by Jon Atack
Physical & Psychological Coercion
Coercion compels involuntary compliance through intimidation, blackmail and psychological pressure. It aims to make the victim submissive to the oppressor.
Physical coercion is the most commonly considered form of coercion, where the content of the conditional threat is the use of force against a victim, their relatives or property.
Psychological coercion often threatens the victim’s relationships with others. The most obvious example is blackmail, where the threat consists of the dissemination of damaging information. However, many other types are possible such as so-called “emotional blackmail”, which typically involves threats of rejection from or disapproval by a peer-group, or creating feelings of guilt/obligation via a display of anger or hurt by someone whom the victim loves or respects.
Coercive control indicates an abusive relationship that need not involve violence or force. The expression has taken on a legal meaning in the UK with regard to abusive intimate relationships. Prosecution can lead to up to five years imprisonment.
Evan Stark in his book Coercive Control argues persuasively that by focusing on domestic violence, the legal system has failed to address the circumstances under which such violence takes place. Violence is the consequence of coercive control, where one partner rules the other.
Coercive control is yet another expression for manipulation or undue influence. The psychology of coercive control is identical to that of thought reform or mind control: one person dominates another by reducing them to subservience.