For people entangled in abusive domestic relationships, the result of pandemic restrictions has been increased danger and suffering. Isolation, restricted movement, financial stress and the constant presence of children all increase the risk of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV). The World Health Organization unequivocally states that IPV has risen worldwide since the pandemic began. In parts of the United States, an increase in injury reports has been mirrored by a decrease in calls to domestic abuse hotlines. This reflects the reality that many IPV victims are now under such complete partner surveillance that they cannot make phone calls unobserved.
What is Coercive Control Behavior?
Some lawmakers are trying to address the controlling behavior that victims point to as a precursor to violence. Coercive control behavior refers to the tactics abusive partners use to exert control over victims, such as isolating them from friends and family, creating financial dependency, threatening harm to children or pets, belittling, or denigration. In the beginning of a controlling relationship, a victim is usually “love-bombed” with constant attention and unexpected visits. This behavior can be flattering, but it is designed to make the abuser seem omnipresent and sends the signal that there are no boundaries in the relationship. The victim, even subconsciously, begins to change plans and self-police behaviors of which the abuser would disapprove. Thus begins a quiet program of domination and control, subtle and manipulative, that escalates over time. Recognizing this crescendo tendency, Hawaii recently expanded its definition of domestic violence to include simple name-calling. Last month, California allowed coercive control behaviors to be used as evidence of domestic violence in family court.
What Colorado Law Says About It
Colorado’s domestic violence law, C.R.S.§ 18-6-800.3, already recognizes the role that coercive control behaviors play in domestic abuse. Our state’s definition of domestic violence includes “…any crime against a person, or against a property, including an animal, or any municipal ordinance violation against a person, property, or animal, when used as a method of coercion, control, punishment, intimidation, or revenge against a person with whom the actor is involved or has been involved in an intimate relationship.” Domestic violence is a criminal offense. Persons found guilty of criminal behavior can be subject to fines and jail.
How Can Victims Fight Back?
In civil court, victims of controlling, abusive behavior can seek monetary damages for assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and other torts. Some lawmakers prefer this approach, which avoids creating more criminals and instead directs much-needed resources to victims. Domestic abuse victims generally become trapped in abusive relationships due to a lack of financial power. This includes the freedom and ability to work, access childcare, and afford a separate home.
Abused Victims Can Feel Trapped
Whether or not coercive control legislation becomes common, the conversation itself is an important step forward. It is time to end the damaging untruth that an abused person can just leave and there is something wrong with them if they don’t. Abused people, especially those who shares children and a bank account with their abuser, can’t just leave. They fear destabilizing the household and causing disruption to their children’s lives. They fear poverty and the abuser’s revenge. They feel guilty and ashamed about how bad things have become and they don’t want the world to judge them. They also need a place to land and a way to support themselves.
None of This Is Easy
If you are trapped in an abusive relationship, there are people and resources available to help you. You will also need strong legal representation to get you the funds you need to rebuild your life. We specialize in getting funds for victims. We would be honored to hear your story.
Article by Molly Fuscher, Paralegal