What is a Domestic Violence Enhancer?

Domestic Violence Enhancer

Domestic violence enhancer is a legal term used to describe behaviors intended to cause harm, injury, or distress to a former or current intimate partner. It is used to add context to a variety of criminal offenses.

Colorado and Wisconsin do not recognize domestic violence as a criminal offense in its own right. Instead it is regarded as a sentence enhancer that adds context to various other crimes as an indicator of the perpetrator’s intention to frighten, intimidate or coerce the recipient of the abuse.

“In Colorado, domestic violence is not a separate charge, but rather something that can enhance sentencing, “explains Casey Krizman, a Criminal Defense Attorney, “In other words, you are unable to be convicted of domestic violence without being convicted of some other crime.”

Acts of aggression associated with domestic violence enhancers can be psychological or physical. It can be attached to any criminal offense, including assault, harassment, stalking, theft, trespassing, crimnal mischief, disorderly conduct, and property damage. While domestic violence is not illegal in its own right in Colorado and Wisconsin, attaching a domestic violence enhancer to a crime can significantly impact the severity of the punishment. 

The state of Colorado issues mandatory protection orders is all cases with domestic violence enhancers to safeguard recipients of the abuse from more criminal acts from the alleged perpetrators. Moreover, a domestic violence enhancer helps move such cases more swiftly through the legal system.

Domestic violence enhancers prevent alleged perpetrators from re-entering a shared residence with an at-risk intimate partner. Alleged perpetrators charged with crimes with domestic violence enhancers are prohibited from having contact with the minor children they share with the recipient of the abuse.

What is Gaslighting?

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GASLIGHTING IS A FORM of psychological manipulation that falls under the category of psycho-emotional abuse. Its aim is to cause a person to question their sanity. 

What Is The Definition of Gaslighting?

The term comes from the 1938 play Gaslight, about a wife who discovers that her husband is secretly turning down the gaslights in their home in order to make her doubt her reality. Today, gaslighting is a colloquialism that describes a situation where one person manipulates another to causes them to second-guess their perceptions and beliefs. 

Who is most likely to use the gaslighting tactic?

Gaslighting is a manipulation tactic commonly used by people with malignant personalities, such as narcissistic- and anti-social personality types. Emotionally sound people are unlikely to gaslight others because they are able to empathize with them. People with darker personalities have low empathy and are less likely to care about causing others distress, which makes them more prone to gaslight others. However, not all people with malignant personalities resort to gaslighting.

In what context is gaslighting most likely to occur?

Gaslighting can happen in any type of relationship, including friendships, romantic relationships, and within the family. It can also occur in the workplace when one person tries to manipulate another into doing something they don’t want to do.

How does one person gaslight another? 

Gaslighting is usually accomplished by creating a false narrative and casting doubt on any facts or evidence that contradicts it. The transgressor misleads the recipient of the abuse by creating a false reality.

Why do people use the gaslighting tactic?

People who gaslight do so in order to manipulate and control others. The effects of gaslighting often leave the recipient of the abuse feeling powerless, invisible, and unable to influence the relationship.

What are some examples of gaslighting?

Some examples of gaslighting are:

  • When a partner denies having an affair, even when text messages are sent proving otherwise. 
  • When a spouse is criticized for expressing an opinion or feeling, but when their partner expresses the same opinion or feeling, they are commended for being open and honest. 
  • When a parent tells a child they are imagining things even though the child is not.
  • Denying that acts of aggression have taken place even though they have.

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Why It’s So Hard To Prove Coercive or Controlling Behavior

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IN 2015, A NEW LAW introduced a criminal offence of “controlling or coercive behavior in an intimate or family relationship”. Yet it remains difficult to prove this kind of abuse in court.

freedom of information request made by law firm Simpson Millar found that the new offence was used just 62 times in its first six months between the end of December 2015 and end of June 2016 and, out of 22 police forces in England and Wales, eight have not charged a single person with the offence. This has led to the implementation of a new pilot scheme by the College of Policing to help officers spot the signs of controlling and coercive behaviour.

The new offence looks for “controlling or coercive” behaviour that is engaged in “repeatedly or continuously” by person A and has a “serious effect” on person B. This is either by making them afraid that violence will be used against them, or by causing serious alarm or distress which has a substantial adverse effect on their usual daily activities.

For traumatized witnesses, the process of giving evidence in court may trigger a traumatic flashback, panic attack or episode of dissociation where the brain becomes foggy, perceptions are distorted and they become confused and disorientated.

Charlotte Bishop, Ph.D.

It’s typical for police investigations into domestic violence cases to face difficulties, and this new offence is no different. The realities of the way evidence and testimony is currently used in court may seriously limit the effectiveness of prosecutions for this offence. 

Recognising Coercive Control

Research conducted by anti-domestic violence campaigner Evan Stark has shown how coercive control, most often perpetrated by a male against his female partner, can be very hard to recognise. This is because it involves micro-regulation of some of the daily activities already commonly associated with women in their “traditional” role as home-makers, mothers and sexual partners.

