Evan Stark, 82, Dies; Broadened Understanding of Domestic Violence

Evan Stark, who studied domestic violence with his wife and then pioneered a concept called “coercive control,” which describes the psychological and physical domination that abusers use to punish their partners, died on March 18 at his home in Woodbridge, Conn. He was 82.

His wife, Dr. Anne Flitcraft, said the cause was most likely a heart attack that occurred while he was on a Zoom call with women’s advocates in British Columbia.

Through studies that began in 1979, Drs. Stark and Flitcraft became experts in intimate partner violence, sounding an alarm that battering — not car accidents or sexual assault — was the largest cause of injury that sent women to emergency rooms.

But by talking to battered women as well as veterans who had experienced post-traumatic stress disorder from their treatment in the military, Dr. Stark began to understand that coercive control was a strategy that included violence but that also involved threats of beatings, isolating female victims from friends and family and cutting off their access to money, food, communication and transportation.

“Like assaults, coercive control undermines a victim’s physical and psychological integrity,” he wrote in “Coercive Control: The Entrapment of Women in Personal Life” (2007). “But the main means used to establish control is the micro-regulation of everyday behaviors associated with stereotypic female roles, such as how women dress, cook, clean, socialize, care for their children or perform sexually.”

Dr. Stark started a forensic social work practice in 1990 — a year later, he earned a master’s of social work degree from Fordham University — and began to testify for victims in courts.

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