The idea of “coercive management” entered the lexicon a couple of decade in the past and has develop into an more and more prevalent theme within the true crime style. Pioneered by Evan Stark, a researcher and professional on home abuse, it refers to a sample of abusive habits and manipulation — together with isolation, humiliation, monetary abuse, stalking and gaslighting — used to dominate a associate. Men are most often, but not always, the abusers.

Coercive management “is designed to subjugate and dominate, not merely to harm,” Stark, who died in April, stated in a London court docket in 2019 whereas testifying on behalf of a home abuse sufferer who’d murdered her husband. She, interesting her conviction, was subsequently launched from jail.

Listed here are 4 picks throughout tv, movie and podcasting that present how this type of psychological abuse, although laborious to show as a criminal offense, ruins lives.


As a result of I’ve watched each episode of the MTV show “Catfish,” I believed that this six-chapter investigative podcast from Tortoise Media, which explores a real story by which coercive management overlaps with catfishing (tricking others, usually right into a romantic relationship, utilizing pretend digital profiles), was unlikely to shock me.

However the saga — about Kirat Assi, a girl from London whose life was turned on its head for almost a decade after she fell for “Bobby” through Fb — nonetheless managed to check my tolerance for the way little authorized recourse the deceived events have. The story additionally speaks to why the injury attributable to coercive management and by the proliferation of catfishing shouldn’t be minimized.

Documentary Movie

All these manipulations typically fall beneath the “if it’s too good to be true” warning, however few exemplify coercive management like “The Tinder Swindler.” This 2022 Emmy-nominated documentary from Netflix tells the saga of the con man Shimon Hayut (also called Simon Leviev) who swept ladies he met on Tinder off their toes with whirlwind fairy-tale romances, full with personal jets and five-star inns, earlier than preying on their humanity and fears with a view to bilk them out of hundreds of thousands of {dollars}.

“He was sensible and humorous and really impulsive,” stated Pernilla Sjöholm, one of many three victims who seem within the movie.

“I shared my entire coronary heart with him,” stated Ayleen Charlotte, one other.

“The victims of those sorts of emotional crimes are sometimes dismissed,” the movie’s director, Felicity Morris, advised Deadline when the documentary was launched, including that usually the police simply laughed at them once they reported the crimes. These ladies, although, weren’t deterred, and their dedication to carry Hayut to justice — and never be shamed into silence — offers this story a rewarding spin.


This three-part Netflix collection from 2022 is just like “The Tinder Swindler” in that it tells the story of a person, Robert Hendy-Freegard, who psychologically entrapped and fleeced a number of individuals out of big sums of cash. However this story — which entails weird scare ways and disturbing kidnappings — is extra excessive, horrifying and haunting at each flip.

The docuseries offers a complete overview of the frilly state of affairs and provides painful portraits of these affected, together with pleas from the 2 grownup kids of Sandra Clifton who say Clifton disappeared from their lives after assembly Hendy-Freegard by means of an internet courting website years prior. Another victim, Sarah Smith, remembers the depths of his thoughts video games, which, she says, included ravenous her and locking her in a grimy lavatory for weeks.

The hunt for Hendy-Freegard, who masqueraded as a British undercover agent, reduce throughout quite a few nations, together with the US. Chasing him was “like chasing a ghost,” stated a Scotland Yard detective who labored on the case.


In the event you missed this six-episode podcast in the course of the top of its reputation (it was amongst the most downloaded of 2017), it’s nonetheless value a hear. Partly, it could be liable for bringing the idea of coercive management additional into the mainstream in addition to for propelling a slew of true crime choices on the topic within the years since, together with those above.

The podcast — from Wondery and The Los Angeles Instances, primarily based on the reporting of Christopher Goffard — follows Debra Newell, an inside designer from Southern California who falls for a seemingly rich and type anesthesiologist, John Meehan, whom she met on a courting website for individuals over 50 years outdated. However Meehan is a grasp manipulator. Newell and Meehan’s troubling courtship is compelling sufficient, however maybe much more so are the roles her daughters, Terra and Jacquelyn, play within the occasions.

As Mike Hale, a New York Instances critic, put it, “Soiled John” is “like being in the course of a multicar pileup that spins round you in sluggish movement, all of the wreckage floating by means of the air to your examination.”

In the event you choose a tv adaptation, take a look at the 2018 series starring Connie Britton as Newell and Eric Bana as Meehan. Whereas watchable, it’s not as profitable because the podcast at capturing the story’s complexity.

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