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Friday, January 10, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: The Crime of "Emotional Abuse"

     Within weeks, the United Kingdom Parliament is set to consider a bill criminalizing "emotional blackmail" and related forms of emotional abuse. The bill would forbid persons to "make contact with a victim in an aggressive way" or to "intend to control or coerce" a partner, with penalties of up to 14 years in prison.

     "Control" and "coercion" are to be interpreted widely, covering such actions as using the family finances to manipulate one's partner or deploying psychological tactics to keep a partner fearful and in line. Proponents of this legislation, who span the three major parties, claim that it will give emotional abuse victims more confidence in coming forward regarding their circumstances, and that it will help keep emotional abuse victims safe.

     We have plenty of reason to want confidence and safety for victims of emotional abuse. But can legislation of this kind deliver it, in Britain or anywhere else? And if so, at what cost? Anti-emotional abuse legislation is at best redundant, and at worst fraught with unintended consequences.

Pamela Stubbart, The Daily Caller, January 2, 2014

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