Coercive Control: “It Will Not be Tolerated” - Hope 103.2

Coercive Control: “It Will Not be Tolerated”

The insidious form of domestic abuse is now a criminal act in NSW, punishable by a jail term. But how do you recognise the signs?

By Mike CrooksWednesday 3 Jul 2024NewsReading Time: 5 minutes

Warning: The following article contains mentions of domestic violence. If you need support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit lifeline.org.au. If you have been impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au.

Coercive control is now a criminal act in NSW.

Key Points

  • NSW is the first Australian state to have standalone coercive control laws.
  • Coercive control is a form of domestic abuse in which a person engages in patterns of behaviour that “infringe on the autonomy and independence of an intimate partner.”
  • If found guilty, perpetrators can face up to seven years in prison.

The new domestic violence laws, which came into affect on July 1, send “a strong message to perpetrators that abuse is unacceptable,” Jodie Harrison, the Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, said.

Along with the criminalisation of coercive control, stronger bail laws have also been implemented for domestic violence cases in NSW.

NSW is the first Australian state to have standalone coercive control laws.

“From today, coercive control in current and former intimate partner relationships will be a crime punishable by up to seven years’ imprisonment,” NSW Attorney General Michael Daley said.

“Abuse against a current or former intimate partner is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”

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What is coercive control?

Coercive control is a form of domestic abuse in which a person engages in patterns of behaviour that “infringe on the autonomy and independence of an intimate partner,” according to NSW law firm Dowson Turco Lawyers.

The abuse involves someone repeatedly hurting, scaring or isolating another person “to control them,” read a NSW Government statement.

The behaviour can include stalking, monitoring a person’s movements or communications, controlling a person’s social life and finances, or isolating the other person from friends, family or cultural connections.

NSW is the first Australian state to have standalone coercive control laws.

The NSW Domestic Violence Death Review team found that 97 per cent of intimate partner homicides between 2000 and 2018 were preceded by coercive control.

“With this reform, we can now tell women seeking support at our services that the patterns of abuse that they’ve experienced are criminal,” Annabelle Danielle, the CEO of Women’s Community Shelters, told Women’s Agenda.

“This legislation will improve the lives of women and children who may never seek to use the legal system.”

Case studies

In a new educational website, the government has provided real-life case studies of coercive control.

In one, Diana’s partner would wake her up during the night to “re-hash an incident or argument and make her believe his version of events.”

He also questioned Diana’s decisions and insisted that she was going crazy and threatened to admit her to a mental health centre.

“I can’t tell you how fearful everything was,” Diana said. “That’s what they work on – keeping you in that fear mode so you stay.”

In another case study, Emma was constantly criticised by her partner. And she felt that she wasn’t good enough and that she couldn’t survive on her own. She was dependent on him so when he became violent, she was trapped.

“People ask me why I didn’t leave when the abuse started,” she said.

“But the truth about coercive control is that the love-bombing distracts you and pulls you in, so the insults and degradation can subtly creep up. He was breaking down my self-esteem and self-worth in ways I couldn’t even identify at first.”

How will it be enforced?

For a person to be convicted of coercive control “the prosecution must show a continuous pattern of psychological abuse that infringes on the other person’s liberty,” a statement from Dowson Turco Lawyers read.

If found guilty, perpetrators can face up to seven years in prison.

Coercive control is a form of domestic abuse in which a person engages in patterns of behaviour that “infringe on the autonomy and independence of an intimate partner.”

To help authorities identify coercive control, the NSW government has provided a $5.6 million package that includes funding to provide training for police and spread community awareness.

The training for NSW Police is for officers to “recognise and respond to the complex and nuanced signs of coercive control,” according to a government statement.

Taking action

Minister for Police and Counter-terrorism Yasmin Catley said that the criminalisation of coercive control “is a significant day” for victims and survivors.

“The mandatory training is thorough, it shows how seriously the NSW Police force are taking this,” she said.

“And it ensures all operational police can identify and take action against coercive control offences in NSW.”

New bail laws

Together with the coercive control laws, new bail conditions have also been introduced to NSW.

Under the new conditions, people charged with domestic violence offences will be required to “show cause” why they should not be jailed while their case runs its course.

The “show cause test” will also apply to coercive control.

If found guilty, perpetrators can face up to seven years in prison.

Before granting bail to a person accused with domestic violence offences, decision makers must consider:

  • “Red flag” behaviour that could constitute domestic abuse; behaviour that is sexually abusive, coercive or violent; behaviour that is stalking; behaviour that causes death or injury to an animal; behaviour that is verbally abusive; or behaviour that is intimidation.
  • The views of victims and their family members about safety concerns in domestic violence matters involving intimate partners. (Source: NSW Government.)

For more information on coercive control visit here.

If you need support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit lifeline.org.au. If you have been impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au.


Article supplied with thanks to Michael Crooks. Michael is a senior journalist and former news editor of Who magazine. His work has appeared in People, Marie Claire, The Daily Telegraph, Herald Sun, news.com.au, Qantas magazine, QantasLink Spirit, Who and The New Daily. 

Feature image: Photo by CanvaPro