Given the persistence of such gender-role expectations, it may be difficult to distinguish coercion and control from romantic love. Research has suggested that jealous and possessive behaviours such as restricting what the victim wears, who she sees and where she goes may be interpreted as signs of the abuser’s love and so not recognised as abusive – at least at first. 

A witness is required to provide a coherent account in court, but a traumatic experience commonly cannot be recalled as a cohesive memory due to the impact trauma has on the brain’s memory processes.

Charlotte Bishop, Ph.D.

Unlike in cases of physical violence that can leave external bruising or broken bones, it’s difficult to objectively assess whether coercive control has taken place. The abuser will typically use signals and covert messages to exert and maintain control and often these have meaning only in the context of that particular relationship. For example, the perpetrator may use a specific look, phrase or movement to convey to the victim that they are close to breaking an unspoken “rule”. 

But these signals may be hard to classify as abusive in and of themselves. Compliance with demands about dressing, shopping or cooking in a particular way to avoid repercussions may seem voluntary to an outsider with little or no understanding of the dynamics in the relationship. This makes it very difficult for those involved in the prosecution process to determine, beyond reasonable doubt, that the behaviour was controlling or coercive for purposes of the offence. 

The Crown Prosecution Service has produced guidance on the types of behaviours to look for and how evidence could be gathered in relation to the new offence. These include diaries kept by the victim, text messages and emails, and testimony from friends, family and people living in the area. Yet, these things may not always provide sufficient evidence of the extent of the harm inflicted on the victim. 

Witness Credibility

If a victim of domestic violence appears in court to testify against an abusive partner, this can also create obstacles to successful prosecution. Despite a shift in favour of reliance on evidence other than testimony, such as photographic evidence of the scene or police descriptions of the demeanour of the alleged witness and perpetrator in the immediate aftermath of the incident, oral testimony is still the preferred form of evidence.

But let’s not forgot the trauma these victims have gone through. Any event or set of enduring conditions which overwhelm an individual’s ability to cope can cause psychological trauma. Victims of domestic abuse and coercive control often live in a permanent state of hyper-vigilance where they are constantly trying to do the right thing and second-guess the reactions of an abuser whose expectations may change minute by minute. This results in a continuing state of siege which may cause the victim to experience ongoing symptoms of trauma.

For traumatised witnesses, the process of giving evidence in court may trigger a traumatic flashback, panic attack or episode of dissociation where the brain becomes foggy, perceptions are distorted and they become confused and disorientated. Without information on trauma, the shaking, confusion, disorientation and an inability to maintain eye-contact which often result from these reactions may lead magistrates, judges and the jury to doubt the credibility and veracity of her testimony. The reactions may also be seized upon by the defence barrister and portrayed as suspicious in an attempt to undermine witness credibility. In addition, a witness is required to provide a coherent account in court, but a traumatic experience commonly cannot be recalled as a cohesive memory due to the impact trauma has on the brain’s memory processes. Again, this is likely to affect perceptions of credibility.

In my own research, I’m looking at whether information given to the jury on the possible impacts of trauma on witness testimony would be appropriate to help overcome some of these obstacles. Without appropriate understandings, the impact of trauma may severely undermine perceptions of the credibility and reliability of the witness and so further reduce the likelihood of a conviction.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published at The Conversation and is republished here under Creative Common License.


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3 Causes of Parent-Child Estrangement in Narcissistic Abuse with Dr. Michael Kinsey

Adult Child-Parent Estrangement in Narcissistic Abuse

ONE OF THE MOST DEVASTATING aspects of narcissistic abuse in families is that it often leads to estrangement between the recipient of the abuse and their children. To orchestrate parent-child estrangement, narcissists use a manipulation tactic called triangulation. One of the reasons why extreme narcissism is so malignant is because a narcissistic person is prone to objectifying others and, therefore, has no qualms about weaponizing their children in order to exercise abusive power and control over the other parent.

Narcissistic abuse is most effective when the targeted person is isolated, so they excise external influences from the targeted person’s environment that threaten to disturb the narcissist’s narrative. In this way, the perpetrator of the abuse is able to control the targeted person’s perspective and shape the way the individual sees themselves, the narcissist, and the world around them.

In extreme cases of domestic violence, narcissistic triangulation can result in child-to-parent violence with the child mimicking the narcissist’s aggression toward the recipient of the abuse. This shocking behavior is devastating to the targeted parent, who cannot understand why their beloved child is unable to empathize with them or how their children rationalize enabling and sometimes participating in the abuse.

A member of our community who is a survivor of severe long-term narcissistic abuse suffered this cruel fate when they left their abusive partner and refused to sign a non-disclosure agreement after they were divorced. They wrote:

I am a survivor of narcissistic abuse and the atmosphere between my adult children and narcissist ex is cult-like. The children participated in the abuse when they were younger and refuse to have contact with me today. I’ve never met my grandchildren.

