino
SerbiaIstanbul Convention: Art. 33Compliant
Slovak Republic
Slovenia
Spain
SwedenLaw Against Intimate Partner Violence

Istanbul Convention: Art. 33
CompliantMaj Karlsson
Switzerland
Ukraine

Middle East

CountryBillStatusSponsorDate
Bahrain
Cyprus
Egypt
Iran
Iraq
Israel
Jordan
Kuwait
Lebanon
Oman
Palestine
Qatar
Saudi Arabia 
Syria
Turkey
The United Arab Emirates
Yemen

North America

Canada

In Bill C-247, Member of Parliament for Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke Randall Garrison is proposing an amendment to Canada’s Criminal Code “to create an offense of engaging in controlling or coercive conduct that has a significant impact on the person towards whom the conduct is directed, including a fear of violence, a decline in their physical or mental health and a substantial adverse effect on their day-to-day activities.”

CountryBillStatusSponsorDate
Alberta
British Columbia
Manitoba
New Brunswick
Newfoundland and Labrador
Nova Scotia
OntarioBill 207ApprovedDoug Downey(circa) March 1, 2021
Prince Edward Island
Quebec
Saskatchewan

Caribbean

CountriesBillStatusSponsorDate
Belize
Costa Rica
El Salvador
Guatemala
Honduras
Mexico
Nicaragua
Panama

United States of America

StateBillStatusSponsorDate
Alaska 
Arizona 
Arkansas 
CaliforniaSB1141EnactedSen. Susan RubioSeptember 29, 2020
Colorado 
Connecticut SB77 (Jennifer’s Law)PendingSen. Alex Kasser Pending
Delaware 
Florida 
Georgia 
HawaiiHB2425EnactedDavid TarnasSeptember 15, 2020
Idaho 
Illinois
Indiana 
Iowa 
Kansas
Kentucky 
Louisiana 
Maine 
MarylandHB1352PendingSusan K. McComasFebruary 7, 2020
Massachusetts 
Michigan 
Minnesota
Mississippi 
Missouri 
Montana
Nebraska 
Nevada 
New Hampshire 
New Jersey 
New Mexico 
New YorkS5306PendingKevin S. ParkerApril 24, 2019
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon 
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island 
South Carolina HB5271PendingFebruary 20, 2020
South Dakota 
Tennessee 
Texas 
Utah
Vermont 
Virginia
Washington
West Virginia 
Wisconsin 
Wyoming

South America

CountryBillStatusSponsorDate
Argentina
Bolivia
Brazil
Chile
Colombia
Ecuador
French Guiana
*Département of France
Guyana
Paraguay
Peru
Suriname
Uruguay
Venezuela

United Kingdom

CountryBillStatusSponsorDate
EnglandSerious Crimes ActEnactedDecember 29, 2015
Northern IrelandBill 03/17-22PendingNaomi Long
ScotlandThe Domestic Abuse ActEnactedMarch 9, 2018
WalesSerious Crimes ActEnactedDecember 29, 2015