Abby Ellin in The New York Times:
Lisa Fontes’s ex-boyfriend never punched her, or pulled her hair. But he hacked into her computer, and installed a spy cam in her bedroom, and subtly distanced her from her friends and family. Still, she didn’t think she was a victim of domestic abuse. “I had no way to understand this relationship except it was a bad relationship,” said Dr. Fontes, 54, who teaches adult education at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. It was only after doing research on emotional abuse that she discovered a name for what she experienced: Coercive control, a pattern of behavior that some people — usually but not always men — employ to dominate their partners. Coercive control describes an ongoing and multipronged strategy, with tactics that include manipulation, humiliation, isolation, financial abuse, stalking, gaslighting and sometimes physical or sexual abuse.
“The number of abusive behaviors don’t matter so much as the degree,” said Dr. Fontes, the author of “Invisible Chains: Overcoming Coercive Control in Your Intimate Relationship.” “One woman told me her husband didn’t want her to sleep on her back. She had to pack the shopping cart a certain way, wear her clothes a certain way, wash herself in the shower in a certain order.” While the term “coercive control” isn’t widely known in the United States, the concept of nonphysical forms of mistreatment as a kind of domestic abuse is gaining recognition.