Coercive Control: Sneaky, Subtle & Sadistic Patterns of Domination

Understanding what is included in Coercive Control helps you understand if that’s what you’re experiencing. You need to know!!!

Have you heard the term, coercive control? You may not have as it’s just slowly coming to awareness. And, it is SO important that it does!


  • What is coercive control?
  • Why it is a ‘gendered’ issue?
  • Why law enforcement as too often failed to look at the repeating patterns of non-physical abuse.
  • How intimidation fits into coercive abuse.
  • Why you need to really understand how destructive this and how it breaks you down over time
  • Why documenting the things that are said, done, and left undone in the relationship is SO important

You’ll find that in many other episodes of this podcast, and on my YouTube channel, too.

Enjoy my other podcast, Emotional Savvy: The Relationship Help Show, here, or wherever you like to find your podcasts.

Coercive control is life-sucking!

That’s why I’ve chosen to give you an understanding of the many aspects of coercive control in today’s episode. Evan Stark, PhD, coined the term “coercive control” and he defines it this way,

“…an ongoing pattern of domination by which male abusive partners primarily interweave repeated physical and sexual violence with intimidationsexual degradationisolation, and control.”

Does any of that sound like something that has happened to you? He writes about men because he says that coercive control is a ‘gendered’ issue, He writes about this in his paper, Re-Presenting Battered Women: Coercive Control and the Defense of Liberty.

Stark says,

“The primary outcome of coercive control is a condition of entrapment that can be hostage-like in the harms it inflicts on dignity, liberty, autonomy, and personhood as well as to physical and psychological integrity.”

Does this sound familiar in any way to you? Have you felt degraded, diminished, discounted, and devalued by a toxic partner, one of those folks I call #Hijackals®?

Listen to today’s episode, and, if by chance, you’re still wondering if you have had a #Hijackal in your life, grab my FREE EBOOK, How to Spot a Hijackal® at . You need to know what’s up now, so you don’t make mistakes that will hurt you. Grab it!

If you need help with any part of the journey with–and from–a #Hijackal, I’m here for you. Let’s talk soon. I make it easy and accessible for you to have your first one-hour session with me for only $97.


Machine Transcription: (apologies in advance for any quirks!)


Very serious stuff today. Many times we only think, or the police only think, or a country only thinks, or laws only maintain that domestic violence has to do with physical harm. But much more pervasive than physical harm is the topic I’m bringing to you today, which is the whole understanding of coercive control. The sneaky, subtle, sadistic patterns of domination that happen in an emotionally abusive relationship. You need to know these things. You need to recognize them, you need to call them when you see them, and you need to know when to move away from them. So today you’re going to have a full understanding of what coercive control looks like, sounds like, feels like, and you will know whether or not that’s what’s happening in your relationship. Stay tuned.

Welcome to save your sanity, help for handling high jackals, those difficult, toxic, and often disturbing people in your life. I’m Dr. Rhoberta Shaler, the relationship help doctor and I’m here for you. You’ll get the insight, skills, strategies, and support to stop tolerating verbal and emotional abuse. Whether it’s happening now or happened to you in the past, maybe by a parent, partner, ex, relative, or even a coworker. Time to take life back, to recover and to rediscover you, your values, dreams, desires, and realize them and healthy ways in healthy relationships. I’m so glad you’re here.

Have you heard of this concept of coercive control? Many people haven’t and of course you’re not going to hear about it unless you are looking for understanding of what’s actually going on in your relationship. It might have gone on in a relationship that you were raised in. Maybe a parent was the one who perpetrated coercive control over you. Of course, most teenagers think that that’s the case no matter what but, I mean the real deal, the real coerce of control and I want to really bring some insights into that for you because I’ve called this episode “coercive control: sneaky, subtle and sadistic patterns of domination” and I did it for a purpose because the word sadistic is important in this. In the Oxford dictionary, sadistic is defined as deriving pleasure from inflicting pain, suffering or humiliation on another person. So a hijackal, one of those relentlessly difficult, toxic people that I talk about so much, is a person derives pleasure from inflicting pain and suffering and humiliation on others.

