Coercive Control

Generally, coercive control in a relationship may be described as intimate terrorism and is usually a pattern of behavior that includes trying to isolate, exploit, and control the victim. Essentially, the victim will feel like a hostage in their relationship.

Coercive control rises to the level of domestic violence when the abuser begins to physically threaten or injure the victim. For example, if the abuser has been closely monitoring the victim for a long time, and the victim breaks the pattern and does something the abuser does not like, and then the abuser hits them, that is domestic abuse, which can result in jail time and a restraining order. However, not all coercive abusers become physical abusers, so it is vital to notice when someone is being coercive. The sooner the behavior is spotted, the easier it is for the victim to getfs out of the relationship.

With recent changes to the law, Washington became one of only a few states with laws that criminalize coercive control behavior. As a result, victims who attempt to get out of these relationships may have more hope that the abuser will be arrested, even if the abuse hasn’t risen to the level of harassment or domestic violence.

Washington Coercive Control Attorneys

If you have been accused of coercive control or domestic violence, contact our lawyers at Law Offices of Shana E. Thompson. Attorney Shana Thompson and her legal team have helped thousands of clients in a wide range of family law cases. They have the skills and resources to clear your name and secure your freedom.

Do not wait much longer. Call (206) 712-2756 to arrange an initial consultation today. Law Offices of Shana E. Thompson serves clients in Washington including King County and Snohomish County.

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Coercive Control In Intimate Relationships


Isolation is one of the most common tactics used by an abuser attempting to control their victim. Generally, this means that the abuser will not allow the victim to have contact with their friends and family or, at a minimum, restrict access to certain people. Additionally, by isolating the victim, the abuser can make it more difficult for the victim to leave the abuser.

Control Of Victims

Abusers will also attempt to limit the amount of freedom that their partner has so that they feel dependent on the abuser. For example, the abuser will go with their partner everywhere, and if the partner tries to go somewhere alone, they are either further abused or made to feel guilty. In extreme cases, the abuser may deprive their partner of transportation or finances.


Another way in which abusers will abuse their partner is by misrepresenting them so that they feel isolated. For example, abusers will lie about their partners to others to make them look like the victim is the abuser, or they will attempt to make their partner look overly anxious, mentally unhealthy, or disturbed. By doing this, the abuser hopes to gain more control over the partner, who may feel like they have no one to turn to because everyone thinks they are awful.

Financial Control

Another common tactic is financial control, which is generally seen when someone is abused. Controlling another person’s finances can make a victim feel like it is impossible to get out of their situation. For example, a victim will usually have to run to a shelter because they have no money of their own because their abuser took their paycheck and gave the victim a small allowance to ensure they couldn’t run away. The more desperate someone feels, the more likely they will stay in a bad situation.

Monitoring Activities

In some cases, the abuser goes to the extremes of monitoring the victim’s every move. This can include installing cameras around the house and questioning the victim’s whereabouts and conversations when the abuser is not around. On the other hand, it could just be the abuser asking where the victim has been, what they were doing, and who they were with to gain control over where they were going and who they were with.

Using Children As A Weapon

If children are involved, one of the most successful control tactics an abuser will use is the children. There are two things that an abuser will usually do to gain control over the victim:

  1. Threaten to harm the children if the victim tries to fight back or leave
  2. Falsely accuse the victim of harming or neglecting the children.

This tactic is extremely successful because a victim will usually be very protective of their children, so any thought of losing their kids or them being abused is terrifying.

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Spotting Coercive Control

It is crucial not only for potential victims to spot coercive control but also for those around the victim to be aware of the signs. The more alone the victim feels, the harder it will be to get out of the relationship. Watch for the following to spot potential abuse.

  • Restriction of freedom and autonomy
  • Control over health and body
  • Turning people against the victim while staying in a relationship with them
  • Isolating the victim from their friends, family, and support networks
  • Limiting the victim’s access to money
  • Limiting the victim’s access to transportation

Some of these may be how people behave in their relationships already. If that’s not usually the case, it could signify coercive control.

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Additional Resources

Domestic Violence │ Washington Government – Visit Washington’s health and human services website to find resources available for an individual stuck in an abusive situation.

Domestic Violence Escape │ Dove Inc. – Visit the Domestic Violence Escape website to get more information on services, including support groups, emergency shelters, and counseling for men, women, and children who are victims of domestic violence. Dove Inc. can also be reached by calling their crisis hotline at (906) 932-4990.

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Seattle Coercive Control Lawyers | King County, WA

The attorneys at Law Offices of Shana E. Thompson are experienced Washington lawyers who can help you during your divorce. We understand the impact of coercive control and other forms of domestic violence and are here to help.

Law Offices of Shana E. Thompson represent clients in family law cases throughout all of King County including Kent and Seattle. Call (206) 712-2756 to schedule an initial consultation.

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