WHAT IS COERCIVE CONTROL?
A pattern of behaviours used to intimidate, humiliate, surveil and control another person, ultimately robbing victims of autonomy
Some behaviours might include:
* Stalking, using tracking software or other means
* Instituting rules, like requiring a victim to get permission to leave home
* Withholding money and resources
* Isolating victims from friends and family
* Reproductive coercion, like forcing the victim to become pregnant
It’s mainly experienced by women and perpetrated by men in intimate relationships.
THE PUSH TO CRIMINALISE COERCIVE CONTROL
* Some controlling behaviours like stalking are already outlawed but there’s no freestanding crime recognising it as a form of abuse.
* Before murdering Hannah Clarke and her children in Brisbane in February 2020, Rowan Baxter controlled her with recording and tracking devices, told her what to wear, isolated her from family and forced her into sex. Her parents want coercive control criminalised.
* According to the NSW Domestic Violence Death Review Team, of all domestic violence murder-suicides of partners in the state since 2003, warning signs were a factor in less than half. Coercive and controlling behaviours were the most common behaviours used by the perpetrator.
* Advocates say criminalisation would lead to a cultural shift, causing coercive control to be taken seriously as a form of abuse in itself.
* Criminalisation would give victims more avenues to end abuse. Advocates say when people report coercive control now, police don’t take it seriously or can’t do anything. A new offence would allow them to look at the whole of a relationship, rather than specific incidents.
WHAT’S HAPPENING NOW?
* A NSW parliamentary inquiry is considering the creation of a new offence
* An independent Queensland taskforce will consult on coercive control legislation, to report back by October
* The NT government is looking at criminalising domestic abuse
* Victoria’s Department of Justice and Community Safety is looking at options to strengthen responses
* A bill is before the parliament in South Australia
* Tasmania introduced economic abuse and emotional abuse or intimidation offences in 2004 but prosecutions have been few
* Family violence organisations are campaigning for all governments to start criminalising
* Coercive control offences have been introduced in the UK.