Department or Program



Coercive control is a critical, yet largely ignored, tactic of intimate partner violence (IPV). This form of abuse is built upon an enduring pattern of threats, resulting in the degradation of victims and their direct loss of agency and safety. This violence is cyclical and intended to create power imbalances where the abuser is positioned above the victim. To enforce this dynamic and instill a sense of fear in the victim, an abuser relies on coercion, intimidation, isolation, minimization, denial, and blaming. This thesis argues that coercive control must be viewed as an inherently gendered aspect of IPV, in which male abusers strategically employ coercive control against women victims to uphold systemic structures of power in the private sphere. This violence is not enacted by male abusers to (re)gain control, but rather to punish and dominate the women victims.

This thesis traces the implications of this violence in the legal system. The law upholds a “gender neutral” view of IPV, under which women victims are often convicted for reactive violence, and their pleas for help to law enforcement are frequently misinterpreted and ignored. I argue that convictions for reactive violence are wrongful and that these convictions and unheard pleas are further aspects of gendered harm. To address this violence (perpetuated by the perpetrator of IPV, law enforcement, courts, and the state), this thesis requires a re-thinking of law enforcement and communal responses to enable women to escape the coercive control of gendered IPV.

Level of Access

Open Access

First Advisor

Stark, Susan

Date of Graduation


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages


Open Access

Available to all.