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What is coercive control?

Coercive control is a form of domestic abuse where the perpetrator employs a systematic pattern of behaviours to dominate their partner or former partner. Unlike physical force, coercive control undermines the victim’s autonomy and independence through gradual manipulation and psychological tactics.

Emotional manipulation is often central to coercive control, aiming to diminish the victim’s sense of self-worth and impose complete authority over their life. This type of abuse encompasses various methods including emotional, psychological, and financial tactics, alongside surveillance and isolation.

Victims of coercive control may not immediately recognize the extent of the abuse due to its insidious and gradual nature. Tactics like gaslighting create doubt and confusion, making it difficult for victims to identify and report the abuse they endure.

While physical violence may coexist in coercive control situations, its most profound impact lies in restricting the victim’s freedom and participation in society. The perpetrator imposes strict rules, instilling fear and helplessness, which can lead to severe emotional and physical consequences such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, substance abuse, and self-harm. Financial damage is also common, often continuing even after leaving the relationship due to credit issues and employment sabotage.

The passage of the Domestic and Family Violence Protection (Combating Coercive Control) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2022 marks a significant step forward in addressing coercive control as a criminal offense in Queensland. This legislation responds to tragic cases like that of Hannah Clarke and her children, aiming to enhance safety for women by recognizing and criminalizing coercive control behaviours.

The amendments strengthen laws by modernizing the definition of stalking, broadening the scope of domestic violence to include patterns of behaviour, and enhancing court responses to protection orders. These reforms pave the way for a new standalone criminal offense of coercive control effective from 2025, carrying penalties of up to 14 years’ imprisonment for perpetrators who repeatedly subject their partners to physical, sexual, psychological, or financial abuse.

For legal guidance or support in situations involving coercive control, please contact us at Freedom Family Law on 07 5409 8000 or book online for a free initial consultation with our experienced Family Lawyers specializing in domestic violence and coercive control cases.

You can also access free counselling and support through services like DVConnect Womensline, DVConnect Mensline, and 1800RESPECT.


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