Coercive Control in Intimate Partner Violence: Relationship With Women’s Experience of Violence, Use of Violence, and Danger

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Abstract

Objective: The objective of this study was to better understand the experience of coercive control as a type of intimate partner violence (IPV) by examining associations between coercive control and women’s experiences of particular forms of violence, use of violence, and risk of future violence. Method: As part of a larger research study, data were collected from 553 women patients at 2 hospital emergency departments who had experienced recent IPV and unhealthy drinking. Baseline assessments, including measures of coercive control, danger, and experience and use of psychological, physical, and sexual forms of IPV in the previous 3 months, were analyzed. Results: Women experiencing coercive control reported higher frequency of each form of IPV, and higher levels of danger, compared with women IPV survivors who were not experiencing coercive control. There was no statistically significant association between experience of coercive control and women’s use of psychological or sexual IPV; women who experienced coercive control were more likely to report using physical IPV than women who were not experiencing coercive control. Conclusions: Findings contribute to knowledge on the relationship between coercive control and specific forms of violence against intimate partners. A primary contribution is the identification that women who experience coercive control may also use violence, indicating that a woman’s use of violence does not necessarily mean that she is not experiencing severe and dangerous violence as well as coercive control. In fact, experience of coercive control may increase victims’ use of physical violence as a survival strategy.

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