For answers to this question, we turned to clinical psychologist and parent-child attachment expert, Dr. Michael Kinsey, author of Transcendent Parenting: A Workbook For Parents Sharing Children With Narcissists, for his analysis.

1. Narcissists See The World Through A Binary Lens

An important factor in understanding the behavior of children in the context of parent-child estrangement is the awareness that narcissists view the world around them through a binary lens. Dr. Kinsey explains:

“The context that I would give people who are estranged from their children or who are caught up in the narcissist’s version of reality [is] to understand is the nature of the narcissist’s defensive structure. The world to a narcissist is divided into good and bad and the narcissist distances himself or herself from the bad as much as possible. There is intense profound disgust for the bad and the bad always has to be outside of the narcissistic personality and that means that there are scapegoats, demons, devils, and people who are completely unworthy of association.”

2. Children Often Identify With The Same Sex Parent

Another aspects as to why parent-child estrangement can occur is because the identity of the child may be in lockstep with the narcissistic parent due to social influences, such as gender.

“An identification often develops, especially with the same-sex parent,” says Dr. Kinsey, addressing why some children who grow up the the dysfunction of narcissistic family dynamics may be unwilling to empathize with the recipient of the abuse, “If the same-sex parent is a narcissist then there is a tendency to emulate that way of dealing with problems, difficulties, and emotions. so, functionally, what this means is the bad that exists in everyone and especially exists in the narcissist is displaced or it’s placed into the other parent. Usually, these are things like vulnerability, weakness, and unworthiness can be disowned in that way

3. The Child Prioritizes Their Survival In Power Holder’s Social Circle

Another social aspect of the equation that could impact the child’s behavior is their survival instinct.

“Being within the narcissist-child dyad is, obviously, a very coveted place. You know with both of our parents there is such a deep need to be loved and accepted,” according to Dr. Kinsey, “If a child is forced to choose, they might choose the person that they feel they are most like or they’ll also choose the person who they feel is safer or who they feel is the more desirable one to follow. In the case of the kind of scenario you’re discussing, it’s really a matter of survival. Being in the “in-group” of the narcissist is so essential to survival.”

Final thoughts

If you have been targeted for narcissistic triangulation and are estranged from your child, remember that you are not alone. Up to 45% of domestic violence survivors are targeted for this strain of post-separation abusive power and control. As distressing as the situation is, bear in mind that your children are secondary victims to intimate partner violence.

Focus on what you can influence and practice radical acceptance of the things you cannot control. Recognize that the aim of narcissistic tribulation between a parent and this child is to psychologically destabilize you, so it is especially important to practice emotional hygiene.

If you feel that you or a loved one could benefit from additional support with parent-child estrangement, reach out to Dr. Kinsey at Mindsplain

Watch Episode 1 of Co-Parenting with a Narcissist with Dr. Michael Kinsey.


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Child-To-Parent Violence Occurs in Up to 1 in 10 Families

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CHILD-TO-PARENT VIOLENCE (CPV) is estimated to occur in up to 1 in 10 families. ITV News reports that a growing number of people are experiencing parental abuse by children. Experts say that the incidence of child-to-parent violence increased during the coronavirus pandemic. Due to the stigma associated with this most taboo form of domestic abuse, two out of three parents experiencing child-to-parent violence are unable to get the support they need.

It should be noted that children can be used as part of a wider campaign of coercive and controlling behavior waged by one parent against the other in order to isolate them. Dr. Evan Stark, author of the book Coercive Control: How Men Entrap Women in Personal Life, describes how batterers weaponize children, explaining that older children are sometimes used as “co-abusers” in dysfunctional families. It is in the abusers interest to undermine the targeted person in their parental role and willfully sabotage their relationship with their children.

Dr. Joanna North specializes in providing support for people affected by child-to-parent violence, also known as child/adolescent to parent violence and abuse (CAPVA). She says it happens far more than one might imagine. She underscores that the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns exacerbated stressors many young people are experiencing, leaving them frustrated and angry – even children who were not normally aggressive.

Because of the stigma associated with child-to-parent violence, it can be difficult for parents to seek support.

“Parents often find themselves blamed and shamed,” says Doctoral Researcher Thien Trang Nguyen Phan, “It’s essentially a lose-lose situation for parents because they often get that blaming language when they try to get help.”

Michelle John is the founder of PEGS – Parental Education Growth Support , a service provider for people experiencing child-to-parent violence. The organization receives hundreds of referrals of people experiencing parental abuse by children. PEGS recognizes that child-to-parent violence should be treated like any other kind of domestic violence.

She explains, “We would never, ever send an intimate partner victim of domestic abuse on a program on how to be a better partner – it just wouldn’t happen. But, automatically, parents are told ‘you’re at fault, you’re to blame.”


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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