To help create awareness for the many forms of domestic violence, in collaboration with the Family Life Center, we will feature information each Friday during the month of October in hopes that it will help make a difference, save a life, or change a behavior. We hope you’ll share the information as you never know whose life it may touch or impact. – Flagler News Weekly

Friday Feature Domestic Violence Awareness Month – Coercive Control

Guest Writer: Trish Giaccone, LMHC, NCC, CEO Family Life Center

Growing up, my mom was not a fan of allowing us kids to drink soda. Of course, we would guzzle it up whenever we were with friends or at the house of a family member. Invariably, if my mom was around and we went for the soda, she would give us a look…the look you instantly knew meant: don’t do it, back away from the soda station and grab a juice instead. I’m sure many of you can relate.

Amongst adults “the look” is not an appropriate or acceptable behavior because we are each able to make our own choices, freely. This is not the case in an abusive relationship where unfortunately, threats or intimidation are tactics used by perpetrators of violence.  Typically, when we think of domestic violence we often have a picture in our mind of a victim with a bleeding and swollen lip, black eye or other observable bruising. Domestic violence involves much more than physical abuse.

Intimidation, threats and manipulation are used in tandem with one another as part of a pattern of controlling behavior creating an unequal power dynamic designed to create dependency, control and dominance over a victim all while limiting their liberties and freedoms. These behaviors are identified as Coercive control and are usually difficult to identify because it happens over time, eroding self-esteem, autonomy and sense of self. Coercive control is equivalent to brainwashing and is a particularly pernicious form of domestic violence.

You may ask, aren’t there laws against intimidation or threatening someone and the answer is yes there are. How does a victim define or quantify intimidation tactics or surreptitious behaviors? What if it’s not “the look” but a threat of deportation, threat of taking the children away, harming / killing your four-legged family member or one of the myriads of other threats victims hear on a regular basis? Who can victims trust? How do victims prove it and at what cost?  In addition to the threats mentioned above, Coercive Control can look like:

1) Threatening to contact DCF and calling in a false report of abuse or neglect of the children;

2) Complaining about the amount of time you spend with family or friends and the lack of time you spend “together” in an effort to inspire guilt;

3) Recording you performing sexual acts and threatening to put them on social media or make them public;

4) Over time the perpetrator of abuse replaces the victim’s inner narrative stating: “You’re not remembering correctly, what really happened was…”

5) Perpetrators of abuse may display weapons in a menacing manner or make statements such as “no one will miss you” or other such unsettling comments.

Perpetrators of abuse do not have a red light-up neon sign above their head boldly blinking “WARNING” or “ABUSER”. The charm and attentiveness displayed initially is a falsehood and devolves into instilling fear and a sense of dependence on the perpetrator of abuse. These are not all inclusive strategies used by perpetrators of violence as tactics are idiosyncratic to the abuser. However, if the behaviors above sound eerily familiar and you’d like to speak to a Florida Privileged Advocate please call or text 386-437-3505. All calls are confidential. Please remember, you are not alone.

This crime will not end unless we as a community stand together and continue to cry out for the right to be free from abuse and violence!

Read Last Week’s Friday Feature: Gaslighting

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