Technologically-Facilitated Domestic Violence and Terrorism in Personal Civilian Life: Reviewing the psychoanalytic literature

Karen Barna
11 min readJan 24, 2021

Updated: January 28, 2021 08:12 AM EST

Tags: Violence, Electronic Targeting, Stalking, Cyber Stalking, Cyber Misbehavior, Domestic Violence, Coercive Control, Online, 21st Century Technology, Terrorizing Intimate Partners, Violent Crime, Sextortion, United States vs. Matusiewicz, 1st Cyber Stalking Case Resulting in Death

Research into the cause of violence suggests it begins as a breakdown of meaning in the advent of the irrational (Whitehead, 2007). In the irrational’s commission to do physical harm to the outgroup. Certainly, this is a fair description of what violence is, but what about the violence of speech, the peripheral phenomena outside of physical hitting and punching that aims to stripe a person of their unique identity through the process of dehumanization (Bevens & Loughnan, 2019). Hostility in the tone and voice towards another which demonstrates profound contempt or fear for the outgroup can begin with what may ultimately seem “benign” and to which some people perceive as acceptable “communication”. But oftentimes its culmination manifests into physical violence, bloodshed, and homicide. It is for this reason many individuals feel offended and violated when the cultural ethos of the group manifests as hate speech, derogatory slurs, and curses. These are received as boundary violations because the speech violates civil modes of decency U.S. citizens are expected to maintain toward one another. What’s worse is when the violence seeks to delegitimize the person’s feelings, opinions, and rights, which may make the person feel as if they are less deserving of civilized respect and love. This is part of the abuse found in the technology of coercive control in which the perpetrator makes the victim doubt what he or she already knows to be true. It’s called perspecticide and it is one of the most devastating psychological effects of isolation in abuse-related incapacity. The confusion created by casting doubt into the victim’s mind that makes that person question what they already know or have experienced is part of the psychopath’s game at manipulation and control. Perspecticide is also called gaslighting.

In the area of moral exclusion and disengagement the moral dimensions of dehumanization in the context of sanctioned mass violence, focusing on the conditions under which normal moral restraints on violence are weakened. Hostility generates violence indirectly by dehumanizing victims so that no moral relationship with the victim inhibits the victimizer’s violent behavior. In this way, the perpetrator eludes the moral responsibility they are expected to maintain as part of the social contract and can further complete the violence. Dehumanization involves denying a person their unique “identity” — a perception of the person “as an individual, independent and distinguishable from others, capable of making choices” and “community” — a perception of the other as “part of an interconnected network of individuals who care for each other”. When people are divested of these agentic and communal aspects of humanness, they are deindividuated, lose the capacity to evoke compassion and moral emotions, and may be treated as means toward vicious ends (Haslam, 2006).

But what if violence is considered ennobling, redeeming, and necessary to the continuance of a learned lifestyle? In other words, the cultural ethos of some groups legitimizes acts of violence as a solution to settle disputes because these violent acts have been distilled in the minds of observers, victims, and perpetrators (Chodorow, 2012). One woman said, “I never considered my rape, actual rape.” This is because sexual coercion is something women sometimes expect from male suitors. The matters of legitimacy are not at all separate from the way violent acts themselves are considered violent in the first place. Subtle cues, hints of contempt and fear in a person speech and behavior, sideways glances, and the subtle usurpations of power through the process of dehumanization by those in power who, denying certain groups rights and privileges, deny characteristics that are uniquely human and characteristics that constitute the other person human. Those with the higher intelligence to know how to problem-solve via communication (higher language and speech), the networking of groups doesn’t resort to violence but pursue legislation through legitimate means like gathering signatures to petition the government for redress, they resort to their community to form campaigns of change that raise awareness about injustices so to promote change LEGALLY.

For Naomi Wolf, the beauty myth exists to “naturalize” a social construction that serves the interest of patriarchy: “it is the last, best belief system that keeps male dominance intact (Gottschall, 2008).”

