In the News: A Domestic-Violence Expert on Eric Schneiderman and ‘Coercive Control’

If you've been watching the news, you have seen the recent New Yorker expose on former New York Attorney General Eric Scheiderman, where multiple women accused him of a broad range of abusive behaviors. Dr. Evan Stark recently gave an interview in which he discussed that story and offered his own description for Scheiderman's behavior. It's an excellent read that highlights some important concepts for understanding what makes coercive control different from other forms of violence and abuse, as well as learning the warning signs for coercive control.

Some important takeaways (our emphasis added):

  • On the difference between coercive control and other forms of abuse: "In coercive control abuse, you have a range of acts over time, a broad range of non-consensual and non-reciprocal tactics — isolation, intimidation, sexual abuse, stalking. And they’re not just used to hurt someone or to hurt their feelings, but to subjugate them in ways that make them unable or unwilling to escape, or to effectively resist a partner’s demands. The aim of emotional abuse is to hurt someone’s feelings so badly that they feel ashamed of themselves, and the aim of [physical] domestic violence is to hurt someone physically and make them afraid to resist in that situation, but the aim of coercive control goes beyond that. It uses a range of tactics to subjugate them, to make them dependent. The aim is total domination, rather than simply to win compliance on a particular issue."
  • On recognizing coercive control early: "Much of what we define as love in the U.S. looks like coercive control. We think when somebody wants to do everything for us, or wants to know the answers to questions we haven’t even asked yet, we think that’s a sign of love. But it may also be a sign of someone who doesn’t want to allow us to have our own sense of dignity and autonomy and respect. When someone feels uncomfortable that they’re not able to express their differences, or when they find their partner so overreacting to differences that they catch themselves before they say something, they’re in the presence of coercive control."

It's a short read and we definitely recommend checking it out!

Written by Abigail Hazlett