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Date of Award

Spring 2023

Document Type

Masters Thesis

Department or Program Affiliation


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Delker, Brianna C.

Second Advisor

Warren, Michael T.

Third Advisor

Byrne, Christina A.

Fourth Advisor

Smith, Aaron J.


Many survivors of domestic violence experience persistent but invisible psychological wounds that cannot be photographed for evidentiary purposes. Coercive control refers to the network of subtle, structural, and culturally sanctioned tactics that subjugate victims and cause them existential and identity-based harm. In this paper I propose that moral injury, a trauma construct not yet applied to this context, provides an important and nuanced framework for understanding the impact of coercive control and the invisible aftermath of partner abuse. In a cross-sectional survey-based study (N = 292), I tested a novel path analysis in which physical violence and coercive control differentially predict PTSD and moral injury symptoms. The model additionally tested whether the strength of survivors’ moral identity moderates the magnitude of the relationship between coercive control and moral injury. I found that coercive control was rampant, more common and predictive of both PTSD and moral injury than physical violence, and that survivors do indeed report symptoms of moral injury at rates that justify further exploration. This study has implications for how we understand and treat nuanced posttraumatic sequelae in highly stigmatized survivors of domestic violence.




domestic violence, coercive control, moral injury, survivor


Western Washington University

OCLC Number


Subject – LCSH

Intimate partner violence--Psychological aspects; Moral injuries; Psychic trauma; Post-traumatic stress disorder; Control (Psychology)




masters theses




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