Connecticut State Senator Alex Kasser is sponsoring Jennifer’s Law in honor of Jennifer Dulos in the 2021 Legislative session. The new bill will widen the definition of domestic abuse to include coercive control.
“When women are the victims of abuse, they seek safety for themselves and their children. Often that means staying with the abuser because the danger of leaving is too great,” Sen. Kasser said in a statement about the bill, “But when victims do summon the courage to leave, we have a responsibility to believe and protect them. Too many women have lost their lives just trying to get free. And too many children have become collateral damage in this struggle. It’s time for us to shine a light on DV in all its forms and protect those who need protecting. Women often feel shame and fear when they’re with their abuser and when they leave they are re-traumatized by a society that doesn’t believe them. DV is a public health crisis that’s been exacerbated by the pandemic. And oftentimes the signs are invisible.”
What is Coercive Control?
Coercive control is a pattern of acts used by one person to secure emotional, psychological, and financial dominance over another person. It is a distinct form of psycho-emotional abuse that is used as a tool to frighten the recipient into submission. Coercive control starts with occasional incidents of strategic aggression that escalate over time to full-scale campaigns of intimate terrorism.
Coercive control was conceptualized by Evan Stark, Ph.D., MSW, Professor Emeritus at Rutgers University in his book Coercive Control (2007). Perpetrators of coercive control often harm children as part of a wider campaign to isolate the primary recipient of the abuse.
Signs of Coercive Control
|Gaslighting||The perpetrator deliberately distorts the victim-survivors’ reality.|
|Isolation||The perpetrator isolates the victim-survivor from family and friends.|
|Control of Daily Life||The perpetrator dictates where the victim-survivor can go, see, wear, and eat.|
|Monitoring time||The perpetrator oversees where the victim-survivor is, where they are going, and what they are doing at all times|
|Put-Downs||The perpetrator may repeatedly tell the victim-survivor that they are worthless or useless, they may publically humiliate the victim-survivor by calling them degrading names or by criticizing their appearance, intelligence, etc.|
|Monitoring Communication||The perpetrator may use spyware to track the victim-survivors’ digital communication.|
|Rules and Regulations||The perpetrator creates a set of ever changing rules which they enforce by humiliating, degrading, or dehumanizing the victim-survivor.|
|Threats||The perpetrator may threaten to hurt or kill the victim-survivor, their child, family members, friends, or pets; they may threaten to take away their child; they may threaten to reveal private information such as intimate photos or revelations about your sexuality.|
|Deprivation of Basic Needs||The perpetrator restricts the victim-survivors’ access to healthcare and food.|
|Obstruction of Employment||The perpetrator may stop the victim-survivor from obtaining employment, going to work, and earning their own money.|
|Financial Abuse||The perpetrator takes control of the victim-survivors’ finances, making sure they have little access to money so that the victim-survivor is dependent on them.|
|Criminal Damage||The perpetrator may damage or destroy the victim-survivors’ personal property.|
|Assault or Rape||The perpetrator may physically abuse, sexually assault, or rape the victim-survivor.|
How Will Jennifer’s Law Help?
Jennifer’s Law will expand and modernize the definition of domestic violence to include Coercive Control in Connecticut state law.
- The bill will also require coercive control training by professionals with firsthand experience working with domestic abuse survivors.
- It also seeks to give precedence to child safety when determining custody in family court by making domestic violence assessments a priority.
- It seeks to furnish victim-survivors seeking a protective order from the Court with legal support.
- The bill would require judges to recognize victims of domestic abuse and child abuse and provide them with adequate safety and protection.
Jennifer’s Law and Interpersonal Femicide in Connecticut
Jennifer’s Law was created in honor of Jennifer Dulos, a mother from New Canaan, Connecticut, who is missing and believed to have been murdered by her husband while appealing for protection for herself and her children in family court.
According to Connecticut Protective Moms interpersonal femicide sees approximately 28 cases of femicide and filicide committed every year by perpetrators of coercive control.
Some coercive control murders in Connecticut over the last few years include:
- Ducey, K. (2021, February 23). Connecticut Senator Introduces Jennifer’s law in honor of New Canaan Mother Jennifer Dulos. Retrieved February 26, 2021.
- Kasser, Alex. (2021, January) Senate Bill 77: Jennifer’s Law. Retrieved February 26, 2021.
- Connecticut Protective Moms (2021, February 25). Connecticut Senator Alex Kasser and National Domestic Violence Advocates Introduce “Jennifer’s (Dulos) Law” for 2021 Legislative Session. Retrieved February 26, 2021.
- Albis, T. (2020, March 12). Opinion: Support from judicial branch for domestic violence bill. Retrieved February 26, 2021.
- Meier, Joan S., and Dickson, Sean and O’Sullivan, Chris and Rosen, Leora and Hayes, Jeffrey. Child Custody Outcomes in Cases Involving Parental Alienation and Abuse Allegations (2019). GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 2019-56, GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2019-56, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3448062.
Photo by Jackson David.