“Coercive Control.” That is the title given to the type of controlling relationship many people, particularly young females, find themselves trapped within. The term was coined by Evan Stark, the founder of one of the first battered women's shelters in America. He also used the label as the title of his 2007 book, Coercive Control: The Entrapment of Women in Personal Life which discusses domestic violence at great length.
Coercive control is not just a title, however. It is the apt description for a type of relationship where a dominant partner methodically establishes control over the other. The behaviour is not exclusive to heterosexual couples. There are many well-documented instances of same-sex relationships that fit the same characteristics.
Some of the tactics employed by the abuser start off seemingly harmless enough as criticisms. But over time, they evolve into much more serious offences including isolating victims from friends and family, threats (to harm the victim, to harm themselves, to take children, etc.), manipulation, stalking, and abuses that include verbal, physical, and sexual. It is a sad reality that for many young, inexperienced people, coercive control can feel like love.
Speaking during an event held at an event held in 2015, Stark stated to his audience, "It's not what the man does to her, it's what he prevents her from doing for herself." He continued, "Every battered woman I've ever met has a dream, plans for her life, but her partner responds with coercive control. It's the level of control, not the level of violence, that predicts how much danger she's in."
And that point brings us to the topic of how reclaiming your power from an unhealthy relationship can embolden you to live the life you always wanted. First, admitting that you are in an abusive or unhealthy relationship is never easy. And often, physically leaving the situation can be even more challenging. But taking control of the reigns of your life once more often begins with just one word, and that word is, “no.” As in, “No more,” “No, I don’t need you,” or “No, I won’t have to come crawling back to you.”
Finding your self-confidence and recognising your worth can be challenging if an abusively dominant partner has spent any amount of time conditioning you to believe otherwise. It may be through counselling, therapy, community-based support activities, support groups, a practice of daily affirmations, physical activity, self-defence training or a combination of any of those, but the day can and will come that you are once again in control of your life.
Napoleon Hill once famously said, “You are the master of your destiny. You can influence, direct and control your own environment. You can make your life what you want it to be.” Once you have escaped the bonds of coercive control and rediscovered your own power, there is nothing to stop you from achieving everything you once dreamed you could.
And many times, those who do survive and escape abusive relationships go on to some of the most successful and thriving members of society, often starting initiatives to help other victims of abuse find a way out of their dire situations. Nobody has the right to control or abuse you. You have the right to live your life happily, and recognising your own power to do so is a critical element of freeing yourself from the bonds of abuse and recovering to become the lively and prosperous person you were meant to be.