In September 2020, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed one of the country’s first laws explicitly prohibiting coercive control in intimate partner relationships. On Aug. 10, Vanessa A. Zecher—a judge of the Superior Court of Santa Clara County— entered a permanent restraining order against a man for coercive control domestic abuse. With campaigns for similar laws moving forward in several states, the case gives advocates concrete evidence of how coercive control laws are critical for freeing survivors from the grasp of abusive partners.
“This case is one of the first cases in the United States where coercive control was considered domestic violence in the absence of physical abuse,” said Lisa Fontes, a professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and an expert on coercive control.
“I hope this case gives other victims hope that there is a pathway out,” said the wife’s attorney, Rebekah Frye. “I hope they will recognize that what they may think in their head or heart is normal—that they will realize it’s not. And then hopefully at some point in time, if they choose to leave, there will be a court, an attorney, a professional out there that will help them get out.”