Person to Know: Evan Stark

Dr. Evan Stark is a recognized expert in the domestic violence (DV)/intimate partner violence (IPV) field and author of Coercive Control: How Men Entrap Women in Personal Life. His work on coercive control represents "one of the most important books ever written about domestic violence and one that should be widely read by advocates, policymakers, and academics". [1] 

We have already highlighted Evan Stark's concept of coercive control, as well as its importance, but for a better understanding, we STRONGLY encourage readers interested in the subject to read the entire Coercive Control book. In this work, Stark delves into the intricacies of patriarchal control, explaining how as women’s liberation progressed, institutional (public) control of women, becoming more socially unacceptable, transformed into dominance over women within their homes, decentralized and hidden from the public eye.

Stark's work also acknowledges the many who came before him and laid the groundwork for his coining the term coercive control. Because the dynamics of coercive control mirror dynamics found in some other abusive contexts, including religious cults and prisoners of war (POWs), he discusses the work of former POW Robert Jay Lifton and the critical works of Judith Herman (who we have highlighted already on our blog) and Lenore Walker on complex PTSD.

The work of Lifton, Herman, and Walker are foundational to an understanding of coercive control, but Evan Stark's efforts have changed the way advocates understand the experiences of victims and create policy to better protect them. His ideas became the basis of domestic violence policy in the United Kingdom. Now UK policy recognizes a broader interpretation of abuse, which they have termed “controlling and coercive behavior”. The authors here hope that this will eventually inspire policy in the United States that could strengthen policies such as stalking laws and impact how abusers are sentenced.

Written by Chelsea Brass

[1] Domestic Violence Report in Stark, E. (2009). Coercive control: The entrapment of women in personal life. Oxford University Press. Back cover.