Domestic abuse often involves verbal, physical, and sexual abuse. However, it can also include manipulative, grooming-like behaviors that can create a situation that is challenging to leave. This is called “coercive control,” and it is often a precursor to physical or sexual abuse.
Coercive control is defined as behavior that is strategic, oppressive, and terroristic. It is performed to instill fear in one of the partners in the relationship. Coercive control can happen to anyone in a relationship, but anywhere from 60 to 80 percent of women who seek help for domestic abuse say they have experienced some type of coercive control.
What are the signs of coercive control?
There are 12 signs of coercive control for you to be on the lookout for if you suspect abuse in your relationship or the relationship of someone close to you:
- Isolation, where one partner will isolate the other from their support system (family, friends, co-workers, etc).
- Keeping tabs on your every move when not in each other’s presence.
- Denying you your freedom to go to school, work, out with friends, or see your family.
- Gaslighting: One partner will make the other question their own memory or reason for doing things.
- One partner will call the other names and always put them down.
- One partner will limit the other’s access to money.
- One partner will reinforce traditional gender roles in the relationship (forcing the mother to stay home with the kids instead of working).
- Turning the children against the parent being controlled.
- Monitor and control what the partner eats and how much or force them to exercise constantly.
- Making jealous accusations.
- Perpetrators of coercive control often demand the number of times you have sex in a week, the activities performed, and request pictures and videos of it.
- Threatening children and pets: When control of your money and activities doesn’t work, the offender might threaten to call social services and have your children taken from you or threaten to harm your pets.
These are also signs of coercive control that entertainment often skews as large romantic gestures, as opposed to acts of manipulation. Early-warning signs of potential coercive control include the following:
- Picking up a partner when they don’t expect it
- Showing up early with flowers
- Surprising the partner at their place of employment
- Making vacation or getaway plans without a partner’s input or consent
Gestures like these are what’s known as “love-bombing,” according to Chitra Raghavan, a forensic psychologist at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. As Dr. Raghavan told the New York Times, “The gestures may seem sweet, thoughtful, but they’re a test: Monopolizing a partner’s time and attention sows isolation and shows the abuser ‘that he can control her.’”
Coercive control often leads to serious violence in relationships. One out of every four women and one out of every seven men will experience severe violence in a relationship during their lifetime in the United States. This violence is the top cause of homicides in females, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline. This is why States need to address the issue legislatively.
What have legislators done to address coercive control?
Coercive control was banned in the United Kingdom in 2015. This behavior is not illegal in the United States. Charges can only be filed when a crime has been committed against the victim. Despite this, lawmakers are starting to listen to victims of coercive control.
In September, Hawaii passed a law that bans coercive control behavior, becoming the first state in the country to do so. Also in September, California put a law on the books that permit coercive control behaviors to be entered as evidence in domestic abuse cases. Connecticut and New York also introduced comparable laws.
Making a plan to leave an abusive partner
Many people in abusive relationships believe that they have no way out because they fear being harmed by their partner, that their partner will harm themselves, or that their partner will harm their children or pets. Others may fear that they will not be believed, especially if the abuse has not escalated to physical or sexual trauma.
When you are ready to leave with your children (if you have them) and break the cycle of abuse:
- Get in contact and stay in contact with your family and friends as much as possible. This is an important part of removing yourself from the relationship no matter what your partner thinks about you doing so.
- Take advantage of toll-free domestic abuse hotlines
- Practice leaving the house safely and practice often. The same goes for your children. Teach them where they can go to call the police for assistance.
- Put a safety plan in place that determines where you will go and who you will stay with once you decide to move out of the house you share with your partner.
- Contact us about securing a temporary protective order for your immediate protection. We can discuss your legal options for protection and divorce once the emergency order is secured.
Need help now? Call 1.800.799.SAFE (7233), or text “START” to 88788
Domestic abuse shelters in and around Charlotte, NC
If you are the victim of domestic abuse, you can receive help at the following shelters located in and around Charlotte, NC:
- United Family Services: 601 E 5th St Charlotte
- Baitul Hemayah Domestic Victims Advocates: 4301 Shamrock Drive Charlotte
- Safe Alliance: 1714 South Blvd Charlotte
- The Salvation Army Center of Hope Shelter: 534 Spratt St Charlotte
- Victim Assistance: 800 East 4th St Suites 310 & 311 Charlotte
- Charlotte Family Housing (in St. John’s Baptist Church): 300 Hawthorne Lane Charlotte
It takes an average of seven attempts for the victim of domestic abuse to leave their abuser, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Survivors struggle with fear, shame, financial insecurity, destabilizing the home, social justice, and other personal reasons, which can make leaving difficult.
We understand, and at Epperson Law Group, PLLC, we will do whatever we can to help protect you and your children. You have options. Our experienced Charlotte family law attorneys can explain them to you. Call our office at 704-321-0031 or complete the contact form to schedule a consultation. The Epperson Law Group has offices located in Charlotte, Boone, Concord, and Weddington, and serves clients throughout North Carolina.