Coercive Control: What Is It and Where Can I Get Help?

Coercive control is repeated patterns of family and domestic violence (DV) that aim to gain control over someone else.

These behaviours can be more complex than other domestic conflicts, but news reports and discussions about modifying family law in NSW and other parts of Australia are helping to raise awareness of this issue.

If you want to know more, or you or someone you know might be a victim of coercive control, read this short guide to find out what is considered coercive control and what care and protection is available to help you.

What is considered coercive control?

Coercive control covers many types of domestic violence and abuse, including physical, psychological, emotional, sexual, financial, and spiritual abuse.

What distinguishes coercive control from some other types of family violence is that the abuse is repeated over a period of time. The goal is often to dominate or manipulate the victim by taking away their independence and autonomy so they feel trapped in the cycle of abuse.

Just some of the abusive actions that can fall under coercive control include:

  • Restricting someone’s movements and activities
  • Isolating someone from their friends, family and other contacts
  • Restricting access to bank accounts or other finance or assets
  • Stalking or monitoring online activity or phone conversations
  • Physical or sexual assault
  • Insults, taunts or humiliation
  • Threatening to take children away or to harm themselves or others

Is coercive control a crime in Australia?

Many types of family and domestic violence are crimes under family law in Australia. Coercive controlling abuse has been directly recognised as a crime in Tasmania since 2004, and similar laws are under consideration in other states and territories including New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and the Northern Territory.

This is in response to the growing awareness of controlling behaviours and domestic violence, which saw a significant spike in 2020 under the stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report by the Australian Government Department of Criminology.

The complex and often subtle nature of coercive control can make recognising cases difficult, which requires specialised training for police and family law officers and greater education among the public about what constitutes abuse.

What to do if you are a victim of coercive control

If you think you have experienced coercive control or other domestic violence in Australia, you can talk to a counselling service or family lawyers. They will help you to understand your rights and what action can be taken.

Support numbers you can call include:

1800 Respect: 1800 737 732

Women’s Crisis Line: 1800 811 811

Lifeline: 131 114

If your case involves behaviours that are already recognised as a crime under family law, these can be treated as a domestic violence offence. For other manipulative behaviours that may not be so straightforward, family support lawyers can advise you about your unique situation and make sure you or other family members get the care and protection you need.

Our family lawyers are here to help

At East Coast Law Family Law, our experts help people from all walks of life to deal with difficult situations such as family and children violence and other disputes.

To find out how we can help you, call our team on 1300 735 947 or download our free ebook below to find out more about child care and protection in NSW.


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