Since one of the ways women are commonly dehumanized is through pornography, and the use of illustrations displaying princesses in fairytales with extreme beauty with small waistlines populate our storybook lore which allows for young girls to introject, at a very young age, a cultural beauty standard. Men place great value on female physical attractiveness because it is a trustworthy indicator of general overall health, wellness, and relative fertility (Gottschall, 2008). Some men use disfigurement of the female body so that male dominance is exerted and a woman’s power is stolen. Acts of castration such as acid in the face, slashing the facial features with a knife, cutting a woman’s tongue out, and the binding of feet to achieve some ideal of beauty as seen in Asian culture are historical facts. The new age of male dominance being exerted over females is being perpetrated through the use of technology. Technology-Facilitated Domestic and Family Violence in reports of women’s experience suggests that the profound dependency on smartphones, cameras, Internet-connected devices, computers, and platforms such as Facebook facilitates domestic abuse and family violence (also please refer to the paper by Taylor & Strutton, 2016). The frequency and nature of abusive behaviors described by women who report the violence suggest this is a key form of abuse deserving more significant attention and study. “Devices and software — smartphones, mobile applications perpetrators and their peers to escalate and amplify abuse. Conversely, technology can be used by survivors and their allies to attain empowerment, share and seek information and support, and challenge victim-blaming discourses (Douglas, Harris & Dragiewicz, 2019).” But empirical research on how technology-facilitates domestic and family violence is lacking. Media and practitioner accounts highlight how the use of advancing technology has manifested in domestic violence but there seems to be a lack of understanding on how it is used as a counter-phobic object in modern research. For example, the implantation of devices in the body that respond to electromagnetic frequency and utilizing global positioning applications to “find” someone’s smartphone location. Donald Winnicott wrote on the child’s need for the use of objects and relating through identifications, and the phenomenon of transitional objects in childhood (Winnicott, 1971). A more recent paper published by James W. Hull, M.D., illustrates how videogames fill the role of transitional phenomena in adolescent development (Hull, 2004). Hull states,

“There is a trend for increasing realism in the fantasy situations portrayed. This can include providing a completely enclosed environment for the player, such as one fighter plane game in which the player sits in an enclosed “cockpit” with the action displayed on a screen in front of him. Another example is “Dragon’s Lair,” a cartoon game in which the player guides a knight through a series of danger situations, using the controls to direct the knight’s movements and to operate his sword. Depending on the player’s decisions, the cartoon action unfolds along different lines.

Most players are males in the age range from mid-adolescence to the early twenties. In an informal survey, Harry (1983), found that males outnumber females three to one, and other studies have found similar sex ratios. In the study by Bibb et. al. most players were between the ages of 16 and 24.”

In the Queensland Study of Australia, domestic family violence has been defined as:

“acts of violence that occur between people who have, or have had, an intimate relationship. While there is no single definition, the central element of domestic violence is an ongoing pattern of behavior aimed at controlling a partner through fear, for example by using behavior which is violent and threatening…In most cases, the violent behavior is part of a range of tactics to exercise power and control over women and their children … Domestic violence includes physical, sexual, emotional and psychological abuse (Douglas, Harris & Dragiewicz, 2019).”

For example, it has been claimed that “violence in the family should be understood primarily as coercive control.” Abusers utilize physical, sexual, emotional, and financial abuse and threats to dominate women partners, facilitating patterns of coercive control. The paper, Technology-Facilitated Domestic and Family Violence: Women’s Experiences draws on the work of Evan Stark’s 2007 work, Coercive Control: How Men Entrap Women In Everyday Life and states,

“Stark identified that DFV is characterized by a pattern of coercive and controlling behavior enacted in the context of intersectional structural inequality. Gender, racialized, economic, and legal stratification produces vulnerability to violence and shapes the forms it takes in specific historical, cultural, and geographic locations. In a setting that normalizes many non-physically abusive behaviors in relationships, survivors and others may minimize these forms of abuse.”

Stark outlines many of the different forms coercive control can take in abusive relationships. One of the forms coercive control takes is in the form of an experimental nature. That is to say, the form of coercive control that is experimental and interactive, rather than generic, evolves through a process of trial and error based on how a victim responds to stimuli. The regulatory regimes in coercive control run the gamut from primitive, transparently self-serving prohibitions or commands to seemingly objective performance standards that the perpetrator appears merely to adjudicate. But with the advent of electronically targeted individuals, the punishments come in the form of electronic shocks or stimulation (ie: torture) to the human body. To draw on an example, in a “letter of instruction” the perpetrator commands the victim “If I decide we sleep together, you humbly comply without a fight. Do not physically resist me; don’t allow me to ask you three times. If you do not answer within 30 seconds after I ask you a question, be prepared to pay for it (Stark, 2007; 206–207).” When another victim failed to comply with her perpetrator’s instruction to hand over $500 of her government relief check, an electronic signal was turned on in her body (ie: head and lower back) as she immediately felt the intensity of the electromagnetic field emanating from her body. On consecutive days the symptoms that followed were a push and pull of an invisible electromagnetic field (ie: a current or wavefield flowed through her body) for not complying with her perpetrator’s request. She also felt the shock of an electromagnetic signal that forced her to almost fall onto the stairs she was walking up.

