“It sends a very clear message to everyone in the community that coercive controlling behaviour is dangerous and intolerable,” an anti-domestic violence advocate says.
Despite coercive control being the most common risk factor present in the lead up to an intimate partner homicide, it’s not yet illegal across most of Australia. Now, a group of family violence organisations want this to change.
The group launched a campaign on Monday calling on all state and territory governments to make moves towards criminalising coercive control by July 2021.
Members include Women’s Safety NSW, White Ribbon Australia, Small Steps 4 Hannah, Women’s Legal Service Queensland, Women’s Community Shelters, Doctors Against Violence Towards Women and the author of Look What You Made Me Do, Jess Hill.
Coercive control refers to a wide variety of abusive behaviours including social, financial, psychological and technology-facilitated abuse, and can include isolating a partner from their friends and family, restricting their movements, using tracking devices on their phone and controlling the food they eat and access to money.
Data from NSW’s Domestic Violence Death Review Team found 77 out of 78 perpetrators used coercive control on their partner before killing them between 2017 and 2019.
The CEO of Women’s Safety NSW, Hayley Foster, said that criminalising this form of abuse would mean victims of domestic and family violence have greater access to protection and justice.
“It sends a very clear message to everyone in the community that coercive controlling behaviour is dangerous and intolerable,” Foster said.
Momentum on the movement builds
Nithya Reddy, whose sister Preethi was killed by an ex-partner following a relationship characterised by coercive control, said that while she wished this had happened earlier, that now was the time to push ahead for real change.
“I believe we are at the crux of having coercive control [legislation] passed in this country,” Reddy said.
“[Domestic abuse] is not an isolated incident, and that is how we need to understand domestic violence in this country – and that is what every politician and person needs to know.”
Coercive control gained significant public attention earlier in the year, following the killing of Hannah Clarke and her three children.
And overseas, in countries such as England, Wales, and Scotland, new offences of coercive control have already been introduced.
The coalition is also calling for a consultation period, particularly with organisations on the front line and domestic and family violence survivors, to provide input into how the new law would operate, and a guarantee that the judiciary and police would be equipped and trained to enforce the law as intended.
More information on the campaign can be found here.