And I would add another thing to the pain and suffering and humiliation. I would add the joy that they find in intimidation. And again, I looked in the Oxford dictionary to find out exactly what intimidation means and it means “frighten, especially in order to make a person do what one wants”. Now, doesn’t that just sound like a high Jackal? They want to intimidate you, they want to humiliate you, they enjoy the fact that you are suffering. And I know that some hijackals say that they don’t enjoy it, but if they didn’t enjoy it, they would stop doing it. And you know, from my last episode on whether or not hijackals are doing what they do on purpose, that it is not the case that they cannot control this urge. But they don’t do it everywhere do they?

They don’t do it with every person. So therefore they do have control. They do make decisions. They do decide when to be their nasty selves and when to be their charming, manipulative selves. And so that’s important to know. So coercive control, this is a term that was coined by a man called Evan Stark, and he wrote a book about it and I got really interested in a paper that he wrote. And for those of you who like to look things up, it’s called “Representing Battered Women: Coercive Control and the Defense of Liberty”. And so I started going down that path to see what he meant about entrapment and how it would help me help you understand what’s going on. So he defines coercive, controlled this way, an ongoing pattern of domination by which male and it is gendered by which male abusive partners primarily interweave repeated physical and sexual violence with intimidation, sexual degradation, isolation and control.

I’m gonna read that again because that’s a lot. It is defined as an ongoing pattern of domination by which male abusive partners primarily interweave repeated physical and sexual violence with intimidation, sexual degradation, isolation and control. The primary outcome, Stark says, of coerce of control is a condition of entrapment that can be hostage like in the harms that have afflicts on dignity, Liberty, autonomy and personhood, as well as to the physical and psychological integrity.

Wow. Does that feel familiar to you? That something is happening to you that really gets in the way of you feeling like your dignity is a priority? Your Liberty is a priority, your autonomy as a priority and who you are. You know, I see so many times that at any relationship, in order to be held, he has to have three hallmarks.

There has to be equality, reciprocity, and mutuality. Now you’re sure not gonna find those things in a relationship with a hijackal. I’m sure you’re clear about that. After listening to a bunch of episodes and if you’re new to Save Your Sanity Podcast, I am so glad you found me and this podcast and I invite you to go back and listen to them many, many, many episodes in this series. So yes, it’s true. Women also assault their partners, but coercive control in Evans Stark’s mind and in his construction of the idea he says is gendered because it’s used to secure male privilege and it’s regime of domination. Subordination is constructed around the enforcement of gender stereotypes. So that really has a lot to say about many things that happen when we see men in control of things and they are doing these things that we talk about that they are deriving pleasure from inflicting pain, suffering, humiliation, intimidation, anything to coerce you, anything to have control over you.

Now, you know, many times there’s physical violence in relationships and we’re very, very aware of that. But sometimes people don’t recognize the physical violence as the tip of the iceberg for what’s been going on for a long time. That may or may not have been reported and may or may not have been the build up to this amazing physical assault. And you know, there was a report done in 2006 in Britain and they looked at 500 women who and who had been assaulted in various forms and involved in extreme violence. And the statistics were:

  • that 70% had been choked, or strangled, at least once.
  • 60% had been beaten in their sleep.
  • 24% had been cut or stabbed at least once,
  • and almost 60% had been forced to have sex against their will.
  • 26.5% had been beaten unconscious and
  • 10% had been tied up.

And as a result of the assaults, 38% of the women reported suffering permanent damage.

Now you don’t want to be in these statistics. Yes, sure. You could say that was 2006 I would say it’s more frequent today and that is a problem because the vast majority of us saws used coercive control. And that was over time, that was something that happened over and over and over. And so it was marked by the frequency and duration of it, not by the severity of it. And it was reported in 2008 by a study that men using coercive control, assaulted women six times more often on average than men who used physical violence alone. So this is incredible stuff and it is this intimidation that’s used to keep abuse secret. And the idea is to instill at home, you know, in the privacy of home to instill fear and dependence and compliance and the loyalty and Oh yes, over and over and over to instill shame.

