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


NAR’s Journalistic Standards and PracticesAbout NARReport Typo or Error.

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

Is This Coercive Control? on BBC Three

woman covering her face with her hand

A new documentary that focuses on coercive control will air on BBC Three on October 27, 2020. “Is This Coercive Control?” brings together twenty people between the ages of 18-30 together for a social experiment.

Hosted by journalist Ellie Flynn, the group of young people view the story of Alex and Rachel over two days. The story unfolds in 6 parts and ends with an accusation of coercive control.

What is coercive control?

Coercive control describes a pattern of behaviour by an abuser to harm, punish or frighten their victim.

Coercive control was criminalized in England in 2015.

Over the last 18 months, coercive control has hit the headlines following the re-trial of Sally Challen over the killing of her husband.

In Hawaii the definition of domestic violence was expanded to include coercive control and on September 15, 2020 and in California coercive control was added to the Family Code on September 29, 2020.

During the coronavirus pandemic, called to the UK’s National Domestic Violence helpline rose by 49% percent and incidents of intimate partner homicide rose by 50%.

Different perceptions of coercive control

After viewing the story of Alex and Rachel, the group are asked if they can identify any signs of coercive control and vote on whether the behavior they are watching fits the crimes.

To some members of the group, the behavior the witness in the story of Alex and Rachel seems typical of any relationship but other participants think it crosses the line.

Do any members of the group have a good enough grasp on what coercive control is that they can to spot criminal behavior?

The program found that 70% of participants weren’t able to spot the red flags of coercive control.

After viewing and discussing each segment of Alex and Rachel’s story, barrister Clare Ciborowska, analyses the film the group has viewed and explains what coercive control is according to the law. She also answers questions from the participants.

Watch Is This Coercive Control? on BBC Three.

Watch the Trailer

Resources


NAR’s Journalistic Standards and PracticesAbout NARReport Typo or Error.

Coercive Control Bill Signed Into Law in Hawaii

Hawaii Signs Coercive Control Bill Into Law | Narcissistic Abuse Rehab

On September 15, 2020, Hawaii became the first US state to adopt legislation against Coercive Control. Governor David Ige signed into law a historic amendment expanding the definition of domestic abuse to include “Coercive Control between family or household members for the purposes of insurance and protective orders.” 

The bills were supported by the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women as well as the Hawaii’s Women’s Legislative Caucus.

Among those present for the signing of the historic bill via Zoom was Hawaii State Senators Laura H. Thielen and Rosalyn Baker, and Members of the Hawaii House of Representatives Linda IchiyamaDavid Tarnas, and Linda Cheape Matsumoto.

Domestic abuse costs the USA 3.3% of its annual gross domestic product 

Research shows that Coercive Control legislation makes fiscal sense for the United States.

According to the World Health Organization, the annual cost of domestic abuse in the USA is an average of 3.3% of the gross domestic product in the form of direct and indirect costs. 

According to the National Violence Against Women Survey published by the Center for Disease Control, domestic abuse causes a loss of 32,114 jobs and 8 million hours of paid labor every year.

In addition to this, every year there are 486,151 emergency room visits by people seeking treatment for rape and physical assault.

By expanding the definition of domestic abuse to include Coercive Control in every state, the USA stands to save billions of dollars as shown by the 1994 Violence Against Women Act sponsored by Joe Biden, which led to an estimated net benefit of $16.4 billion, including $14.8 billion in averted victims’ costs

Coercive Control is the first step in domestic violence

Rep. David A. Tarnas introduced House Bill 2425, which expands the concept of domestic violence to include Coercive Control.

HB2425 adds Coercive Control to the definition of domestic abuse. It is a useful term to help strengthen our statutory basis for preventing domestic violence”, Rep. Tarnas said at the bill signing. “We need to address domestic violence because it is pervasive in our community. It is even worse now because of the economic impact fo the COVID pandemic.”

Coercive Control is the first step in domestic violence. If we can identify it and stop it there, we can save lives.

Rep. David A. Tarnas

Rep. Tarnas described how he learned about Coercive Control through the advocacy of two constituents. “Officer May Lee in Waimea, first introduced me to this whole concept and educated me about how Coercive Control is the first step in domestic violence. If we can identify it and stop it there, we can save lives.”

The bill was inspired by Scotland’s domestic abuse prevention program, widely praised as the most cutting edge in the world.

