(Intimate Partner Violence, power and control, emotional coercion)
“It’s all your fault.” “Now look what you made me do!” “You’ll never see the children again!” “I’ll ruin you financially!” “No one else will ever love you!”
In many cases, one partner has gone too far in trying to control the other partner. “Domestic violence” involves not just physical efforts to control, but emotional, financial, sexual, and other forms of control. The law provides a wide range of solutions to help people move out of controlling relationships, including solutions to protect finances, and physical and emotional control. Restraining orders can be “light” or “heavy”, and can simply include a provision restricting one party from coming to the other’s home, or include a range of restrictions on contact, such as “by text/email only”. Restraining orders can also include a fuller range of protections to eliminate most or all contact. Developing a Safety Plan is also usually an important step.
“We help clients by listening and understanding what their needs and wishes are. Each case is unique. Some clients prefer very light restrictions on contact, and others need substantial protections. It may be counter-productive to eliminate all contact when the parties have ongoing needs to communicate about certain issues, and in some cases it may be counter-productive to allow any contact whatsoever. Sometimes we start with one type of restraining order, and then modify it as time moves on and needs change.” Mark Baumann
DV goes by many other names including Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), power and control, emotional coercion, and compulsive coercion.
Domestic violence behavior includes many types of behavior including physical assault, pushing, shoving, throwing things, spitting, hitting, kicking, and can include intense forms of emotional abuse such as yelling, name calling, putting down, belittling, disparaging, insulting, humiliating, shaming, forcing compliance with unreasonable rules, and sexual abuse.
From an adult attachment perspective*, these cases tend to involve a person who is compulsively coercive. They may have a deep desire to satisfy their own needs, have difficulty considering the needs of others, tend to act quickly and aggressively based on their feelings-in-the-moment, and have great difficulty in truly accepting responsibility for their own actions or contributions to problems, and intense and unfair blaming is common. Usually, the coercive person is very sensitive to being humiliated (whether true or not) and tends to increase their aggression when they feel humiliated. Often they are extremely sensitive to a feeling of being abandoned (whether true or not). Because of all this, they tend to be apparently oblivious to what they are doing, and don’t take any self-responsibility, and they tend to consistently use coercive methods to get other people (including you) to do what they want. Often, the person engaging in coercive tactics is not just persistently using coercive methods, but deep down inside they feel compelled, with a compulsion to always try to get their needs met with excessively strong tactics.
It is a common misconception that if the “victim” just gives the “perpetrator” what they want, things will better. Because the basic behavior tactics are learned early in life, and teenage and adult experience reinforce the behavior, the more they are allowed to act out with compulsively coercive tactics, the more it happens. In other words, giving in and trying to placate just makes things worse in the long run. For some clients, the “perpetrator” has gone too far and there is no hope of limiting the behavior, but for some clients, there is hope and we work with the clients to learn and apply relationship techniques that reduce the use of compulsively coercive tactics.
“Providing protections for clients usually involves implementing one or more boundaries. These can include restraining orders, or just helping the client learn how to say no while protecting them, and their children, from potential backlash. Sometimes child support and spousal support orders are helpful to protect against one party causing financial ruin to the other. We have represented many clients who have experienced a little emotional control to the most extreme forms of control.” Mark Baumann
Mark recommends people to develop safety plans. Whether you are a DV victim, think you are, or are just in a relationship where emotions can get out of control quickly, having a plan for what to do can be the best form of protection for everyone involved.
* Crittenden, Patricia M. (2nd ed, 2016), Raising parents: Attachment, Representation, and Treatment, Routledge.