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Proposed new family violence legislation for NSW: Coercive Control

Family Law: 16 September 2020

The NSW opposition leader has proposed Australia's first coercive control legislation in an attempt to criminalize the behaviour that often surrounds domestic violence acts. Coercive control legislation was recently implemented in the UK and Scotland and has already seen excellent results.

Coercive control is sometimes referred to as 'intimate terrorism' and is characterized by a system of deliberate behaviours to exercise power over another. These behaviours chip away at a victim's sense of safety and independence and makes them feel as though they are 'walking on eggshells'. It is distinct from specific violent acts such as physical or sexual abuse.

Current state laws focus on specific instances of family violence such as physical or sexual assault.

Proposed laws relating to coercive control aim to criminalize the system of abuse that includes things like surveillance and management, gaslighting, humiliation, and degradation. These deliberate behaviours often accompany the specific instances of family violence but are overlooked or not pursued by police. The proposed law aims to bridge the gap in the current legislation that stops short at physical acts.

A NSW coroner's review of intimate partner homicides found 99 per cent of perpetrators had committed 'coercive and controlling behaviours towards the victim' before killing them.

The proposed law is currently drafted to require a number of instances of coercive controlling behaviour within the system of abuse to be proven before a person can be found guilty so as to protect society from outlawing mere unpleasant behaviour.

The Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Amendment (Coercive Control) Bill 2020[1] would criminalise coercive control in NSW and includes all intimate relationships such as parents, partners, former partners and children.

COVID-19 restrictions has seen an increase in incidents of family violence as families are forced to remain behind closed doors.

If you know someone that may be experiencing this or you have noticed a friend become more withdrawn for no identifiable reason, please contact Aitken Partners experienced family law team on 0386006043.

See What is coercive control, and what would laws that could jail perpetrators look like? from ABC's The Drum for more information.

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