Electronic targeted assaults against the human body present more of a problem to our culture than our empirical research and understanding of its manifestation provides us. The unanalyzed unconscious fantasies surrounding domination and control that delegitimize another person’s privileges and rights. When conflict and disagreement ensue in intimate partnership relationships, what has evolved in the 21st century with the advent of modern computers, wireless technology, global positioning systems, and “online” devices is the technological-facilitated abusive violence towards victims who have primarily been women and children. We have now arrived at a level of criminality in society that holds the potential to exist and elude capture because its very nature is subtle, clandestine, and surreptitious. How do you prove your loved one, or someone outside your family unit for that matter, “turned on” the electromagnetic frequency when this person hasn’t physically touched you? One thing is certain because the frequency and nature of abusive behaviors described by women who report the violence suggest that technologically facilitated domestic and family violence is real and is a key form of abuse deserving more significant attention and study.

In May 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice published a bulletin through the United States Attorney General’s Office in Washington, DC addressing current issues with cyber misbehavior. It is a worthwhile resource for anyone who has a loved one, close friend, or associate being targeted and stalked by an abusive perpetrator. The problem with cyberstalking, electronic harassment, and electronic torture reside in its effects that can take a toll on the emotional well-being and physical health of the targeted victim(s). And with regard to electronic torture, victims of this type of abuse need even more protection under the law simply because the very laws that have been instituted to protect the general public from such violations apply.

Following the U.S. Department of Justice’s press releases, there have been no arrests made in connection with the type of torture my friend has described to me. The wrongful violation, against the patient’s will of implanting electromagnetic wireless devices that deliver signals to the target’s brain and the private areas of her body, can be defined as “unwanted touching” with remote wireless signals. We are all familiar with the use of vibrators in sex roles. The vibrational signals that are turned on remotely, sensations and experiences my friend has described to me, are received unexpectedly and unannounced. Remote signals that are cast from afar, under the stealth of secrecy, signals that touch intimate body parts, have not been described or prosecuted in any federal case? In any type of treatment therapy, whether it be psychiatry, physical therapy or general medicine, the induced electromagnetic stimulation by a medical doctor is always done in a controlled setting with legal consent given by the patient. What my friend is describing goes against the ethical standards put in place by medical boards that govern such behavior with regard to “treatment” and bring to light many, many questions surrounding violence, culture, videogame culture, men’s sexual aggression towards women and children, the historical dehumanization of men, advancements in technological-facilitated violence, how coercive control work against the autonomy women and children, how sexual grooming plays into these types of perpetrations, and how “beauty” may provoke such harassments and torture.


Whitehead, N. (2007). Violence & the cultural order. Daedalus, 136(1), 40–50.

Bevens, C., & Loughnan, S. (2019). Insights into Men’s Sexual Aggression Toward Women: Dehumanization and Objectification. Sex Roles, 81(12), 713–730.

Haslam, N. (2006). Dehumanization: An Integrative Review. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 10(3), 252–264.

Chodorow, N. (2012). Hate, Humiliation, and Masculinity. In Individualizing Gender and Sexuality: Theory and Practice. New York. Routledge. pp.121–136.

Gottschall, J. (2008). The “Beauty Myth” Is No Myth. Human Nature, 19(2), 174–188.

Douglas,.H., Harris, B.A., & Dragiewicz, .M. (2019). Technology-facilitated Domestic and Family Violence: Women’s Experiences. The British Journal of Criminology, 59(3)

Winnicott, D.W. (1971). “The use of the Object and relating through identifications.” In Playing and Reality. Harmondsworth. Penguin, 1980.

Hull, J. (2004). Videogames: Transitional phenomena in adolescence. Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, 2(2), 106–113.

Stark, E. (2007). Coercive Control: How Men Entrap Women in Personal Life. New York. Oxford University Press.

Cyber Misbehavior. (2016). The Department of Justice Journal of Federal Law and Practice, Vol. 64, №3, pp. 12–29. Department of Justice Journal of Federal Law and Practice

Other papers to consider but not mentioned:

Silverman, R., & Mukherjee, S. (1987). Intimate homicide: An analysis of violent social relationships. Behavioral Sciences & the Law, 5(1), 37–47.

Van Brunt, B., Murphy, A., Pescara-Kovach, L., & Crance, G. (2019). Early Identification of Grooming and Targeting in Predatory Sexual Behavior on College Campuses. Violence and Gender. Vol. 6, №1

Taylor, D., & Strutton, D. (2016). Does Facebook usage lead to conspicuous consumption? The role of envy, narcissism and self-promotion. Journal of Research in Interactive Marketing, 10(3), 231–248.



Karen Barna

I am a Targeted Individual suffering electronic harassment. I write about gender difference and object relations and feminism. I am Gen. X