Coercive Control – Women being labled ‘the problem’…

“Because abuse is typically “ongoing,” victims seek help repeatedly. Given the assumption that

victims and offenders can exercise decisional autonomy ‘between’ episodes, however, service providers

stigmatize persistent help-seekers. They attribute victims’ apparent inability to ‘leave’ to character deficits

and consider their escalating expressions of fear exaggerated, fabricated or as the byproduct of mental

illness. Thus, many abused women appear in family court, child welfare or health systems carrying

pseudo-psychiatric labels that imply they are the problem, not the abuser. As a victim’s entrapment

becomes more comprehensive, the service response may actually become more perfunctory, a process

termed “normalization.” It seems inevitable that women of this “type” will continue to be abused.”

By Evan Stark , Ph.D, MSW

Professor, Rutgers School of Public Affairs and Administration

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