Victims’ actual experiences of gender-based violence and exploitation do not align with standard psychological and legal assessments of such dynamics. This gap between lived victim experience and forensic assessment frequently leads to incomplete or weak victim narratives. Such incomplete narratives often are used to label the victims as untruthful or unreliable, harming the ability of the justice system to effectively prosecute abuse and to craft orders that offer protection and support healing of victims and their children.
In this national webinar, Dr. Chitra Raghavan, Ph.D. suggests solutions to effectively narrow this gap by using the most recent scientific advances on our understanding of abuse and exploitation assessments. Specifically, Dr. Raghavan traces how most abusive relationships marked by coercive control begin with an initial period of deception—labelled as predatory helpfulness—marked by offers of help and or romance prior to coercing victims to engage in harmful forms of sex including commercial sex or other domestic violence situations. She will explain how identifying and recognizing this initial relational phase of coercion brings context to the larger situation of abuse and help professionals working with crime victims understand how these behaviors connect to and make later coercive control tactics succeed.
Professionals working with crime victims need to understand how coercive control is an abuse dynamic that seeks to strip the victim of autonomy and agency by using a series of interlinked tactics such as intimidation, microregulation, and manipulation. By inducing constant fear and anxiety, the victims not only lose their agency and are forced into compliance, but also develop traumatic symptoms. Understanding predatory behaviors of coercive control will aid courts in adjudicating human trafficking and domestic violence cases that involve assessments of victims’ credibility and provide the necessary tools to make informed decisions where it concerns, criminal, family and civil justice interventions.
- Chitra Raghavan, Ph.D, Professor of Psychology, Director, MA Program in Forensic Mental Health Counseling
- Judge Toko Serita, Statewide Coordinating Judge for Problem Solving Courts, Division of Policy & Planning, Office for Justice Initiatives, NYS Unified Court System