And when that’s all happening, a person, a woman, because remember we’re talking about coercive control as being something that men do because it is in Stark’s definition, something that men do. Although women are capable of it, it undermines the will to resist. After a while, the person, the woman is so diminished, so demeaned, so devalued that eventually she just gives up and she loses her will to resist. And then you just become a doormat. You know, first of all, you’ve bent yourself into a pretzel, but then when you really give up, you just become a doormat. And I have worked with women who have gotten to that place in their lives and they’ve had sort of a one last thing. And they came in, they asked me, what can I do? Is there anything I can do? Am I wrong? By this time they were believing it was their fault because they’ve been told so often it was their fault and I was so glad that they reached out.

And you can also reach out at any time. Just go to and have your initial consultation be a so this coercive control thing is just huge. It’s about intimidation and it’s about the fact that this abuse goes on and on and on. High jackals are repeat offenders any day at any time when they’re not getting what they want or when they want to demand what they want. They use coercive control. And so there are repeat offenders and sometimes just the intimidation, enough wears you down so badly that you have become a hostage to this situation. And it’s such an insidious thing that over and over and over is subtle and it’s scary and it’s intimate and it’s intimidating and that is really, really difficult. And then sometimes you’re afraid to do anything because you’re afraid of the effects on the children. And that’s a topic for another day.

I’m going to talk about lots of these individual pieces of this in depth in upcoming episodes, but this is the big one that I wanted to do to really bring the idea of coercive controlled to you. And you know, I’ve done a lot of work with passive aggressive ideas, definitions, examples. I wrote a book about it called stop. That’s crazy. Making how to quit playing the passive aggressive game and passive aggressive Rez such as emotional withdrawal or disappearing without notice or the silent treatment. That’s the kind of thing that hijack goes to. And that’s another form of coercive control. I will just disappear. I will not talk to you. I will ignore your existence until you come begging for me. Horrible, horrible, horrible things. And you know what they do? You know, they do things that are almost unspeakable. They all leave anonymous threats on answering machines or on your phone or I guess answering machine sounds a little old these days, but they will, they will leave voicemail for you that is threatening.

Or they will get into your electronic communication. They will change your passwords on your phone. They will surveil your phone. They will want to keep control and look at your browser history. They will want to steal your money. They will make it impossible for you to make phone calls. They all ruin your phone and, and throw it away and then say you don’t need it and cut you off from other people. And then of course they’ll do the gaslighting thing and you know, there’s an whole episode on that, on sneaky gaslighting and where they try to define your, your reality for you while they tried to tell you what you think and what you and what you need and what you want and what you should think, feel, need and want. And they Gaslight you. They make it sound like there’s something wrong with you if that’s not what you want because that they know you better than you know yourself.

And so you should understand that they are able to define your reality for you. And that’s what we call gas lighting. Another thing they like to do is they tell lies about she went public, don’t they? They hope to insult you or embarrass you and get away with it and public coerce of control and ego. The subtle things, the sneaky things that are in the title here. It’s his partner surveillance and I don’t mean just cameras. I mean it’s all kinds of little things like they in the beginning they, they text you a how are you doing, what are you doing? And it seems so endearing and sweet and lovely, but that’s the beginning of this sort of partner surveillance. What are you doing? Where are you? How long will you be? What are you going to do on the way home? Why didn’t you get home when you said you would be, you’re five minutes late, that kind of thing.

And they time people. I mean I have heard stories where partners have coercive, controlling men. They’re timed when they’re in the bathroom. They’re timed on their shopping trips. Yes, of course. Their phones are looked at. Their browser history is looked at. As I said, they checked to see if you belong to any groups on Facebook. They make fake accounts and they lurk in there to see what you say about them or they get their friends or relatives to do that and then report back to them. Those search through your stuff. They’ll go through your wallet, they’ll try to get your bank records and then of course they will do the things, they will have cameras and they will have surveillance and they will have GPS devices and it’s just an amazing array of tactics. And one of the big things that they are happy to share is they want to degrade you.

