Updated: Nov 13, 2020
Quietly and without fanfare, two landmark coercive control bills have been signed into state law in Hawaii and California. Hawaii and California are joining a small group of nations - Scotland, France, England, Wales, and Ireland - with federal control legislation. These government bodies understand illegalizing coercive control is paramount to stop continued abuse and in some cases murder.
Coercive Control laws remove the incident-specific approach to criminal domestic violence cases. Where the stringent requirement of severe physical injury or rape alone determines whether domestic violence has taken place or if a pattern exists. Coercive control laws include nonphysical abuse such as stalking, harassment, gaslighting, financial abuse, intimidation and more.
Hawaii's Coercive Control Legislation Inspired by Scotland
The Hawaiian legislation, HB 2425 which was brought forth by the Women’s Legislative Caucus, specifically includes “Coercive Control” into the definition of “domestic abuse.”
Governor David Ige of Hawaii signed HB 2425 into law on September 15, 2020. The bill states, “domestic abuse protective orders to include emotional abuse between family or household members.” Hawaii's coercive control bill was inspired by the bill passed in 2009 in Scotland.
"The results in Scotland are showing remarkable statistics. In the 10 plus years since they have had these protections on the books, overall domestic violence has decreased dramatically”
Through the tireless efforts of one of the ACECC's keynote speakers, Dr. Evan Stark, a forensic social worker, sociologist, and author, we now have a name for this specific form of terroristic behavior, “Coercive Control”. Dr. Stark was instrumental in getting the Scotland bill passed and refers to it as "the most comprehensive bill on the books worldwide."
The results in Scotland are showing remarkable statistics. In the 10 plus years since they have had these protections on the books, overall domestic violence has “decreased dramatically”, according to Professor Barbara Gerbert, at the Division of Behavioral Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco.
California Makes A Significant Amendment
Just behind Hawaii, and just as exciting, was another coercive control bill that passed in California on September 29, 2020. Governor Newsom of CA signed into law Senate Bill 1141 adding the specific language "coercive control" to the Family Code. This will now permit courts to consider coercive control as evidence of domestic violence in the Family Court.
"This legislation will help empower survivors of crime and abuse to speak out against their abusers and provide them more time to seek justice," said Governor Newsom
The ACECC's second keynote speaker, Laura Richards, worked with trailblazer Senator Susan Rubio of the 22nd District in California to help ensure children and safe parents were protected. Laura Richards, is a criminal behavioral analyst, is the founder of Paladin. Paladin is the world's first dedicated national advocacy service specifically for stalking victims. The guidance from Ms. Richards and her input was instrumental in the passage of SB 1141. Ms. Richards also helped to establish stalking and domestic violence coercive control laws in both England and Wales.
"This legislation will help empower survivors of crime and abuse to speak out against their abusers and provide them more time to seek justice," said Governor Newsom who went on to say, "California is committed to protecting survivors and supporting them and the organizations that provide them with essential services, especially during this challenging time."
There is no question, Domestic Abuse reports increased during the Pandemic worldwide. The BBC reported that the number of offenses recorded by police related to the new law in place to recognize Coercive Control as a form of Domestic Abuse was on the rise.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Hawaii and California have laid a firm foundation. There is still a prevalent need across the Americas to see action in the legislature to institute laws protecting the most vulnerable among us. Canada, Mexico, and countries in South America do not have anti-coercive control bills.
Coercive control for many victims is not recognized as a crime. Outside of five countries, Hawaii, and California, victims of coercive control cannot report the crime committed against them. There are many signs and adverse mental outcomes of Coercive Control. We legislation that will protect victims of Coercive Control, so they can seek the justice they rightfully deserve.
When a victim is unable to make financial decisions with their own money, that is Coercive Control. If a partner is threatening to cut off financial support or using finances to control your life or business, leaving them financially strapped, that too is Coercive Control. As we will discuss here at The ACECC Journal and two day virtual conference, manipulation, diminishing self-worth along with victim-blaming is very much domestic abuse. The behavior of coercive control causes severe emotional distress to victims and children stuck in that cycle.
Over the next few weeks, we will be blogging about everything coercive control and the latest news from the 2021 Americas Conference to End Coercive Control.
The ACECC is determined to make ensure that every country in the Americas has a anti-coercive control legislation signed into law and that there is extensive education that domestic violence isn't only "physical abuse." Realizing Coercive Control, in all its forms, is Domestic Violence.
See you next week!