“I want to acknowledge another constituent, Barbara Gerbert, [professor emeritus and chair of the Division of Behavioral Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco] who has been working in domestic violence prevention research for years”, said Rep. Tarnas. “She was the first person to tell me about Scotland, where they incorporated Coercive Control into their statutes. It has shown to be very effective over time at reducing the incidence of domestic [abuse] cases that escalated into violence. They feel that it did prevent homicides from happening in an area where they had significant problems.”

Superintendent Gordon McCreadie, the former national lead for domestic abuse for Police Scotland, was delighted by news of Hawaii’s new Coercive Control Bill.

“When appointed in 2017, I never imagined that Police Scotland and partners including Medics Against Violence would influence legislative change in Hawaii on coercive control.”

Under the leadership of Superintendent McCreadie, 25,000 police officers were educated about domestic violence and coercive control in Scotland.

The groundwork for Hawaii’s Coercive Control bill

Through her extensive domestic abuse research, Professor Gerbert is a key figure in the advancement of the understanding Coercive Control in Scotland today. 

Professor Gerbert explains, “In my research at the University of California, San Francisco, I developed a model of steps people could use to reduce domestic violence. AVDR: Ask Validate Document and Refer. My goal was to support and simplify what law enforcement, health care professionals, veterinarians, etc., could do.”

Her model laid the foundation for Scotland’s Ask Support Care training on domestic abuse from Medics Against Violence and the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit. Through this program, over 2000 professionals were taught to spot the signs of domestic abuse in patients and clients.

“In 2009, the newly formed Violence Reduction Unit in Scotland asked me if they could use my AVDR model,” says Professor Gerbert, “Scotland had a very high rate of all types of violence. In 10 years violence rates have decreased dramatically.”

In 2017, the short film Harder was produced as part of the training program. The clip illustrated some of the red flags of domestic abuse, specifically the omnipotence aspect of Coercive Control and what professionals can do when they spot it.

After many years of tireless research and advocacy, a broader understanding of non-physical abuse was achieved, pinpointing coercive and controlling behavior as well as ways that members of the community and law enforcement could intervene.

In summary

If you would like to see the definition of domestic abuse expanded to include Coercive Control in your state, reach out to your local representative. Write and tell them about the historic Coercive Control Bill in Hawaii and how you think it could benefit your state.

Coercive Control FAQ

What is criminal coercive behavior?

Coercive behavior is an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.

What is criminal controlling behavior?

Controlling behavior is a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behavior.

Are there coercive control laws in the United States?

Yes. In Hawaii and California.

Resources

Lee, C., Takumi, R.M. (2020, September 15) “HB2425: A Bill for an Act Relating to Domestic Abuse”. Committees on Consumer Protection & Commerce and Judiciary. Retrieved October 3, 2020.

Tarnas, Brower, Creagan, Lee, C., McKelvey, Mizuno, Nakamura, Nakashima, Perruso, Takayama, Ward, Yamane, Lowen, San Buenaventura, Say. (2020, September 15). Hawaii House Bill 2425 relating to Domestic Violence: Coercive Control. Retrieved October 08, 2020.

Tarnas, Brower, Creagan, Lee, C., McKelvey, Mizuno, Nakamura, Nakashima, Perruso, Takayama, Ward, Yamane, Lowen, San Buenaventura, Say. (2020, September 15) “HB 2425 HD1 SD1: Relating to Domestic Abuse”. Hawaii State Legislature. Retrieved October 3, 2020.

Ige, D., Thielen, L.H., Baker, R.H., Tarnas, D.A., Ichiyama, L., Cheape Matsumoto, L. (2020, September 15). “Bill signing ceremony for the Women’s Legislative Caucus Bills.” Zoom. Retrieved October 3, 2020.

Max, W., Rice, D. P., Finkelstein, E., Bardwell, R. A., & Leadbetter, S. (2004, June 19). The economic toll of intimate partner violence against women in the United States. Retrieved October 05, 2020.

Cassidy, P., Thomson, J., Mitchell, J., Media, P., & STV News. (2020, September 17). Hawaii’s new domestic abuse law influenced by Scotland. Retrieved October 05, 2020.

Medics Against Violence. (2017, June 25). Harder. YouTube. Retrieved October 5, 2020.


NAR’s Journalistic Standards and PracticesAbout NARReport Typo or Error.

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.