They want to appear morally superior to you and they want to deny you any self respect. Does that ring a bell for you? Do you feel like your partner wants to take away your self respect and they do that by having no respect for you and then telling you that no one else respects you and that there’s nothing about you that is worthy of respect. So these insults used in coercive control. They target areas from maybe where a woman gets some self esteem from looking after the children or doing a good job at work or taking care of the home and they’ll just do anything. You know, they’ll tell you you’re not a good friend. They’ll tell you that you’re not a good wife, that you’re not a good partner, that you’re not a good daughter in law, that you’re not a good daughter. They will do anything to demean you.

They absolutely will. And they, they want to isolate you and why did they want to isolate you? Well they don’t want you disclosing anything that’s going on in the relationship, number one. So if you don’t have anyone to talk to then that reduces the likelihood of you being able to say what’s going on. And you know, of course they are working in triangulation and smear campaigns to get with your friends and family and tell your friends and family that there’s something terribly wrong with you and that they are looking after it because they know you have a problem and they shouldn’t worry about that. But you’ll be happy. They will be happy to keep them up to date on the problems. So they isolate their partners to prevent this disclosure and then they want you to become dependent on them. So isolation helps with that.

I had one client who, you know, fell madly in love and the whole fairy tale, which goes with falling in love with a hijack call often. And then the fairy tale included moving to another country and then she was kept in a place and all of a sudden they couldn’t afford the second car. So she didn’t have a car. She wasn’t familiar with the language. I mean all of the things that you could imagine, he absolutely isolated her. And so he then could have exclusive possession of her and monopolize her and keep her from getting any help. Now of course, because I’m telling you this story, he didn’t win because she was able to get to a telephone and she was able to get online and she found me and we talked. And in that country we talked when she was in a telephone booth.

And so it, it’s just true that these things happen. So one thing that an abuser wants to do is to isolate a partner from her support system. And so they will even go to the lengths of abusing or assaulting or threatening family members, or they’ll tell them that they’re not allowed to visit. They’re not allowed to come round. They’ll refuse to go and visit family members and they’ll make their victims, their prey is, I prefer to call them. They’ll make them choose between them and other people or they’ll show up unexpectedly at your place of work just to check in and see if you really are aware, you say you are and doing what you do and to see if there are anybody lurking around you that they can accuse you of being involved with. So all of these things, you know, are part of this coercive control. They want to deprive you and exploit you and regulate you. All of these things, as I said, I’m going to talk about in individual episodes over the next while, but they want to have this fostering of dependence on them so they deprive you of the resources you need to make good decisions for yourself or to live independently and they will take away the financial resources and they will make you entirely dependent upon them financially. Now that’s really a difficult situation and that happens far too often.

They’ll micromanage you. They will say that you could, you could make meals quicker, you could make beds more efficiently, you could get home from work faster, you could have para down the grocery bill. All of these things, constant criticism, constant, constant, constant criticism. So power and control, power and control. And that sets the stage for violence and injury. Hopefully it won’t get there, but so often it does. And the kind of pushing and shoving and things holding and things that go on often go on reported. And I highly recommend that you don’t let them go on, report it because every time you call the police and they show up, I know you run the risk. I know that it’s going through your mind if you’ve ever done it, that if there’s no bruises to report, sometimes nothing happens. But the report is there and it’s important for that.

And you know, high jackals like to to take you down a peg. They like to Rob you of your dignity and that’s what coercive control is. You can’t ever be right. Your clothes are not right, your weight is not right, your hair is not right. You don’t take care of yourself, you’re too high, major man, you can’t be right. So this invisible intimidation just goes on and on and on. So it begins by being able to name it. And that’s what I wanted to give you today. No, what coercive control is now on my live stream every Monday night at 6:00 PM Pacific time in the next couple of weeks, I’m going to do an entire hour on this where you can ask your questions and get in the chat. And so go over to That’s my channel. Subscribe over there now and hit the little bell by the subscribe, then you’ll be reminded about Monday evenings.

