"If I can't have you nobody will": Explicit threats in the context of coercive control

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12 Scopus citations


Physical assault is only one tool in partner abuse characterized by coercive control. Coercive control creates an ongoing state of fear and chronic stress. Explicit threats are an important component of coercive control yet have received limited research attention. This study examined 210 women with protective orders (POs) against abusive (ex)partners and their experiences of explicit threats including threats of harm and death, threats about harming friends and family, and actual threats to friends and family. There are 4 main findings from this study: (a) explicit threats of harm and death, threats about harming others, and actual threats to others are common both in the history of the abusive relationship as well as within 6 months prior to obtaining a PO but are only moderately correlated with each other; (b) the high-frequency threats of harm group had the highest rates of concurrent abuse, violence, distress, and fear; (c) the prevalence and frequency of threats changed over time for all 3 types of threats examined in this study; and (d) understanding the variety of threats partner abuse victims experience, especially threats of third-party harm, may be important in understanding the larger context and consequences of partner abuse. This study is an interim step toward a better understanding of the role of explicit threats in abusive relationships. Future research is needed to examine the prevalence, frequency, trajectory, features, context, and types of explicit threats that victims of partner abuse experience. This information may be especially key to understanding more about future risk of harm, risk of harm to others, victim distress and fear, and safety planning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)126-140
Number of pages15
JournalViolence and Victims
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017. Springer Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


  • Coercive control
  • Partner abuse
  • Partner violence
  • Stalking
  • Threats

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Health(social science)
  • Law


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