The Use of Isolation in Coercive Control

The Use of Isolation in Coercive Control | Narcissistic Abuse Rehab | Julie Levine

I guarantee there is an entire generation that will instantly relate the word isolation to the 2020 COVID-19 crisis.

I do not.

I will not.

Every time I hear that word, my past haunts me. 

Images flash in my mind. 

But they are not of the present social distancing, wearing a mask, quarantine, and antibody testing. The images brought to my mind remind me of a different place, a different time when I was a different person.

Isolation is a reality of post-separation abuse for countless survivors around the world. It is one of the most powerful tools in the malignant narcissist’s game of power, control, and manipulation

The aims of isolation are two-fold:

  • The smaller a malignant narcissist can make your world, the more you will feel dependent on them. 
  • Isolating the victim makes it easier for the manipulator to distort the third partys’ perception of the victim and dominate the narrative.

An Invisible Prison

The last few months of social isolation have been extraordinarily difficult for me. I am reminded of my current strengths daily, as well as the person I used to be. In the blink of an eye, I remember things I wish I could forget.

When I was a married woman, living in a New York suburb, we had an electronic gate at the end of a very long driveway. Located in a well-to-do, bucolic neighborhood, the gate was attached to a concrete wall separating the house from the road – from the world.

There was a large metal box on one side of the front wall, which contained the gate’s motor and electronics. I did not know how to open nor operate the secured machinery. And there were video cameras everywhere. An ordinary person would think they were for security purposes — but I will get to that. 

You can be living in the dark hole of abuse – and not realize how bad it is until you start telling other people what is happening.

Julie Levine

The man I was then married to was in total control of operating the gate. On good days, I had a code to get in and a motion detector operated to let me out. However, on bad days when he felt I was disobedient when I had not been silent or had not worshipped him accordingly – he disconnected that gate when he left for work, abandoning me in a home with what I believed was no way out.

My sons would have to walk around or climb over the gate to get to the cul de sac for their school bus. When the gate was rendered inoperable – my world shrank and became even more restricted. I was ordered to remain at home until further notice.

Isolation was a punishment. It was deliberate. It was a minute component in the cycle of abuse.

Survival Mode in Coercive and Controlling Relationships

Looking back, I wonder: who was that woman who received such punishment? 

I could not drive a car out of the driveway with that damn gate stuck closed – but why didn’t I walk around it like my sons?

I never even considered it. I obeyed him. I lived in constant fear.

I was married to a man for almost two decades who used isolation amongst other Coercive Control tactics to dominate me. In the years since my divorce, I learned that his behaviors are consistent with narcissistic abuse.

In my case, other kinds of harm were added to the mix, such as domestic violence, and financial abuse. 

During my lengthy, high conflict divorce, the man who would later be known as my “ex” was diagnosed by several forensic psychologists as:

  •  a narcissist
  • a psychopath
  • a sociopath
  • having anti-social personality disorder, and
  • being morally bankrupt.

Did I ever hear of those terms before court-ordered reports?

Certainly not. 

For almost 20 years, I was so deep in survival mode, that I did not even consider there to be personality disorders and distinctions. It was just my way of life, a way of life I needed to survive for my children. 

How Coercive Control Destroys Support Systems

Gradually, friends left my life, my family became estranged, people I had known for years stopped contacting me.

More isolation.

Eventually, the only human contact I had was with my children’s teachers and occasionally parents of my children’s classmates. But even those contacts diminished.

I tried socializing with other people in our community – as couples normally would – but that never lasted too long.

My ex-husband would tell me that people didn’t like me or only bothered with me because they thought I had money, convincing me that all break downs in communication with the outside world were my fault.

For many years, I never questioned it.

I was a class mother for my sons in school, an assistant soccer coach, a softball mom, etc.

I lived my life day to day as a mother of two sons whom I cared for and practically raised alone as their father showed no interest in them until I began to stand up for myself, mentioning divorce.

Throughout their childhoods, my sons learned that the only time their father showed them attention was when they would mirror his interests. My sons eventually understood how the equation worked, dropped their interests and passions, and reflected their father.

No more soccer, softball, or basketball. Playdates were few and far between.

Looking back at all this I realize that he was isolating his sons almost as much as he was isolating me. I didn’t know back then that children too could be targets for Coercive Control.

Coercive Control is Captivity

Getting back to that gate at the entrance of my home address — everyone thought it was to keep people out when, in reality, its purpose was to keep me in.