And if you can’t be there, you’ll be reminded when the replay goes up. So very important because when abuse isn’t reported or unfortunately in some situations of law enforcement, it is just seen as the course of conduct. Then we have to do some, some, some real work. And I want to help you understand that, that it’s critical to recognize that all of these talk tactics that I’m talking about, they come into a pattern of domination that is an offense. Maybe each little act does not seem like an offense, but the pattern is an offense. And in the United Kingdom, five countries I think have put it into law that coercive control is something that is punishable and it is something recognized by the courts. We really want that to be happening in the United States and in Canada and every country of the world. You know, I’m a Canadian, but I live, I have dual citizenship.

I live in San Diego, California, and I know that we’re fighting for that here. We’ve had a little setback with the current administration because we had made some real gains under the last administration. We had it on the books that abuse included emotional financials every kind of abuse, not just physical abuse. Current administration quite sneakily went back in last April of 2019 and just changed the language back to there must be assault, a crime of violence and a crime of violence means there has to be bodily harm. But we will keep working on this. And if you live in a community, you might want to go to in the community in which you live because of course you live in a community. Go and find out, you know, what does the police have to say about this? Attend some meetings. Find out if you can, what’s going on about coercive control because you can educate yourself and maybe you can educate the law enforcement about this if they’re not very aware of it.

I know I have had clients who live in remote communities and they call the police when they’re being threatened or choked or whatever and the police come and the police kind of laugh it off and it’s not taken seriously. And I’m sorry about that. I’m so sorry about that. But we have to keep working. So one of the things that you can do for yourself is to understand what coercive control is, how it sneaky, how it’s subtle, how it’s sadistic, how it’s sustained over time, and come to understand that that has, if that has happened to you, you may have started believing your the problem because heaven knows you’ve been accused by a high juggle that everything is your fault. Even the weather and the IRS are your fault. So it may be an awakening. Maybe listening to this will awaken you to those sneaky subtle sadistic patterns.

And you will be able to start to make a list of them in your head. And this is what’s happening in this is what’s happening. And document it and go and get with the program more so that you can define it and you can get help for it. I’m always here to help you. As I said, if you’re a new to working with me, you can go to be a but there’s so much for you. There are my two podcasts. This one save your sanity and the other one is called a transforming relationship with emotional savvy and you can find them where ever you’d like to get your podcasts and by all means come to my website, transforming all my blogs are there. Sign up for the newsletter, stay in touch. You’ll find me on Facebook. Go to my page. Facebook.Com/Relationship helped up to jump in.

There are pages for my podcasts on Facebook. There’s one for savior sanity. There’s one for transforming relationship with emotional savvy. We can stay in touch. I also have a membership site. If you want to get completely off social media and be part of the forums, just go to transforming and click on circles. I’m doing everything I can to help you. I really want you to have the information. I want you to have resources. I want you to understand. I want you to educate yourself on it is not your fault. A high Jekyll is doing this to you. They are perpetrators and predators and they are seeking coercive control. So I hope this has been enlightening for you. I hope that it has caused you to think about a few things, sad things I know, but really understand and I look forward to talking more about each one of these things so that you can learn more in depth about it, understand have examples, but I wanted you to have this overview of Como coercive control today and that way you will be awake and aware to what’s going on and you will be alert when it happens because you will begin to spot it and that so important.

If you’re brand new to my work, go and get my free ebook, how to spot a high I look forward to talking to you soon and talking with you on the Monday evening live stream. So go to my channel, relationship help and I will find you hopefully in the chat on a Monday night at 6:00 PM Pacific sometime soon. In the meantime, take very good care of yourself.

I’m so glad you spent this time with me today. I hope you heard something that touched your heart and empowered you to move forward. You can have the life and relationships that you most want and that begins with you within you today. I’m always here for you. Life can get better and you heard that from me. The relationship help doctor. I’m a British shader and I work with clients throughout the world through video conferencing. We can talk. So learn or visit me on YouTube at for relationship help. Join me for next week’s show.


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