The New York Campaign To End Coercive Control seeks to reform the Domestic Violence laws to include Coercive Control.
Coercive control is a strategic form of ongoing oppression and terrorism that invades all arenas of women’s activity by limiting access to money and other basic resources. (NY Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence)
“Coercive control is a violation of “rights and liberties” protected by the US Constitution and international human rights conventions, including right to physical security (violence); to live without fear (intimidation); to dignity and respect (degradation); to social intercourse (isolation) and to autonomy, liberty and personhood (control). Over time, victimization and dependence are replaced by domination/subordination, agency and resistance. Emphasis shifts from what men do to women to what they keep women from doing.”
Although Coercive Control is now an offence in the United Kingdom and other European countries, New York State and the United States do not include Coercive Control in Domestic Violence law, Family Court law and Criminal law. Victims of intimate partner abuse and coercive control are unable to receive the help and support they need to escape their abusers.
Domestic Violence organizations, police officers, prosecutors and judges are not familiar with the controlling, manipulative and psychological methods of abuse in Coercive Control.
Just as Stalking was not taken seriously many years ago by law enforcement because the stalker was “only following and watching” the victim, the same mistaken thought applies to Coercive Control by law enforcement, prosecutors, judges and domestic violence organizations. Since in many Coercive Control relationships, for many years the abuser may not physically assault or sexually assault their partner, it is not taken seriously. Although victims live in fear, terrorized by their abusers, mentally and emotionally abused with their personal liberties taken from them, they cannot be helped because there are no Coercive Control laws.
Many abusers are charming and friendly. Abuser are experts at lying and manipulating. Friends, family members and co-workers of abusers will never suspect such an individual abuses and controls their partner. As Sandra Horley states in her book, “Power and Control: Why Charming Men Can Make Dangerous Lover”, she describes the “Charm Syndrome Man”.
The “Charm Syndrome Man” uses his charm to gain control over a woman and her trust. Ms. Horley states that “these men are the last people anyone would suspect of abusing their partners… Charm Syndrome Men present a likable face to the rest of the world: charm obscures the abuser”.
Abusers engage in many controlling and psychological coercive methods to instill fear and total obedience in their victims.
Some common examples of coercive control behavior are:
- Isolating you from friends and family
- Depriving you of basic needs, such as food
- Controlling your finances
- Controlling or having access to your bank account
- Controlling where you work and the type of work you do
- Controlling everything in your household – from house deeds to apartment leases, house phone, cell phones, utilities
- Has everything in their name and being the sole person with authority over all accounts
- Monitoring your time
- Monitoring you via online communication tools or spyware
- Taking control over aspects of your everyday life, such as where you can go, who you can see, what you can wear and when you can sleep
- Depriving you access to support services, such as medical services
- Repeatedly putting you down, such as saying you’re worthless
- Humiliating, degrading or dehumanising you
- Physical Assault and Rape
- Making threats or intimidating you to keep you from leaving, seeking help or speaking publicly about your abuse
All the aforementioned examples of Coercive Control cannot be quantified with physical assault, a black eye, broken bones and other injuries. Coercive Control is more insidious and is a calculated, controlled assault on the victim causing emotional and psychological harm to the victims. Victims are held hostage by the Coercive Control attacks by the abuser and they live in fear, terrified of what will happen next. Coercive Control with abusers does continue after the relationship ends because in many cases the victims are still tied to the abuser where they can be intimidated or harassed.
Eventually, the abuser when they realize they are losing their control over the victim, they resort to physical assault and sexual assault. Recognizing Coercive Control as a domestic abuse will help victims get help sooner from the authorities and possibly avoid physical and sexual assaults. New York State has taken the lead on many social justice and gun justice issues, it is time that New York State takes the lead in the United States in passing reforms to include Coercive Control as other countries have already done.