There were days I just stayed at home, often recovering from bruises, with no means of escape.

I guess I was so traumatized, controlled, and terrified that I did not dare climb over that gate to get out. I remained at home, in fear, until I had a release date that my then-husband determined. The security cameras were strategically placed around that gate to allow him to keep an eye on my comings and goings, recording it on six small television screens within the home and backed up on the Smart House computer system.  

There were years of physical, psychological, emotional, and financial brutality. I would be locked in a bathroom, locked in a closet — a prisoner in my own home — all to disarm me, to break me.

But here I am, despite it all. My life turned out to be one of survival over adversity. It is not one of victimhood. 

Little by little, I mentioned what was going on to people, I started to read, and believe I deserved better.

You can be living in the dark hole of abuse – and not realize how bad it is until you start telling other people what is happening.

The Effects of Coercive Control on Children

Here is a shout out to anyone married to a narcissist. 

They will not want you to leave them, not even when they have a backup plan waiting in the wings in the form of their new supply.

As much as they use isolation to control their victim, narcissists fear abandonment.

If you have children with a narcissist, be prepared for the brainwashing of those children. The narcissist’s lies will be spewed and repeated, eventually destroying the relationship between you and the very children you love so dearly.  

When a narcissist knows you are on to them, they will use whatever will hurt you the most to get you back in line.

You can become isolated from the children who were once your entire world – alienated.

During the last few years living under the same roof, my ex did all in his power to separate and isolate me from the children I cherished. He wanted me to be as alone as possible.

Total isolation.

Isolation in a COVID-19 World

That word again – isolation. It is a gate that separates you from your children and the world. 

Lately, I’ve gotten so tired of hearing people complain about not seeing their families, not seeing their friends, not going out to restaurants, or on vacations. I’ve become inundated with people whining about how they can’t hug their grandchildren or go on their beloved shopping sprees.

Of course, these times are a challenge. But honestly, I think I’ve lived through worse. I often thank my Higher Power that at this very moment, at this very time – I am not in isolation with the man I was once married to.  

During this harrowing time of health crisis in our world, I am not isolated as I was in my past. This time, my isolation means I choose to stay safe.

Follow Julie Levine

What is a Narcissistic Injury?

The Narcissist's Hidden Depression

IMAGINE LIFE WITHOUT the ability to experience genuine feelings of joy, love, or compassion.  It’s hardly a stretch to suggest that one’s internal ecosystem would be a bleak and desolate landscape. However, if you were to open up the mind of a pathological narcissist and look inside, what you would find is a psychological wasteland riddled with persecutory objects.

The ambiguity of malignant narcissism is that its outward manifestations are often the opposite of the internal reality, which is a gaping void. The gnawing emptiness within is a catalyst for grandiose pretensions that serve to preserve their idealized false self. Chest thumping boasts of supremacy are a safeguard against the toxic shame that has engulfed their true self.

Where others have a conscience, the pathological narcissist has a vacuum. For this reason, they are on a constant hunt to consume anything that might fill the void. Alcohol, narcotics, pornography, sex, gambling, people – you name it, the narcissist ravenously devours it. But it doesn’t fill them up because they are bottomless pits.

When narcissists encounter people who are able to manifest constructive emotions the narcissist cannot, it wounds their pride, stirs their jealousy, and causes a narcissistic injury. 

What is a narcissistic injury?

A narcissistic injury is a threat to the narcissist’s false self. The threat may be real or imagined. What matters is that the narcissist’s steely psychological armor is penetrated and they experience a painful reminder that their false self is an illusion.

Sensing danger, their ego sends all hands on deck to rescue the false self from annihilation. For this reason, narcissistic injuries go hand in hand with narcissistic rage.

The narcissist’s first line of defense is a disavowal of reality. They devalue the threat, stripping the individual of their humanity and reducing them to the status of object. The narcissist’s ego then fractures the object as it resorts to primary defense mechanisms, such as splitting and projection.

narcissistic abuse rehab | narcissistic injury | triggers | false self

Someone who was once all good is now all bad. A person once hailed as the light of the narcissist’s life becomes the very heart of darkness. The threatening object is made wrong so that the false self can be right. Thus, the narcissist vindicates themselves from any criticism, wrongdoing, and – most importantly – shame.

