Recognising Coercive Control

Coercive Control is a type of domestic abuse where the perpetrator deliberately uses a pattern of behavior to control someone who is typically their partner or ex-partner.

Coercive Control doesn’t necessarily involve physical force. It’s a gradual erosion of someone’s independence and autonomy, often without immediate physical harm.

While the threat of violence might be present, emotional manipulation is the primary weapon used by the abuser to demean and trap their partner, ultimately seeking to seize complete control over their personhood and limit their independence.

In coercively controlling relationships, while physical and sexual violence may be present, they are frequently reliat on subtle and nuanced psychological strategies to systematically undermine a victim’s autonomy. These methods encompass emotional, psychological, and financial abuse, as well as surveillance and isolation, among others.

The covert and gradual nature of Coercive Control can often keep victims unaware of what is happening until it becomes their reality. Gaslighting is a common tactic in such relationships, as it instills doubt and uncertainty, making it challenging for victims to decide whether or how to report the abuse they endure.

While Coercive Control may involve physical violence, its primary harm lies in restricting a woman’s freedom, preventing her full participation in society. The perpetrator imposes rules to control every aspect of the victim’s life, inducing constant fear, anxiety, and helplessness. Victims may experience depression, anxiety, PTSD, substance abuse, low self-esteem, self-harm, and physical injuries. Coercive Control can also lead to lasting financial damage, hindering income and financial stability even after leaving the relationship, often due to credit debt and employment sabotage by the perpetrator.

Highlighting the invisibility of coercive control is critical in protecting women and children. Since many victims experience minimal or no physical violence, recognising and reporting abuse becomes challenging.

Within relationships, coercive control can be incredibly elusive and difficult to discern, appearing insignificant when viewed in isolation and often lacking concrete evidence to confirm its presence. For instance, monitoring a partner’s activities or tracking expenses might initially seem like harmless measures aimed at ensuring safety or responsible financial management within the relationship. However, when these actions become excessive and are used to manipulate and dominate the partner, restricting autonomy and enforcing compliance, they transform into coercive control.

Victims of domestic violence and their families have welcomed the passage of the Domestic and Family Violence Protection (Combating Coercive Control) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2022. This marks progress in criminalising coercive control. This legislation responds to inquiries into cases of coercive control, such as the tragic deaths of Hannah Clarke and her three children. Its goal is to enhance women’s safety in Queensland and identify coercive control warning signs earlier.

The Family Violence Protection (Combating Coercive Control) and Other Legislation Amendment Act, strengthens laws to address the patterned nature of coercive control, to protect victims.

The amendments will:

  • modernise and strengthen the definition of stalking in the Queensland Criminal Code;
  • broaden the definition of domestic and family violence to refer to a ‘pattern of behaviour’;
  • strengthen the court’s response to cross application for protection orders, to ensure the person most at risk is being protected;
  • strengthen the court’s consideration of previous domestic violence history.

These reforms lay the foundation for a standalone criminal offence of coercive control set to take effect in 2025. Under the new legislation, a person who repeatedly subjects their partner to physical, sexual, psychological or financial abuse may face jail of up to 14 years.

If you are separating or thinking of separating, contact Catton and Tondelstrand Lawyers on 07 5609 4933 to book a free initial consultation with one of our experienced Family Lawyers who have special expertise and experience dealing with domestic violence and coercive control. Additionally, you can contact the following services for free counselling and support:

  • DVConnect Womensline – 1800 811 811
  • DVConnect Mensline – 1800 600 636
  • 1800RESPECT – 1800 737 732

Book online

For a free initial consultation you can also book online

Recommended Posts