Say NO to Coercive Control
There is power in numbers. Power in a voice.
In coercive controlling relationships, it can be tough for women to seek help and leave. But as Beyonce said;
“Power’s not given to you. You have to take it.”
We need to continue the conversation surrounding coercive control and encourage victims to speak up and seek help. It is time to take the power back from the perpetrators.
Now, how can we encourage victims of coercive control to take their power back? At times victims are scared to report abuse because they fear they will not be believed or may even be blamed for the abuse (The Conversation. 2020).
Therefore, we must continue to encourage victims to speak up and seek help. By eliminating that fear victims will feel empowered to speak up.
People are starting to speak out now more than ever about their experience with coercive control and encouraging others to do the same.
Parliamentary Law Enforcement Committee MP, Dr Anne Aly, suffered from a coercive controlling relationship that turned violent. She knew the warning signs were there but ignored them and did not seek help.
“That’s why I shared my story. I realised how important it is to speak out because there are women out there who need to hear it, who need to be encouraged to leave and to share their stories. Otherwise, it will always remain hidden.”
-Marie Claire, 2021
Click here to read more about victims’ stories on the Marie Claire website.
For generations, women have felt discouraged to speak up about coercive control because it is not understood in society. Often the victim is blamed or not believed if no physical abuse has occurred.
It is time society changes this mentality and recognises that coercive controlling behaviours can be just as damaging as physical ones. Speak up about coercive control!
What steps can you take to seek help?
Maintain communication with your close friends and family where possible. For friends and family, they should have your contact information and check up on a regular basis.
Speak to a professional. Call a domestic abuse hotline.
Practice how to get out safely in case of an emergency. This step is particularly important when there are children involved. Teach them how to call the police, or how to contact a family friend if they need to leave the house.
Have a safety plan. Most victims feel trapped as if there is no escape for them. Taking the time to formulate an exit strategy helps to take away that feeling. Sort out whom you can go stay with or where you can go so your perpetrator cannot get to you. Seek the help of your friends and family.
(Healthline Media. 2019)
And finally… speak up and #saynotocoercivecontrol. By normalising the talk around coercive control, we can help victims to be empowered to seek help.
Remember, you are not alone. If you ever feel entrapped or suffocated and feel you cannot turn to your close support systems, there are helplines you can call;
Lifeline Australia, 13 11 14
1800RESPECT, 1800 737 732
Women’s Domestic Violence Helpline, 1800 007 339
Men’s Domestic Violence Helpline, 1800 000 599
Fitz-Gibbon, Kate, Sandra Walklate and Silke Meyer. 2020. “Australia is not Ready to Criminalise Coercive Control – Here’s Why.” The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/australia-is-not-ready-to-criminalise-coercive-control-heres-why-146929
Lamonthe, Cindy. 2019. “How to Recognise Coercive Control." Healthline Media. https://www.healthline.com/health/coercive-control
Marie Claire. 2021. “It’s Time to Make Coercive Control A Crime.” https://www.marieclaire.com.au/coercive-control-campaign
Coercive Control, The Silent Killer
Domestic violence is a well-known crime that is talked about frequently. But what is coercive control? The less common term is a form of domestic violence that is hard to detect but can be fatal to victims.
Also referred to as “intimate terrorism”, coercive control is when a victim’s sense of independence and safety is completely stripped from them and they feel trapped in their own home.
The problem is that Australian law only recognises domestic abuse as a criminal offence when a form of physical or sexual abuse has been suffered. Coercive controlling behaviours are not physical and therefore can be extremely hard to recognise. A study conducted by the Australian Institute of Criminology (2021) found that the most frequently reported coercive controlling behaviours were:
• Suspicion of friends
• Constant insults
• Monitoring of movements
• Financial abuse
These are controlling behaviours many people suffer but do not recognise as being a form of domestic abuse, when in fact they are often a predictor for much more severe and fatal violence in the future.
Attorney General and NSW Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, Mark Speakman, speaks about the need for the public to recognise coercive control as a form of domestic abuse.
“The impact of this abuse is abhorrent, but the appropriate response to this behaviour remains an ongoing challenged for law enforcement and legal minds alike,” Mr Speakman says.
