This month is domestic violence awareness month and today I am thinking about coercive control. What is coercive control? It’s basically manipulation of a person in everyday life including situations, people, and things. It exists as a manipulation of the victim’s love for the abuser. It’s also a result of the fighting, arguing, and physical violence that takes place in abusive relationships.
Today is October 8th, a little more than a week through this month. You and I have been able to live our lives and go through our normal routine during this week without coercive control. Here is a list of things that a victim has not been able to do without some form of coercive control.
- I placed a grocery order and picked it up – without monitoring how much money I spent, what I purchased, who I talked to, when I left, and when I returned.
- I made many phone calls – I wasn’t asked who I called, who the person is on the other end, or the purpose of my call. I wasn’t accused of cheating or lying.
- I browsed through the internet at leisure – I wasn’t asked what sites I visited or why. I didn’t have my history reviewed or my email searched.
- I texted people – I didn’t experience a person going through and reading my text messages to make sure that I wasn’t cheating.
- I went for walks by myself – I wasn’t accused of meeting up with another man.
- I picked out my clothes and wore them without changing – I was unconcerned that my husband would think I was dressing to provoke other men into hitting on me, asking me out, and being sexualized.
- I declined intimacy when I did not want it – I was not forced to engage in intimate acts that I was unwilling to participate in. I declined without fear of accusations or physical violence.
- I began considering and choosing what job I would search and apply for without considering if it is a male-dominated field – I have no considerations of what gender my potential co-workers might be, no fear of violence as a result of imagined cheating.
- I left home and returned as I pleased without having to ask for permission – no walking on eggshells, no monitoring the clock, no asking permission from my husband before I go places. I just go.
- I missed a phone call from my husband or declined to answer if I didn’t want to talk to him – I get to choose to talk to my husband or not talk to him. If I miss a call accidentally or intentionally reject a call from him, there are no consequences.
- I wrote in my journal – there wasn’t a person who asked to see what I wrote. No one was concerned that I was plotting leaving or cheating.
- I considered talking to my counselor about depression – I was not questioned about the content of my conversations with him.
- I put money into and took money out of my separate bank account – I have a separate account and there are no questions about why I have it and how much money is in it. There is no objection the account existing.
- I have made purchases on Amazon.com, Walmart.com, and other online stores – without fear of getting caught, without fear of violence, without anxiety about spending money, without fear of physical harm. I just bought the things that I wanted and had them delivered to our house.
- I have earned money and it has remained mine – I have not had money taken from me arbitrarily.
This is a list of things that I have learned to do during the last 14 years that I could not do while I was in an abusive relationship. Since I have left, I have identified these things as common things that I do in every day life. There are other things that abused women cannot do but these are some of the most basic things that are taken away. You might notice that these are things that parents usually maintain control of for children (with exception of intimate acts, that children should not be engaging in).
Choosing how we will dress, think, speak, and act are basic freedoms. When we do not get to choose we are not being treated as adults. Choosing whether we will have sex or not is a fundamental aspect of being an adult human. When we no longer get to choose, it is rape. Choosing to do normal activities such as shopping, being with our friends, engaging in business, and making decisions independently are part of our every day life. When we are no longer permitted to make these simple decisions, we are controlled. When the control is from a romantic partner it is generally called coercive control. When we are unable to do them because we no longer belong to ourselves, it is slavery.
I am thankful that I left my abuser. I live a wonderful life after having spent years recovering and learning what I think, what I want, and who I am. I have spent the last several days documenting my life for my 21 day walk to end human trafficking. My 21 day challenge is part of a larger push to bring awareness about domestic violence and to help victims recover to survivors.
During the past two weeks, I have realized that my life is wonderful and beautiful. I have realized that I don’t have everything but I have freedom in more ways than one. I have realized that I am content and loved.
Most of all I have realized I am not afraid. I am not afraid of my husband. I am not afraid of my friends finding out that he controls me. I am not afraid that I can’t make an excuse for him or his behavior. I am not afraid to talk to a male human. I am not afraid to make plans with my friends without asking him. I am not afraid to spend money. I am not afraid to leave my house. I am not afraid to get dressed. I am not afraid because I am not abused.
But there are still people who are abused. There are people who are afraid. There are people who are controlled. There are people who are enslaved. She may be your mother, sister, cousin, aunt, best friend, or co-worker. She may be someone you don’t know. She may be someone you’ll never meet. But, she can still be someone you can care about, she can still be someone you can help.
Do you know a person who has died at the hands of her abuser? A woman who is controlled by her significant other? Do you know a woman who is owned by another human? Have you left your significant other? Leave her, or your, name on the memorials page or leave a prayer. I’ve left a prayer there already and I pray for the names and the people memorialized there daily.
Have you done any of the things on this list in the past week? What will you do to take action from what you’ve learned? Please leave a comment and let me know what you think about this list or what you will do in response.
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P.S. there is still time to donate directly to A21 through my fundraiser link: https://www2.a21.org/fundraising/shelee-long/the-long-walk