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Learn About Coercive Control and Psychological Abuse

Three things you need to understand to keep you and your children safe when you’re thinking of leaving

– Posted in: Helping victims/survivors Intimate partner abuse SAFETY of Women & Children

Speakoutloud.net 3 risks of murder Clare Murphy PhDMen who murder their female partners are often motivated by a need to save face by regaining a sense of power and control if the woman threatens to leave, or does leave. Many mental health and legal professionals do not take women’s experience of psychological abuse and control seriously. But men’s perpetration of psychological abuse against female partners is serious. Very controlling men pose a very serious danger to women who threaten to leave or do leave. Jacquelyn Campbell PhD devised the Danger Assessment Instrument to aid in assessing the level of risk to women for being murdered by their controlling partner. One of the risk factors noted in this instrument includes whether the woman had left her partner after living together during the previous year.

1. Pattern of Coercively Controlling behaviours are a risk of future violence or murder

There are several signs of psychologically abusive and controlling behaviours listed in Campbell’s Danger Assessment Instrument. These include: whether the man has threatened to kill the woman or harm her children; whether he has ever forced the woman to have sex against her will; whether he has a history of controlling her activities, who she sees, how much money she can use and when she can use the car; whether he has spied on her, left her threatening notes, made unwanted phone calls or left threatening phone messages; whether he has destroyed her property; and, whether he has displayed constant jealousy saying things like, “If I can’t have you, no one can.”

2. Other factors that can place a woman at risk of murder

Other risk factors listed on Campbell’s Danger Assessment Instrument include whether physical violence increased in severity or frequency over the previous year; whether the man owns a gun; if he has previously used a weapon against the woman or threatened her with a lethal weapon; whether he has previously tried to choke her or has beaten her while pregnant; whether he has avoided being arrested for domestic violence; whether he is unemployed; whether the woman has a child that is not his; whether he uses illegal drugs or is an alcoholic or problem drinker. Another two factors include whether the man has threatened or tried to commit suicide and whether the woman has previously threatened or tried to commit suicide.

3. Women’s perceptions of risk must be taken seriously

Several research studies have found that an important source of assessing whether the woman is in danger of being murdered by her partner is whether the woman believes he is capable of killing her. Jacquelyn Campbell PhD importantly includes this question in her Danger Assessment Instrument. If you know a woman is afraid for her life you must take her fear seriously and help her devise a safety plan. Research shows that women can accurately assess whether their partner will use physical violence, whether he will psychologically abuse her in the future, and whether he will kill her. However, women are not always accurate. Some women minimise the psychological abuse and physical violence that their partner uses, therefore may minimise future risk. If you, as a professional, friend, or family member believe the woman might be in danger, it is important that you use a risk assessment instrument with her to check for any signs of possible danger. The correct use of the instrument is vital.


  • Bell, Margaret E., Cattaneo, Lauren Bennett, Goodman, Lisa A. & Dutton, Mary Ann. (2008). Assessing the risk of future psychological abuse: Predicting the accuracy of battered women’s predictions. Journal of Family Violence, 23, 69-80.
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  • Brewster, Mary P. (2003). Power and control dynamics in prestalking and stalking situations. Journal of Family Violence, 18, 207-217.
  • Campbell, Jacquelyn C. (2003). Danger Assessment Instrument. Available from here.
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  • Campbell, Jacquelyn C., Webster, Daniel W., Koziol-McLain, Jane, Block, Carolyn, Campbell, Doris, Curry, Mary Ann; et al. (2003). Risk factors for femicide in abusive relationships: Results from a multisite case control study. American Journal of Public Health, 93, 1089-1097.
  • Campbell, Jacquelyn C., Webster, Daniel W. & Glass, Nancy. (2009). The danger assessment: Validation of a lethality risk assessment instrument for intimate partner femicide. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 24, 653-674.
  • Heckert, D. Alex & Gondolf, Edward W. (2004). Battered women’s perceptions of risk versus risk factors and instruments in predicting repeat reassault. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 19, 778-800.
  • Weisz, Arlene, Tolman, Richard M. & Saunders, Daniel G. (2000). Assessing the risk of severe domestic violence: The importance of survivors’ predictions. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 15, 75-90.

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  • Bonnie 26 October 2013, 1:17 pm

    My son died of suicide 3 and a half years ago because of psycological abuse. I truly believe she murdered him. He had never in his life had any mental issues until he married her (his second marriage). She controlled him and made him think their problems were his fault. All the while she was having an affair with her 1st cousin’s husband. Yes, she made him aware of that. Also all the while promising him they would work it out. My Tony could have had any woman he wanted. He was extremely handsome, but he was a true blue husband putting her through nursing school and raising her daughter. How badly he wanted their marriage to work. One day she left the house and he kept calling her and she wouldn’t answer her cell. She was with her lover. Finally she answered her phone at 8:15pm and said she would be home in 5 minutes. She walked in at 8:21pm and found him hanging in the basement. She’s a nurse. She never cut him down. It took her almost 15 mins to get help. All these times were given to me when I got to the hospital. They got a pulse and life, lifted him to Pitts where I watched the most precious person who ever lived have one convulsion after another, then more meds. He was declared brain dead the day after his brother’s birthday. He died on the 23rd of March. I don’t feel that there is enough investigation into certain suicides. She killed him as sure as I’m sitting here. I could write and write and tell you all the things she did to him. Nothing will bring him back but I pray to God that laws will be changed so the person that suicided would have their side of the story told.