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Lisa Fontes - University of Massachusetts Amherst. Amherst, MA, US

Lisa Fontes

Senior Lecturer II, UWW Interdisciplinary Studies | University of Massachusetts Amherst


Lisa Fontes is an international leader in the understanding of intimate partner violence, or coercive control.

Expertise (6)

Intimate Partner Violence

Coercive Control

Child Sexual Abuse

Domestic Violence (Partner and Victim)

Child Abuse

Violence Against Women


Lisa Fontes is a national and international leader in the fields of child abuse, violence against women, and intimate partner violence, or coercive control, particularly where cultural issues are relevant.

Her comments are frequently sought by media organizations to discuss issues ranging from the sexual abuse of children to intimate partner violence

Fontes is the author of the books: Invisible Chains: Overcoming Coercive Control in Your Intimate Relationship, Interviewing Clients Across Cultures, and Child Abuse and Culture. Her books have sold over 50,000 copies, and been translated into Spanish, Korean, Japanese, and two forms of Chinese.






Education (4)

University of Massachusetts Amherst: Ph.D., Counseling Psychology

New York University: M.A., Psychology

Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism: M.S., Journalism

Cornell University: B.A., Romance Languages & Literature

Select Media Coverage (5)

California Court Grants Restraining Order Based on Coercive Control

Ms. Magazine  online


“The judge essentially said, ‘A marriage license does not give a person permission to subjugate their spouse,'” said Lisa Fontes of the landmark ruling against coercive control, a type of domestic violence.

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'They Knew': Legal Battle Over a Los Gatos Elementary School's Failure to Prevent Sexual Abuse Could Go to Trial

KQED  online


Psychologist Lisa Fontes said the complaints made to Blossom Hill Elementary around touching should not have been handled internally by the school. Instead, she said, schools should notify outside agencies to conduct an investigation. “Not the parent. Not the school,” Fontes said. “Think of how much power an elementary school teacher has over a child. A child is not apt to resist touch, is not apt to question [the teacher], even if they make them uncomfortable.”

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Mass. lawmakers consider expanding definition of domestic abuse to include financial and mental abuse

WBUR  radio


Lisa Fontes is a professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, who has written a book about this kind of abuse. "If there’s no physical abuse some people might say, 'Oh, well, it's just not the best relationship,'" she said. "But it's something much more profound than that. Coercive control is really taking away the liberty of another person."

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Columnist Carrie N. Baker: Invisible abuse: Ending coercive control in intimate relationships

Daily Hamshire Gazette  online


“Coercive control deprives people — mostly women — of their liberty,” says Dr. Lisa Aronson Fontes, a University of Massachusetts professor and author of “Invisible Chains: Overcoming Coercive Control in Your Intimate Relationship.” “The freedoms that every human being should enjoy — to make the small and large decisions about her life — are not accessible to a victim of coercive control. She is hostage to the whims of her partner.”

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Domestic abuse isn’t always physical in nature

CommonWealth Magazine  online


In 2022, there were 26 domestic violence-related homicides in Massachusetts—a more than 40 percent increase over 2021. Lisa Aronson Fontes, a senior lecturer at UMass Amherst and author of the book Invisible Chains: Overcoming Coercive Control in Your Intimate Relationship, asserts that almost all domestic homicides are preceded by coercive control and that coercive control is a better predictor of domestic homicide than previous violent assaults.

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Select Publications (3)

Guest columnist Lisa Aronson Fontes: Let all people be free — including at home

Daily Hampshire Gazette

Lisa Aronson Fontes


It is hard to watch someone we care about suffer at the hands of a controlling partner or ex-partner. Long-term patterns of abuse and control usually require long-term support. Isolation poses the greatest risk for targets of coercive control. Simply staying in contact helps the person feel valued, capable and less alone, counteracting some of the abuser’s messages.

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Twice Silenced: The Underreporting of Child Sexual Abuse in Orthodox Jewish Communities

Journal of Child Sexual Abuse


Child sexual abuse remains an underreported crime throughout the world, despite extensive research and resources dedicated both to improving investigative techniques and helping children disclose their experiences. The discovery of rampant cover-ups within the Catholic Church has exposed some of the ways religious and cultural issues can impede reporting to authorities.

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Invisible Chains: Overcoming Coercive Control in Your Intimate Relationship

Book - The Guilford Press

Lisa Aronson Fontes


When you are showered with attention, it can feel incredibly romantic and can blind you to hints of problems ahead. But what happens when attentiveness becomes domination? In some relationships, the desire to control leads to jealousy, gaslighting, threats, micromanaging--even physical violence. If you or someone you care about are trapped in a web of coercive control, this book provides answers, hope, and a way out.

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