Advocates say it’s time to expand the definition of domestic violence (GBH)


Below is an excerpt from an article published on March 22 by GBH. The article explores the meaning of domestic violence and the movement in Massachusetts to expand it. Mass Law Reform Institute’s Director of Advocacy, Jamie Sabino, is quoted.

Massachusetts could join a small group of states expanding the definition of domestic violence to include acts of coercive control.

The Senate bill passed on Thursday not only amends the state’s criminal harassment law and establishes clear penalties for sharing sexually explicit images or videos without the subject’s consent, it would also expand the definition of domestic violence to include coercive control, which advocates say is at the heart of domestic abuse.

“The act of sharing intimate images without someone’s consent is a way of degrading, humiliating, holding some kind of power over another individual. So it is a form of coercive control,” said Hema Sarang-Sieminski, the deputy director of Jane Doe Inc., a local domestic violence survivor advocacy coalition.

Coercive control can also appear as isolating a person from friends and family, controlling their finances, or tracking their movement and communications. Advocates say these kinds of controlling behaviors often lead to later violence.

Read more at GBH.