The term ‘coercive control’ refers to domestic abuse in which repeated, abusive patterns erode a victim-survivor’s sense of autonomy, independence, and self-esteem. These behaviours may be physical, but extend to psychological abuse, including tracking and tracing, humiliation, stalking, and limiting access to finance and family.
Is coercive control a crime?
The Domestic Violence Death Review Team reported that 99% of domestic violence homicides were preceded by incidences of coercive control. Despite this clear risk factor, coercive control has historically not been illegal in NSW.
In NSW, Apprehended Violence Orders are available for victims of abuse. However, this legislation does not capture coercive and controlling behaviour, leaving countless victim-survivors to fall through the cracks.
Steps to criminalise coercive control
After receiving more than 150 submissions and following five days of hearings, a joint select committee on coercive control tabled its report to NSW Parliament on 30 June 2021. In a huge step forward for victim-survivors, the committee unanimously agreed to criminalise coercive control.
The committee made 23 recommendations to the NSW government in its report to remedy the legal and non-legal deficits in responding to coercive and controlling behaviour. Notably, the report contained a recommendation the NSW government recognises coercive control as a “red-flag” for domestic homicides and criminalise coercive control.
Further legislative reform was recommended, including amendments to the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 to create a clear and accessible definition of domestic abuse which captures coercive behaviour prior to criminalising coercive control.
The NSW Government will now consider the committee’s recommendations. With the Australian Department of Criminology revealing that two-thirds of surveyed women have experienced increased abuse during the pandemic, it is hoped that these recommendations will provide the reform needed to protect victim-survivors.
If you would like to learn more about this issue, or would like to discuss a legal matter, please do not hesitate to call us on 8917 8700.