Coercive control is a form of domestic abuse. Perpetrators aim to take away their partner's autonomy and freedom. They do this by using a gradual escalation of tactics like isolating their partner from their family and friends, humiliating them and putting them down, controlling and tracking their movements, and taking away their ability to make decisions about things like what they wear and how they spend their money. While coercive control does not always involve physical violence, it is a common factor in intimate partner homicides. Victims often say that the effects of coercive control last longer than the wounds inflicted by physical violence.
The committee found that while it does not support intervention in ordinary consensual relationships, nonetheless NSW laws do not respond well to coercive control as a type of abuse, and there is poor understanding of it in our community. The inquiry looked at ways to better respond to the phenomenon of coercive control.
The committee has recommended changes to make it clear that coercive control is a form of domestic abuse, including:
- a clear and accessible definition of domestic violence, including coercive and controlling behaviour;
- higher maximum penalties for breaching apprehended domestic violence orders;
- removing specific intent from the stalking and intimidation offence; and
- making coercive and controlling behaviour an aggravating factor in sentencing.
The inquiry heard that inconsistent domestic violence laws and poor coordination between states can be an extra barrier for victims of domestic abuse who live in border areas. The committee has recommended that the NSW Government works with other states to develop a nationally consistent definition of domestic violence, and to set up a national database of domestic violence orders.