The more the narcissist uses splitting as an ego defense, the more anything resembling a cohesive identity unravels. Whenever the ego splits an object, an identical split takes place in the ego itself, causing it to become fragmented. The more a narcissist splits off from the abuse they inflict, the more it escalates.

To escape accountability, the narcissist uses a sleight of hand and projects their sadistic acts on to the people they target. This enables them to shape-shift into a new persona – which they do with the ease of a serpent shedding its skin. 

What are the causes of narcissistic injury

The narcissist is a paper tiger. Their psychological structure is too feeble to grasp a self-concept with any complexity. They are satisfied to worship an illusion of their perfect false self. This disposition is common in toddlers, but it’s crippling in adults.

The construction of a false self may have shielded them from adverse childhood experiences in their early years, but it is maladaptive in adulthood as it prevents them from living authentic emotional lives.

The need for emotional bonds disgusts them. Yet, paradoxically it is also something they covet.

While the false self mimics edifying emotions, it does not experience them. A kind of emotional rigor mortis defines the narcissist’s existence.

How do narcissists cope with narcissistic injuries?

Their fragility sends them on predatory crusades to boost their ego. They may sustain their insatiable false self with adulation or attention or with cruel power trips utilizing coercive control, and psycho-emotional abuse.

Narcissists believe that by destroying a person or thing, they obtain power over it.  They accomplish this through deception, seduction, and psychological cannibalism. To the narcissist, this affirms their imaginary superiority.

It is their way of making the false self appear real. 

y disorder fragility

Narcissistic Injury FAQ

What is a narcissistic injury?

A narcissistic injury is any threat to the narcissist’s false self. The threat may be real or imagined. What matters is that the narcissist’s psychological defenses are penetrated and they experience a painful reminder that their false self is an illusion.

Why are the weakness of a narcissist?

Narcissists are shame-based and have fragile ego structures. They can suffer from low self-esteem, depression, rage, and paranoia.

What does a narcissist want?

Narcissists want power and control.

Bibliography

The Coercive Control of Children with Dr. Evan Stark

Children Are Targets for Coercive Control | Narcissistic Abuse Rehab

CHILDREN CAN BE TARGETS for coercive control in dysfunctional families, according to Dr. Evan Stark, author of the book Coercive Control: How Men Entrap Women in Personal Life. Research studies show that the coercive control of children occurs in 45% of families where domestic violence is practiced. It is used as part of an abusive partner’s wider campaign of intimate partner violence in which children are weaponized to isolate the primary target of the aggression.

Why is the Purpose of the Coercive Control of Children?

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.

In his research Dr. Evan Stark, author of the book Coercive Control: How Men Entrap Women in Personal Life, 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.

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.


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

How Narcissists Use DARVO to Escape Accountability

What is DARVO?

SOMETIMES IT CAN SEEM as if highly narcissistic people possess such extraordinary manipulation skills that they appear to bend reality to their will. In many cases, survivors of narcissistic abuse are left reeling as the perpetrator blithely revises the fact of their aggression, twisting the truth into a narrative that bears no semblance to what actually transpired.

This is because narcissists have mastered a tactical maneuver that effectively grooms individuals and, indeed, entire social groups by controlling their perception of events.

The name of this strategy is DARVO.

What is DARVO?

DARVO is an acronym for Deny, Attack, Reverse, Victim and Offender. It is a defense mechanism used by manipulators to evade accountability for the abuse they inflict on others. It is a blame-shifting tactic used for gaslighting in the context of emotional abuse.

The term was first presented in a 1997 article by Jennifer J. Freyd, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at the University of Oregon and founder of the Center for Institutional Courage.

According to Dr. Freyd, “The perpetrator or offender may Deny the behavior, Attack the individual doing the confronting, and Reverse the roles of Victim and Offender such that the perpetrator assumes the victim role and turns the true victim – or the whistleblower – into an alleged offender.”

Denial is used by the abuser and bystanders in their clique. It usually sounds like:

  • I didn’t do anything, but if I did, it wasn’t that bad.
  • It never happened, but if it did, it wasn’t that bad.

At the local level, this strategy is common among perpetrators of sexual offenses, psycho-emotional abuse, and domestic abuse. DARVO is a regular feature of coercive and controlling behavior.

At the structural level, Dr. Freyd refers to this tactic as institutional DARVO.

Who gets targeted for DARVO?

For DARVO to occur a power imbalance must exist. It is most effective when the abuser has more social capital than the survivor.

