8 Facts About Non-Fatal Strangulation?

What is non-fatal strangulation? | Coercive Control

Non-fatal strangulation is a form of asphyxia produced by continuous application of pressure to the throat. In the context of domestic abuse, it is a tool used by one person to threaten, frighten, and subjugate another person. It is an act of abusive power and control. Research shows that it is a high-risk marker for intimate partner femicide. Every year 50 000 women are killed by intimate partners or family members around the world.

What you’ll learn in this article:

  1. What is non-fatal strangulation?
  2. Common types of non-fatal strangulation
  3. What are the risks of non-fatal strangulation?
  4. Physical effects
  5. Psychological effects
  6. What is the purpose on non-fatal strangulation?
  7. How is non-fatal strangulation different from erotic asphyxiation?
  8. What to do if it’s happened to you

According to the Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention, “A woman who has suffered a nonfatal strangulation incident with her intimate partner is 750% more likely to be killed by the same perpetrator.” 

What is non-fatal strangulation? 

The term non-fatal strangulation is compression on the neck to seriously obstruct respiration and cause harm, but not death. It is synonymous with choking, stifling, and throttling. In the context of domestic abuse, it is distinguished as an act of gender-based violence commonly used by perpetrators of coercive control. 

Common types of non-fatal strangulation

The three (3) main types of non-fatal asphyxiation are: 

  • Hanging when a person is suspended with a ligature around his or her neck, which constricts due to the gravitational pull of the person’s body weight.
  • Ligature occurs when the pressure applied around the neck is with a ligature only.
  • Manual occurs when pressure is applied to the neck with hands, arms, or legs. 

In the context of domestic abuse, these acts of aggression occur by force and against the victim’s will. Perpetrators of non-fatal asphyxiation constrict the throat of the victim by:

  • Using one or both hands
  • Applying pressure with a forearm
  • Applying pressure with a knee or foot
  • Use of objects, such as a strap, plastic, rope, belt, scarf, cord, scarf, necklace, etc. 

What are the risks of non-fatal strangulation?

 Obstructing the upper airway can be lethal. Non-fatal asphyxiation can lead to a decrease of oxygen and cause brain damage or cardiac arrest within minutes of the attack.

Physical effects

Some of the physical effects of non-fatal asphyxiation are:

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

Psychological effects

Some of the psychological effects of non-fatal asphyxiation are:

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

What is the purpose of non-fatal strangulation? 

Non-fatal asphyxiation is a non-consensual power and control tactic used by one person to express physical dominance over another.

The aftereffects permeated the relationship such that strangulation need not be repeated for her to be compliant and submissive, thus creating a context of coercive control. 

How is non-fatal strangulation different from erotic asphyxiation?

What differentiates non-fatal strangulation from so-called erotic asphyxiation is context and consent.

While both non-fatal asphyxiation and so-called erotic asphyxiation are expressions of physical dominance, some of the key differences between them are:

Non-fatal strangulation is:

  • Non-consensual.
  • Occurs in the context of abusive power and control.
  • Intended to cause harm and induce fear.

Erotic asphyxiation is:

  • Consensual.
  • Occurs in the context of mutual sexual pleasure.
  • Is not intended to cause harm.

What to do if you’ve experienced non-fatal strangulation?

If you’ve experienced non-fatal asphyxiation, get help immediately! Support is available in the USA at The National Domestic Violence Hotline. and in the UK at The National Domestic Abuse Helpline.

References


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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Dylan Farrow’s Statement on Episode 2 of Allen v Farrow

Dylan Farrow | Complete Statement | Allen v Farrow | Episode 2

For three decades powerful people have spoken for and spoken over Dylan Farrow, silencing her voice and robbing her of the opportunity to tell her story in her own words. Despite relentless and public gaslighting from people who ought to have protected her, she has never wavered in her testimony.