There needs to be more focus in the Australian legal system on how these controlling behaviours can negatively affect the victim. Currently, the law only allows police to investigate domestic violence cases if an act of physical abuse has been committed.
Some countries have taken the steps to introduce legislation that makes it a crime to commit not only domestic abuse but also coercive control behaviours. Scotland was the first to do so with the ‘Domestic Abuse Act’ which allows coercive behaviours to be prosecuted. The Act flips the focus on the perpetrator. Instead of having to prove the victim was seriously affected by the perpetrator, the prosecutor just needs to prove that the perpetrator engaged in abusive behaviour and intended to cause harm
The public needs to speak up, as it is time for similar laws to be introduced here in Australia!
While it is important to update our legal system, laws themselves don’t change the culture in society. It is important to educate the public on coercive control and the signs to look for. Only then can we understand the full scope these behaviours can have on the victims.
This is how we can begin to eliminate coercive control. This is how we can start to create a major change in society.
Boxall H & Morgan A 2021. Experiences of coercive control among Australian women. Statistical Bulletin no. 30. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology. https://www.aic.gov.au/publications/sb/sb30
Speakman, Mark. 2020. “Coercive Control Discussion Paper. NSW Government. https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/members/Pages/Member-details.aspx?pk=63.
Gleeson, Hayley. 2019. “Coercive Control: The ‘Worst Part’ of Domestic Abuse is Not a Crime in Australia. But Should it Be?”. ABC News. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-11-19/coercive-control-domestic-abuse-australia-criminalise/11703442.
Domestic Violence: The Loungeroom Pandemic - How The COVID-19 Has Impacted Domestic Violence Numbers
2020 saw many of us shelter in our own homes as COVID-19 spread across the globe, but for many the true danger lurked within the very walls that were supposed to keep them safe. Last year saw domestic violence numbers in Australia reach an all time high.
In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced many of us into our homes with the closure of businesses and people working from home for the first time, we were suddenly spending day after day with only the company of our partners and families. Some viewed the lockdown as a chance to spend time with their families and learn new hobbies but for many, the months spent confined away were anything but enjoyable.
As COVID-19 spread worldwide, another pandemic was spreading across houses and apartments in Australia, domestic violence.
A survey conducted by The Australian Institute of Criminology in 2020 found that:
5% of all women and almost 10% of women living with a partner have experienced physical or sexual violence.
22% of women reported experiencing emotional harassment or controlling behaviours in the past year.
Two thirds of the women surveyed said that the abuse had occurred for the first time or intensified since the outbreak of COVID-19.
The increasing number of domestic violence since the coronavirus outbreak are concerning Hayley Foster, chief executive of Women’s Safety in New South Wales said;
“2020 will be remembered as the worst year for domestic violence that many of us in the sector have ever experienced. There [have been] just so many more strangulation cases, so many threats to kill, so many more serious head injuries, and sexual assaults [have been] going through the roof.”
Domestic violence and intimate partner violence (IPV) is often caused by the abusers feeling the need to control their partner. This can stem from several things, including low self-esteem, undiagnosed mental health disorders, anger management issues, and feelings of inferiority due to financial or educational background, which have all been heightened by the coronavirus pandemic. IPV and domestic violence can also be attributed to the abuse of drugs and alcohol.
With 2021 showing no sign of an end to the increasing numbers around domestic violence, steps need to be taken to help put a stop to IPV in Australian homes. White Ribbon Australia has outlined mental health support for both abusers and the abused as well as education surrounding domestic violence as the key strategies to help reduce the numbers.
So what can you do to reduce domestic violence numbers?
Reach out if you are worried about the impact of your actions or the actions of others are having and educate yourself on what abusive behaviour looks like. The key to creating change is to raise awareness, which is the mission of the Momentum For Australia charity. Click the link below to see the worthy causes you can help support, including the Kiss Violence Against Women Goodbye! campaign and the She For He, Talk To Me campaign.
Looking for help or know someone who is struggling, reach out, and make our homes safer and happier for everyone.
1800 RESPECT, 1800 737 732
Mensline, 1300 789 978
Lifeline, 13 11 14