The Criminalisation of Coercive Control

Unfortunately, a number of family law matters involve what is referred to as ‘coercive control’. However, in a positive move towards protecting people navigating family violence whilst going through the process of separating from their former partner, the NSW Government has now passed legislation criminalising coercive control.

What is coercive control?

Coercive control is a form of domestic violence characterised by a pattern of behaviour that cumulatively strips the victim of their autonomy and independence. Coercive control doesn’t include physical violence such as hitting or pushing, but rather encompasses a pattern of psychological, sexual, spiritual, financial and other types of abuse that was not previously considered in domestic violence legislation.

The perpetrator of coercive control takes calculated steps in an attempt to deny their partner of their independence which often leads to the alienation of the victim from their support network. These steps include behaviour such as intimidation, derogatory comments and remarks, damaging property, restricting the victims finances and denying them financial autonomy, withholding financial support, using technology to monitor or keep track of a persons whereabouts and/or communication with others. Further to this, coercive control can include efforts to distance a victim from their family and friends by preventing them from seeing or communicating with them, or otherwise dictating what the partner should wear, who they can see or activities they can engage in.

Crimes Legislation Amendment (Coercive Control) Bill 2022

The difficulty with coercive control historically has been that people (including victims) often do not associate it with domestic violence in circumstances where there is not necessarily any physical aspect of assault. However, with the momentous passing of the above-mentioned Bill, coercive control is now illegal in NSW carrying a maximum penalty of 7 years imprisonment if found guilty.

NSW has become the first state to criminalise coercive control with the hope of intervening in relationships before physical abuse occurs. However beyond this, the passing of this legislation confirms that coercive control is also not just a warning that physical violence is about to occur, but rather it is recognised as a form of violence itself.

If you have any questions about this article or would like some advice for your situation, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our Family Law Team on 9523 5535.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is provided as general information only. It is not intended to be legal advice and it should not be used or relied on as legal or professional advice.