What is Coercive Control?
Coercive control is being talked about a lot in the media. So what is it? Coercive control is a pattern of abusive behaviour that where a person intimidates and controls the lives of others – the victims-survivors.
Coercive control is a type of DFV that limits the freedom and independence of the victim-survivor.
What Does Coercive Control Look Like?
DFV, including coercive control, does not have to be physical. Coercive control tactics are often – but not always – non-physical. Coercive control is ongoing, repetitive, and builds up over time. It may include (but is not limited to):
- Social isolating, e.g., preventing the victim-survivor from going to work or other commitments, such as medical appointments. Reproductive coercion, e.g., attempting to control the other person through pregnancy or pregnancy outcomes.
- Financial and economical abuse, e.g., taking or controlling the other person’s income,.
- Threats and intimidation, e.g., threatening to hurt themselves or others, such as children or companion animals.
- Stalking and harassment, e.g., showing up at the victim’s-survivor’s workplace, calling and messaging frequently to check on the victim’s-survivor’s location and who they are with
Criminalisation of Coercive Control
Some Australian states and territories are considering legislating against coercive control, that is, making it a specific crime. A considered approach is essential to developing effective legislation.
Legislation is one possible response to the issues of coercive control and domestic and family violence. We need comprehensive education programs in our schools, workplaces and communities.
Adequate funding for social and community organisations is essential, as is training and resourcing for police officers and other first responders to DFV.
Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety. (2021). Defining and responding to coercive control: Policy brief (ANROWS Insights, 01/2021). https://www.anrows.org.au/publication/defining-and-responding-to-coercive-control/
McMahon, M., & McGorrey, P. (2020). Criminalising Coercive Control: An Introduction. In M. McMahon & P. McGorrey (Eds.), Criminalising coercive control: Family violence and the criminal law (pp. 3-32). Springer.
State of Queensland. (2020). Understanding Domestic and Family Violence [Booklet]. Queensland Health. https://www.health.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0025/952072/1_Understanding-DFV-Booklet.pdf