What is Gaslighting?

elderly woman in eyeglasses telling off blond woman

GASLIGHTING IS A FORM of psychological manipulation that falls under the category of covert 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 think or behave a certain way that causes them to second-guess their own 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 the narcissistic- and anti-social personality types. Emotionally sound people are unlikely to gaslight others because they are able to empathize with others and want to avoid causing them distress. People with darker personalities have low empathy and are less likely to care about causing others distress, which makes them more likely to gaslight others. However, not all people with malignant personalities gaslight others.

In what context is gaslighting most likely to occur?

Gaslighting can happen in any type of relationship, including friendships, romantic relationships, and even 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 the false narrative. The perpetrator of the abuse 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.

Confidential support is available 24/7/365 to anyone experiencing abuse.
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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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Reproductive Coercion Affects 50% of Women Ages 18-44

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A RECENT POLL showed that 50% of women between the ages of 18 and 44 have been targeted for reproductive coercion, in which a person or group influences another person’s right to reproductive freedom and self-determination.

Studies show that women targeted for coercive control and women who have unplanned pregnancies are more likely to be targeted.

There are three main types of reproductive coercion:

  • Pregnancy coercion
  • Birth control sabotage, and 
  • Controlling the outcome of a pregnancy

The practice is also known as coerced reproduction, reproductive control, or reproductive abuse.

The poll, commissioned by BBC News, also showed that:

  • 2/3 women were pressured by a current or former partner or family member not to use contraception. 
  • 1/5 women were forced to have sex without contraception.
  • 1/10 women said their contraception had been intentionally tampered with, hidden, withheld, or deliberately damaged.
  • 1/10 women reported that their partner had removed the condom during sex without their consent.
  • 15% of the women in the survey were pressured to undergo a pregnancy termination against their will.

Forcing women to have sex without a condom turned out to be the most common type of reproductive coercion.

Non-consensual condom removal is a form of sexual assault in which a man removes or sabotages a condom during sex without the consent of his partner. Colloquially known as stealthing the practice has been on the rise in dating culture since 2017. Non-consensual condom removal is classified as rape under UK law and in some US states.

Why Do Men Practice Reproductive Coercion?

Men who practice reproductive coercion tend to be highly narcissistic. It is an act of abusive power and control driven by desire to dominate, manipulate, and dupe their partner to satisfy the perpetrator’s sense of entitlement.

There are online groups that encourage men to practice this insidious form of sexual assault that is ultimately a manifestation of misogyny.


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What Is Coercive Control?

What is Coercive Control?

COERCIVE CONTROL IS AN ACT or a pattern of acts used by one person to harm, punish or frighten another person to secure psycho-emotional dominance. It begins with occasional incidents of strategic aggression that escalate over time to full-scale campaigns of intimate terrorism.

Coercive control was conceptualized by Evan Stark, Ph.D. in his book Coercive Control: How Men Entrap Women in Personal Life. Perpetrators of coercive control also harm their children as part of their wider campaign to isolate the primary recipient of the abuse.

Signs of Coercive Control

1. GaslightingThe perpetrator deliberately distorts the victim-survivors’ reality.
2. IsolationThe perpetrator isolates the victim-survivor from family and friends. 
3. Control of Daily LifeThe perpetrator dictates where the victim-survivor can go, see, wear, and eat.
4. Monitoring timeThe perpetrator oversees where the victim-survivor is, where they are going, and what they are doing at all times
5. Put-DownsThe perpetrator may repeatedly tell the victim-survivor that they are worthless or useless, they may publically humiliate the victim-survivor by calling them degrading names or by criticizing their appearance, intelligence, etc.
6. Monitoring CommunicationThe perpetrator may use spyware to track the victim-survivors’ digital communication.
7. Rules and Regulations The perpetrator creates a set of ever changing rules which they enforce by humiliating, degrading, or dehumanizing the victim-survivor.
8. ThreatsThe perpetrator may threaten to hurt or kill the victim-survivor, their child, family members, friends, or pets; they may threaten to take away their child; they may threaten to reveal private information such as intimate photos or revelations about your sexuality.
9. Deprivation of Basic NeedsThe perpetrator restricts the victim-survivors’ access to healthcare and food.
10. Obstruction of EmploymentThe perpetrator may stop the victim-survivor from obtaining employment, going to work, and earning their own money.
11. Financial AbuseThe perpetrator takes control of the victim-survivors’ finances, making sure they have little access to money so that the victim-survivor is dependent on them.
12. Criminal DamageThe perpetrator may damage or destroy the victim-survivors’ personal property.
13. Assault or RapeThe perpetrator may physically abuse, sexually assault, or rape the victim-survivor.

