This summer I read a fabulous book, Coercive Control: How Men Entrap Women in Personal Life by Evan Stark. It is a well written academic discussion of the topic of coercive control that also provides a history of domestic violence awareness in America. Although I highly recommend the book to anyone who advocates for victims, I do not agree with the premise that coercive control is about female victimization. I have known too may male victims to believe that this is a male –female issue.
The challenge then is to come up with a theory about intimate partner victimization that accounts for, rather than rejects the very cogent arguments put forward by clinician-researchers like Dr. Stark. Although there isn’t space here to detail all the theory I am considering, the cornerstone of it is that psychopathic individuals (sociopaths) male and female will take advantage of every societal institution that exists as they work to gain control of the people in their lives. The end result of this theory aligns me with Dr. Stark and other dv advocates, in that I also see the need to change society in order to help victims of coercive control.
A read of the stories posted on this site by victims reveals that psychopathic sons and daughters exploit their parents using parental obligations and threats of reports to child protective services. Psychopathic female partners use child support (the male role of husband as provider), and threats of loss of access to children to control their male partners. Psychopathic male partners use notions of male dominance and feminine submission as well as the family courts to control their women. Also, psychopathic mothers and fathers use their “parental rights” to abuse and control rather than to parent their children.
If we are going to set about to help victims then we have a whole list of societal institutions to take on. The first one is the family court system because that is the most used and blatantly dysfunctional institution we have. One shocking example of the dysfunction appeared in the news this week in the wake of political arguments about rape and abortion. It seems that in 31 states a rapist can assert parental rights. There are countless studies revealing that rapists possess psychopathic personality traits and that aberrant motivation to control a victim underlies the crime. Such individuals are likely unfit or marginally fit to parent a child legitimately conceived forget the child of a victim; so much for the “best interests of the child” doctrine that the family court purports to pay homage to.
Thankfully, there is one victim who is speaking out and fighting to change the system and I think we should support her in any way we can. “Shauna R. Prewitt is a lawyer in Chicago. She is the author of “Giving Birth to a ‘Rapist’s Child’: A Discussion and Analysis of the Limited Legal Protections Afforded to Women Who Become Mothers Through Rape,” written for the Georgetown Law Journal.” To read her story visit CNN. There you can also download her paper if you want to read an academic discussion. Also help spread the word, rapists and others who perpetrate coercive control should not have the same parental rights as healthy loving parents. Children deserve the best upbringing the healthy parent can give them.