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Section 3
Coercive Control in Violent Relationships

Question 3 | Test | Table of Contents

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In the last section, we discussed the battered woman's Irresponsible Child role related to Freedom of Speech, Spending Money, Taking Time for Herself, the Right to Feel, and the Right to Choose What to Do and how this affected her decision to leave.

In this section, we will discuss the additional methods of psychological control of sexual domination, social isolation, social humiliation and a charming exterior, and the role they play discouraging your client from leaving.

4 Methods of Psychological Control

♦ Method # 1 - Sexual Domination
Regarding sexual domination, as you know a battered woman is often expected to be subservient and to have sex whenever and however her partner wants it. Angie stated, "If I couldn't do it right then, exactly when Josh wanted, there was hell to pay." What part does this sexual domination play in your client's decision to leave? Does she fear a violent rape if she decided to return? Does she need information regarding a restraining order?

♦ Method # 2 - Social Isolation
As you know, social isolation gradually develops as a result of the batterer's extreme possessiveness and is central to abusive relationships. Angie stated, "Josh wants to know when I go out, who I am with, who I talk to when I'm out, what I do, and where I go. It just isn't worth it, so I stay in as much as possible." What part does social isolation play in your client's decision to leave? Do you need to facilitate her to find additional sources of support?

♦ Method # 3 - Social Humiliation.
In addition to simply limiting a battered woman's social contacts, battering men may also act in humiliating ways when in social situations as another way to control his partner.

Angie stated, "I remember one time when we were playing the card game Hearts with my family. Josh was collecting all the hearts, but I made a play that stopped him. I didn't do it intentionally, I just had the card to do it. I thought he was going to kill me he was so mad. He kept yelling, 'That was luck, there was no skill to that. You knew I was trying to collect all of them.' I would have been in tears if it wasn't for my family sitting there."

What part does this social humiliation play in your client's decision to leave? Does she fear future more severe humiliation should she decide to leave and return? Do you need to encourage her to assess the reaction of others to these humiliating situations?

Method # 4 - Charming Exterior
In addition to sexual domination, social isolation and social humiliation is a charming exterior. Although the batterer might humiliate his partner in public or social situations, he is also able to act in appealing and likable ways to others. As you know, battered women often describe their partners as "charming but phony." This engaging behavior can be used to gain support for his view that all the problems are his partner's fault, or to get recognition for his own bolstered view of himself.

Angie stated, "Any time I would try to approach Josh about his anger, he would just tell me I was the only one who thought he had a problem. Well, of course no one else saw it, he puts on that phony gentleman mask for everyone else and then lets loose when we're alone." What part does the charming exterior play in your client's decision to leave? Are others telling her that it is her fault and she is crazy for leaving such a nice guy?

Before your next session with your client who is considering leaving, would it be beneficial to replay this section to review possible topics for sessions regarding the roles sexual dominance, social isolation, social humiliation, and a charming exterior play in your clients staying?

In the next section, we will discuss the negative impact a mental or physical handicap may have upon a battered woman's decision to leave resulting in increased batterer control, authority unresponsiveness, and court leniency.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Chen, J., Walters, M. L., Gilbert, L. K., & Patel, N. (2020). Sexual violence, stalking, and intimate partner violence by sexual orientation, United States. Psychology of Violence, 10(1), 110–119. 

Crossman, K. A., & Hardesty, J. L. (2018). Placing coercive control at the center: What are the processes of coercive control and what makes control coercive? Psychology of Violence, 8(2), 196–206. 

Dichter, M. E., Thomas, K. A., Crits-Christoph, P., Ogden, S. N., & Rhodes, K. V. (2018). Coercive control in intimate partner violence: Relationship with women’s experience of violence, use of violence, and danger. Psychology of Violence, 8(5), 596–604. 

QUESTION 3
What are four elements of psychological control that can affect your client's decision to leave? To select and enter your answer go to Test
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