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.
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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.”


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DARVO: Deny, Attack, Reverse, Victim and Offender

DARVO: Deny, Attack, Reverse, Victim and Offender

DARVO IS AN INITIALISM that stands for Deny, Attack, Reverse, Victim, and OffenderIt is used to describe a defensive manipulation tactic used by one person to avoid being held accountable for their acts of aggression toward another person. It is an extreme form of gaslighting behavior that can be perpetrated by an individual or group. In the latter instance it is referred to as institutional DARVO.

Jennifer J. Freyd, Ph.D. first conceptualized DARVO in an article she published in 1997. Dr. Freyd, a professor of psychology at the University of Oregon, explains that perpetrators of DARVO

  • Deny their behavior
  • Attack the person who is confronting them, and 
  • Reverse the roles of
  • Victim and
  • Offender.

According to Dr. Freyd, the DARVO tactic can be used by people who inflict harm on others as well as the bystanders who support them. Sometimes the purpose of DARVO is to minimize a transgression, and at other times it is used to deny that the transgression ever took place.

The DARVO tactic can be a means used in the process of scapegoating. It changes the focus from the misdeeds of the true culprit and emphasizes real or invented shortcomings of the person they harmed.

For example, a perpetrator breaks the law by assaulting another person but minimizes their crime by claiming that they were the actually victim by framing the victim-survivors acts of resistance as the actual assault. Thus, they make it appear as if they are the victim and the actual victim-survivor is the perpetrator.

Dr. Freyd explains:

“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.”

DARVO often relies on cultrual biases and people’s propensity to discrimination. It is most successful in the context of systemic oppression, i.e. racism, sexism, etcetera.


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Domestic violence isn’t about just physical violence – and state laws are beginning to recognize that

Domestic violence isn’t about just physical violence – and state laws are beginning to recognize that | Lisa Aronson Fontes

Three or more U.S. women are murdered every day by their current or former intimate partner. 

That may in part be due to a failure of state laws to capture the full range of behavior that constitutes domestic abuse. The law continues to treat intimate partner violence like a bar fight – considering only what happened in a given incident and not all the prior abuse history, such as intimidation and entrapment. 

Research shows, however, that domestic abuse is not about arguments, short tempers and violent tendencies. It’s about domination and control.

Men who kill their female partners usually dominate them first – sometimes without physical violence. Indeed, for 28% to 33% of victims, the homicide or attempted homicide was the first act of physical violence in the relationship.

Most state laws intended to protect people from violent partners and ex-partners do not account for this kind of behavior, which violence experts now call “coercive control.” Yet coercive control is nearly always at the core of what is usually called “domestic abuse” or “intimate partner violence.” 

Some states are stepping up to incorporate coercive and controlling behavior, not just episodes of violence, into laws that protect victims. These laws make clear: Intimate partner abuse isn’t about just physical violence.

Behind the violence

Typical coercive control tactics include isolating, intimidating, stalking, micromanaging, sexual coercion and often – but not always – physical abuse. 

Abusers inflict these tactics on their partners over time in a variety of ways, ultimately reducing the victim’s ability to live as a free person. Survivors often say that the physical violence was not the worst part.

Forensic social worker Evan Stark’s landmark 2007 book, “Coercive Control: How Men Entrap Women in Personal Life,” set the stage for an outpouring of research and legislation on coercive control. Stark changed the conversation from “Why doesn’t she leave?” to “How can anyone survive this intimate torture?” and “How can society protect these victims?” 

The concept has also entered popular culture through podcasts and television shows such as ‘Dirty John’.

I wrote the second book on coercive control, Invisible Chains: Overcoming Coercive Control in Your Intimate Relationship.’ I serve as an expert witness in legal cases in which coercive control might be present, and I research related topics.

Advocates for victims of domestic abuse say that new state legislation on coercive control could substantially change the way domestic abuse is handled by police and the courts. New laws would lead to more prosecutions before the control evolves into physical violence, or even homicide, they say.

And addressing coercive control is important not simply because it will reduce intimate partner homicides; one person should not be able to deny another basic freedom simply because they are married or in a relationship.

Helena Phillibert, director of legal services at the Rockland County New York Center for Safety, said in an interview I conducted: “Legislation against coercive control is critical to broadening the range of abusive behaviors recognized in the law. The advantages to victims and survivors are numerous but most significantly, legislation that recognizes coercive control necessarily expands the understanding of domestic violence beyond physical abuse.” 