If the abuser is a member of a dominant group and the survivor is a member of a disenfranchised group, generally the survivor is less likely to be believed.

People who are likely candidates for DARVO are:

  • Survivors who confront their abuser.
  • Whistleblowers.
  • Socially vulnerable individuals or groups, e.g. women are more likely to be targeted for DARVO than men.

What is the purpose of DARVO?

The DARVO tactic serves many purposes.

  • DARVO is a smokescreen used by narcissists, psychopaths or other manipulators to conceal the truth of their behavior.
  • DARVO enables the narcissist, psychopath or other manipulator to control how others perceive the target and the conflict.
  • DARVO often stuns the targeted person into confusion and silence.

Thus, the abuser is able to craft a scapegoat story which is used to cultivate biases against the target and rally bystanders to their cause.

“This occurs, for instance, when an actually guilty perpetrator assumes the role of ‘falsely accused’ and attacks the accuser’s credibility and blames the accuser of being the perpetrator of a false accusation,” explains Dr. Freyd.

In a DARVO climate, no amount of evidence will suffice as proof of the abuser’s transgressions. The target will not be believed within a social circle that has been groomed by a narcissist, psychopath or other manipulator. On the contrary, the target will be subjected to a terrifying campaign of victim-blaming by the group.

Once the abuser has successfully secured the bystanders’ support and conditioned them to perceive the survivor as the perpetrator, the clique collectively subjects the survivor to the merciless process of scapegoating.

If the survivor lives through it, they are usually driven into isolation and social death. Other outcomes can include homicide or death by self-annihilation. The narcissist, psychopath or manipulator’s endgame is the complete destruction of the target.

DARVO as a collective grooming tactic

The cognitive distortions created by DARVO cultivate an ecosystem of moral corruption. Members of the peer group are encouraged by the narcissist to engage in polarized or black and white thinking.

The group’s empathy for the narcissist is weaponized and used to encourage negative biases about the recipient of the abuse. Narcissists, psychopaths and other manipulators do this in order to ensure that members of the dominant clique become indifferent and callous about the betrayal of the survivor.

The desensitization of the group opens the door to the objectification of the targeted individual and once this is accomplished every kind of violence becomes acceptable.

Examples of this can be seen in manifestations of anti-semitism, racism, sexism and homophobia.

Why do bystanders participate in collective betrayal?

According to Dr. Freyd betrayal blindness is a survival mechanism that arises “when awareness would threaten necessary relationships.” 

In other words, bystanders yield to betrayal blindness in the interest of looking out for themselves and to avoid the loss or pain they might risk if they sympathized with the target.

They assign more value to their relationship with the abuser so it follows that it’s in their best interest to empathize with the narcissist not with the survivor.

In fact, in many cases bystanders may stand to gain more social capital if they lend their support to the narcissist. So it is usually a combination of greed for gain and an instinct for self-preservation that eclipses any ethical or moral considerations in the bystander.

In other words, members of the clique adapt to conflict within the group by “turning a blind eye,” to the harmful behaviors of the narcissist.

The longterm effects of DARVO on survivors

Many survivors feel psychologically obliterated by the trauma of experiencing DARVO. It can have disastrous consequences for the survivor’s mental health. For example, it can cause severe anxiety, panic, depression, and post-traumatic stress which, in turn, can adversely impact the survivor’s physical wellbeing.

DARVO invalidates the survivor’s lived experience. It inflicts further pain and suffering as the wronged party is cheated out of any measure of justice. Instead, in addition to the original violation, survivors are persecuted and blamed in spite of the fact that they are the wronged party.

Rejection from their peers and the narcissist’s immunity to being held accountable is a constant cascade of salt poured in the survivor’s wounds, causing them to be repeatedly re-traumatized.

More about DARVO

Learn more about DARVO with Dr. Freyd in their lecture ‘Institutional and Interpersonal Betrayal.’

Bibliography

  • Freyd, Jennifer J. “II. Violations of Power, Adaptive Blindness and Betrayal Trauma Theory.” Feminism & Psychology 7, No. 1 (February 1997): 22–32.
  • Sarah J. Harsey, Eileen L. Zurbriggen & Jennifer J. Freyd (2017) “Perpetrator Responses to Victim Confrontation: DARVO and Victim Self-Blame,” Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 26:6, 644-663
  • Freyd, Jennifer J. “Institutional and Interpersonal Betrayal.” Freyd Dynamics Laboratory (August 2014): 08.48 minutes.