Tonight Episode 2 of the documentary miniseries Allen v Farrow will air on HBO. It features disturbing audiovisual footage of 7-year-old Dylan disclosing the abuse she allegedly suffered at the hands of her father in 1992. Dylan Farrow reminds us that in the post #MeToo era, it is important to create safe spaces for survivors of sexual abuse to tell their stories.

Dylan Farrow’s Statement on Episode 2 of ‘Allen v Farrow’

Today, Dylan Farrow posted the following statement on Twitter:

“I’m writing this because to be totally honest I have been losing sleep and overcome with anxiety. Tonight’s episode of Allen v. Farrow docuseries features a video of me as a seven-year-old child disclosing my abuse to my mother.

“My mother gave me this video when I became an adult to do whatever I wanted with it.

“It shows me as I was then, a young, vulnerable child. “Little Dylan,” whom I’ve tried since to protect.

“Deciding to allow this tape to be viewed now publicly in this way has not been easy. I myself had resisted ever watching it until now. It had been long stored away in a closet. Scared. Buried.

“I almost didn’t offer it to the filmmakers, because being this vulnerable in public is absolutely terrifying for me. My fear in letting this tape come to light is that I am putting Little Dylan in the court of public opinion.

While I have been able to take the stones thrown at me as an adult, to think of that happening t this little girl is stomach-churning. But I decided to let them share in the hopes that Little Dylan’s voice might now help others suffering in silence feel heard, understood, and less alone. And that my testimony might also help parents, relatives, friends, loved ones, and the world, in general, understand first-hand how an abused child might speak and interpret these horrific events.

“There is a third reason as well.

“Personally, I had for decades pushed “Little Dylan” away as a coping mechanism. So part of my goal in allowing her to now speak is also to try and find some healing for me and my childhood self. It’s an attempt to make them whole again, and find some peace and closure.

“Ever since news of her abuse was inadvertently made public, I, my siblings, and my mother have all been subjected to an endless barrage of vitriolic slander and baseless rebuke; derision so painful that I separated myself from her in self-defense. I hid her away in a closet with the tape too – hidden, afraid, sad, and hurt.

“If you watch this video, I very much hope you will do so with empathy, compassion, and an open mind and heart and not use this as an opportunity to attack, turn away, criticize, mock; or to further shun “Little Dylan” and in doing so shame and silence the millions of abused children who are suffering in the world today. This is the most vulnerable part of who I am.

“I hope this tape helps us all find ways to allow painful secrets to come safely out of their closets so we can all heal and move forward in strength and peace. No longer ashamed, buried, scared, sad, and silent.

“To all other survivors, please know that your truth is valid and there are those who will listen. RAINN is always available at 800-656-4673.”

References

  • Farrow, Dylan. (2017) Official Twitter, Twitter.com. Retrieved February 28, 2021.

Photo by Erik Mclean.


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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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


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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.”

Hawaii Coercive Control Law | Rep. David Tarnas

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.

Superintendent Gordon McCreadie | Coercive Control Bill Hawaii

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.


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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. 

Coercive Control destroys support systems

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.

Exit Fear Obligation Guilt

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.

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How Narcissists Use DARVO to Escape Accountability

What is DARVO?

SOMETIMES IT CAN SEEM as if narcissists possess such extraordinary manipulation skills they appear to bend reality to their will.

This is made painfully clear when they inflict harm on someone and, astonishingly, escape accountability by flipping the script and blaming the person they’ve wronged.

Narcissists are expert at erasing the pain they cause from the narrative. They wipe their hands clean by projecting their malice, aggression and treachery on to the target.

The more malignant a narcissist is, the less of a conscience they have. This makes them able to blame the survivor with such ease and skill that, once the narcissist has spun their web of deception, the survivor appears to be the aggressor and the narcissist their hapless victim.

In many cases, survivors are left reeling as their abuser 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. 

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.

DARVO | Jennifer J. Freyd, Ph.D.

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.

Power Imbalance | Social Capital

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