Coercive control is a strategic pattern of behaviour designed to exploit, control, create dependency and dominate. The victim’s every day existence is micro managed and her space for action as well as potential as a human being is limited and controlled by the abuser.
Initially lovebombing and charm may occur to get the victim into the relationship. Gaslighting, isolation, economic control and financial abuse and rules and regulations are gradually introduced over time once the victim is emotionally invested as well as a consequence if they are broken. The rules apply to the victim rather the perpetrator creating a double standard and the victim fears the consequence if she breaks a rule.
Over time, coercively controlling behaviour erodes the victim’s sense of self, their confidence and self-esteem, agency and autonomy.
The abuser creates an unreal world of contradiction, confusion and fear. Moreover 51% of victims do not even know that they are being abused, manipulated and controlled.
Coercive control correlates significantly to serious harm and homicide.
Where did the term ‘coercive control’ originate from?
A number of feminist psychologists in the 1970s identified the domestic abuse victims that they worked with as living like hostages and coined the term ‘coercive control.’
This dangerous form of abuse relies on a range of behaviours or actions that can be very subtle and nuanced. The intention is to exploit and dominate and to ultimately deprive the victim of their most basic rights and needs. Over time, the victim may lose the very essence of being, the sense of who they are, their likes and dislikes, rendering their needs and desires irrelevant – hence hostage taking and living under an enforced regime.
At first the perpetrator may be charming and put the victim on a pedestal by the effective tactic of love bombing. Once under their spell, love bombed and intoxicated with love, their behaviour will change. The victim might wonder where the person they fell in love with went. They may not even recall when the change took place or how it happened.
Coercive Control is Akin to Brainwashing
The art of brainwashing is sophisticated. The abuser replaces the victim’s inner narrative and thoughts with their own. Gradually, the victim’s voice is eroded and replaced with the abuser’s narrative – their views, needs, desires, wants which is placed above all else.
The behaviours can be very different in each case because it depends on the victimology. It’s very idiosyncratic to the victim and tailor-made as a plan to target them. And it can happen to anyone.
These behaviours can include strategies such as pseudo-caring tactics that appear to be attentive and thoughtful, while in reality the perpetrator is actually just micro managing the victim and limiting their space for action. They may appear super attentive and into the victim in the beginning, but all the while they may be social engineering and data mining and storing up information about the intended victim or creating an atmosphere of co-dependence.
When we understand coercive control, it’s really about utter domination.
Case Study: Debra Newell #DirtyJohn