Confidential support is available.
Book a one-on-one consultation or coaching session.


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

4 Subtle Ways Narcissistic Parents Abuse Their Children

Narcissistic Parents | Narcissistic Abuse Rehab

THE CHILD OF A HIGHLY NARCISSISTIC PARENT is born into a gaslit reality, in an environment where everything must revolve around their parent’s false self. From an early age, the child must learn to avoid wounding their parent’s fragile ego or risk their parent’s unbridled aggression.

An excessively self-absorbed parent cannot recognize the emotional needs of their child. The more narcissistic a parent is, the more likely they will see their child as an extension of themselves and not as a separate individual. The type of parent will punish any attempts by the child to differentiate themselves.

Highly narcissistic parents master the art of inflicting psychological pain on their children without raising a hand. One of the ways they accomplish this is by invalidating the child’s sense of reality through gaslighting, one of the components in coercive and controlling behavior.

The cumulative effect of emotional neglect and intermittent reinforcement on children over time can cause the child to suffer depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress. These conditions can persist long after the child has matured, and they are common among adult children of narcissists (ACONs).

1. The false self becomes a false idol

As a parent, the narcissist’s false self becomes a false idol that demands to be worshipped by their family unit.

Narcissists create glaring power imbalances between themselves, their spouse and children.

Love is neglect, abandonment, tyranny, and subjugation.

Because the narcissist’s needs supersede the needs of everyone else, the group internalizes the message that their needs don’t matter unless the narcissist says they do.

If the spouse is empathic, the narcissist undermines their authority. The children learn that might is right. They must appease the narcissist if they want to have their needs met.

2. The narcissist engineers dysfunction

Because a narcissistic family unit is an organism that operates in a gaslit pseudo-reality, it is less akin to a family and more like a cult or a dictatorship.

In this dynamic, the group can’t be supportive, accepting, healthy, or just. Instead, family members behave and interact in unhealthy ways.

The children must learn to navigate the power imbalances and the inevitable abuses of power that ensue.

Thus, the default setting for existence in a narcissistic family is dysfunction.

3. Love is conditional

Children of narcissists learn that love is abuse. The narcissist shows them that if someone displeases you, it is okay to punish them and call it love.

For the child of a pathological narcissist, love is having your personality rejected and replaced with one the narcissist prefers. Love is neglect, abandonment, tyranny, and subjugation.

Narcissists see a child’s individuality as an act of insubordination.

Love is intermittent reinforcement with spouses and children alike.

The child is love-bombed when the narcissist feels the child reflects their false self. The moment the child fails to do so, the narcissistic parent blithely discards them.

4. Narcissists reject children who are not like them

Survival in a narcissistic family depends on each family member’s ability to take on and reinforce the assigned roles, toxic attitudes, and habits of the narcissist. No one is safe from a narcissist’s pernicious scrutiny, not even their children.

In the narcissist’s view, anyone who does not echo their image of themselves is rejecting them. Failure to reflect and affirm their false self is a threat. Thus, a child who does not accept the role assigned by the narcissistic parent triggers a narcissistic injury.

A lot of different personalities develop in the narcissist’s ecosystem.

The narcissist cannot process negative feedback, and by extension, nor can their family unit. They have zero tolerance for any person or thing they believe may endanger their fragile false self. When faced with such a threat, narcissists attack — even if the source of their ire is an infant.

Narcissists see a child’s individuality as an act of insubordination. Their response to this perceived narcissistic injury is contempt, oppression, and rejection of the offending child. As an act of expediency, the narcissist casts the child in the psychologically devastating role of the family scapegoat. The narcissist condemns the child to bear the blame for all of the family’s dysfunctional behavior and its outcomes.

Conclusion

To grow up in a narcissistic family is to grow up in an inverted reality, where right is wrong, and wrong is right. Anything goes as long as you tow the narcissist’s line.

There will be flagrant betrayals, hypocrisy, double standards, cruelty, and abuse. If one of the parents is empathic, the children will get a daily dose of how to manipulate, exploit, and subjugate another human being.

A lot of different personalities develop in the narcissist’s ecosystem. How the child turns out depends on how they navigate the harsh psychological terrain of the family.

This article is also published at Medium.com.

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 NA
R • Report Typo or Error