Coercive Control Codification Brief: A Guide for Advocates and Coalitions

There is an important conversation happening throughout the country. Advocates and survivors are actively debating whether and to what degree coercive control should be codified1 in the criminal, protection order, or family laws of their state.

A number of jurisdictions across the U.S. have already have already codified coercive control.2 As the national resource center on legal responses to gender-based violence, BWJP is a thought leader on trends that impact survivors and systems. Coercive control is one of these current trends and BWJP is committed to offering legal analysis and support to further these conversations throughout the country. As advocates, we are used to collaborating with survivors navigating their complex relationships and choices, while centering the survivor’s needs and safety. Our collective voice is needed on coercive control codification, as the implications of new laws may impact survivors’ lives in profound ways.

For decades, criminal and civil legal systems have not adequately addressed the dynamics of coercive control to make abusers accountable and liberate survivors. Each day thousands of people are terrorizing their intimate partners. Some are flushing insulin vials and birth control pills down the toilet, while others are coercing their partners to have sex by threatening to contact ICE3 and get their partner deported.4 Most jurisdictions’ criminal, civil protection, and family legal system responses fall short, especially when violence isn’t physical and recent.

For these reasons and more some survivors and advocates are calling for the criminal, protection order, and family laws to include (codify) coercive control. But how far should these laws go? There are real concerns about unintended consequences for survivors, especially survivors and communities that are marginalized.

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