What Is Domestic Violence, Really? Coercive Control


by Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D.

Claire is an upper middle class suburban semi-retiree, enjoying a second career of loving and promoting art. She thought that domestic abuse was about hitting until the day she awaken unto the fact that her marital pain was due to psychological and emotional abuse.

She had no idea that the day in and day out mental manipulations and twisting of her heart strings was all about psychological control. The emotional dependency cultivated in her relationship blindsided her to the personal oppression and financial abuse ahead.

Claire never thought of herself as a victim of spousal abuse. For crying out loud, she was an educated woman of means who had never been hit by a man or even called a…(you know what). And then, a friend rooted in the domestic violence literature informed her otherwise. It was indeed a wake-up call to learn that her inner crippling was clearly domestic abuse.

Hitting As the Icing on the Cake

Most people (as did Claire) believe that the “black and blue” defines domestic violence. There is certainly some truth to this belief in law enforcement.

For example, when the police show up at your door, the first thing they look for is “actual” evidence. That is a sign of one party injured by another. Is there a scratch, bleeding tissue, a developing bruise, broken bone…a dislocated jaw? These are the things that constitute and substantiate domestic violence when the cops come to your door.

But this, my friend, is not domestic violence. This is the manifestation of domestic abuse. You see domestic abuse is all about control. When the intimate partner abuser senses he/she is losing control over their partner, violence will escalate so as to re-establish their power and control.

Domestic Abuse Violation

Now, the tricky word here is “violence.” By this word, most people see black and blue and all the physical violations associated with it. Don’t stop looking here.

It is definitely true that physical violence does indeed escalate over time in an abuse dynamic. And it is also accurate that emotional and verbal abuse can progress into physical violence with the escalation of intimate partner abuse.

But, the point I wish to make here is that domestic violence, whether emotional, verbal or physical is about escalating violations intended to exert control within an intimate relationship. It can begin with an emotional threat of abandonment, or a character assault of one’s very person, appearance or their sexuality. Or, it may be the covert grooming of a gross distortion of your belief about past facts for the very purpose of confusing your present.

It doesn’t even have to be about name-calling or telling you that you are ugly or stupid, as Claire thought when hearing that she is a victim of domestic abuse. It can be the intentional mental manipulations of “gas-lighting” in which you are conditioned to believe your reality is something other than what it is. Or, it can be that your assets are dissipated without your knowledge or consent, as was the case for Claire.

Intimate Partner Abuse

If you are wondering if you are a victim of domestic abuse, take a hard and fast look at the core characteristics of intimate partner violence. Is your partner outrageously possessive, controlling, excessively jealous, non-empathic toward your experience, hypersensitive, manipulative and unreasonably demanding. Does he/she isolate you from all other sources of support beyond which he/she controls? And does your partner consistently blame you for the mishaps between the two of you?

If this description resonates with you, wake up, as Claire did, because you are another vulnerable, invisible domestic abuse survivor. For more information about abusive relationships, or help healing your own relationship, visit https://www.preventabusiverelationships.com/domestic_violence_trt.php  and find freedom from domestic abuse.

For a wealth of information and real-life insights on abusive relationships, visit https://innersanctuaryonline.org and start your Free 7-day trial today. Inner Sanctuary Online is designed to help you with the challenges of abusive relationships, from identifying them to influencing change within them to healing during and after them.

Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D. helps individuals and couples worldwide recognize, end and heal from domestic abuse.

© Dr Jeanne King — Domestic Violence Prevention and Intervention

3 responses to “What Is Domestic Violence, Really? Coercive Control”

  1. Mary A Avalon says:

    In my situation I’m finding that my partner does not have all of the qualifiers listed but only a few. Does that mean he is NOT being abusive? He is very critical, hostile, moody, angry but does not isolate me or prevent me from utilizing financial resources. He IS very controlling; yells, is highly critical (and it is not ‘constructive feedback) and often micromanages me telling me what I am doing wrong and how to correct it. It feels very condemming and not helpful. I get very depressed and feel shameful.

    • Dr. Jeanne King PhD says:

      Have you taking the Intimate Partner Abuse Screen? It may give you insight into your circumstances. It’s available o the home page of this website. Let me know if you want my help. Blessings to you. Dr. King

  2. Joyce Gillett says:

    I can resonate with all of this. I got out 6 years ago but it took an entire year to legally break the bond after 30 years. I’m so glad this is coming more and more to the light.
    I was afraid I would disappear like Lacey Peterson or killed like Nicole Brown Simpson.
    Don’t do it for another minute but be stealth in everything. That’s my advice.

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