Since we know most mass killers are men who have also attacked family members, earlier intervention in domestic abuse may also reduce mass killings, making everyone safer.

States taking lead

In the past half-dozen years, new laws in the U.K. and elsewhere in Europe have established “coercive and controlling behavior” as a distinct and serious criminal offense, with maximum sentences extending from five years in prison in England to 15 years in Scotland.

In the U.S., about a half-dozen states now incorporate elements of coercive control into their civil and criminal orders of protection. These are court-issued orders that require a person to stop harassing or abusing someone else, and may bar all contact. 

Another half-dozen new legislative proposals aim to establish and flag coercive control as an important factor in family court decisions on divorce, child custody and visitation.

California law SB-1141, which was passed in 2020, defines coercive control as a pattern of domestic violence that “unreasonably interferes with a person’s free will and personal liberty.” 

The law also recommends against awarding child custody to a person who has perpetrated domestic violence, unless the abuser can prove that he or she is not a risk to a child. 

State Sen. Alex Kasser based Connecticut’s proposed Bill 1091 on California’s but added additional examples of common coercive control tactics. 

Her bill includes “forced sex, sexual threats and threats to release sexualized images” as well as a section on vexatious litigation, which Kasser defines as “how abusers use the legal system to harass their victims, dragging them to court repeatedly to drain their resources and make them lose their jobs, homes, savings and sometimes their children.”

Kasser emphasizes that the Connecticut bill would also protect the children of an abused parent. The bill would establish the physical and emotional safety of the child as the first of 17 factors to be considered in custody decisions. The bill passed the Connecticut Judiciary Committee in April 2021 with bipartisan support and is awaiting further consideration and votes.

The New York State Senate’s proposed Bill 5650 would establish coercive control as a Class E felony, meaning that a person convicted of coercive control could serve up to four years in jail for the crime. This is more in line with the laws in the U.K. and some other European countries. 

While it is still too early to know whether coercive-control laws will predominate in U.S. civil or criminal law, it seems pretty clear that times are changing. I believe victims of coercive-control partner abuse will soon have access to legal protections in many more states across the country. 

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


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Non-Fatal Strangulation to be Criminalized in England and Wales

a person touching a woman s eye with a bruise

NON-FATAL STRANGULATION is slated to become a criminal offense in England and Wales, carrying a sentence of up to seven years in prison. The expansion of the UK’s cutting edge domestic abuse bill to include non-fatal strangulation will close a gaping legal loophole that has enabled perpetrators of intimate partner abuse and domestic homicide to escape justice – until now. 

The initiative to amend the Domestic Abuse Bill and criminalize non-fatal strangulation was led by the Center For Women’s Justice, who met with Justice Secretary and Lord High Chancellor Robert Buckland.

Nogah Ofer, a solicitor at the Centre for Women’s Justice, said, “It is time that as a society we stopped normalizing and ignoring [non-fatal] strangulation.

“The vast majority of these crimes are committed against women,” the Lord Chancellor told the BBC, “They are often a precursor to even more serious violence.”

What is non-fatal strangulation?

Non-fatal strangulation is compression on the neck to seriously obstruct respiration and cause harm, but not death. It is an antecedent to gender-based homicide. The Femicide Census reports that a woman is killed by a man every three days in the UK.

The practice is different from so-called erotic asphyxiation because it is:

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

Why is non-fatal strangulation a gendered crime? 

Non-fatal strangulation affects 10 times as many women as men, making it a gendered form of intimate partner violence.

According to a 2019 report from the Office for National Statistics:

“Around one in six (17%) of female victims were killed by strangulation, asphyxiation, this was the second most common method of killing for female victims. In contrast, a much smaller proportion (3%) of male victims were killed in this way.”

What is femicide?

Femicide is a term that describes the killing of females by males because of their gender. Diana Russell coined the term in 1974. It is the principal cause of premature death for women globally.

Domestic Abuse in the UK in numbers

In 2019, some 2.4 million adults in the UK were targets of domestic abuse:

  • 1.6 million women
  • 786,000 men

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the incidence of domestic abuse has skyrocketed, creating a ‘pandemic within a pandemic’

“Domestic abuse is an abhorrent crime perpetrated on victims and their families by those who should love and care for them,” says Victoria Atkins MP, Minister for Safeguarding.

The socio-economic cost of domestic abuse in England and Wales is estimated to be a staggering £66 billion

Women usually experience approximately 50 episodes of intimate partner violence before they report.

References


Confidential support is available 24/7/365 to anyone experiencing abuse.
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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. In the context of coercive control, it is an instrumental type of violence used to foster compliance and submission in the person targeted for the abuse.

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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