In 99 per cent of domestic homicide cases where a woman is killed by her current or former partner, coercive control is the seedy undercurrent of the relationship pulling the woman under and drowning her sense of self. And yet, the manipulative and subsequently lethal behaviour is still not illegal in Australia.
We’re fighting to change that with Are Media’s Criminalise Coercive Control Campaign, which launched yesterday in collaboration with marie claire, Women’s Safety NSW, White Ribbon Australia, Small Steps 4 Hannah, Queensland Women’s Legal Service, Women’s Community Shelters and Doctor’s Against Violence Towards Women.
This morning, the NSW Attorney General and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, Mark Speakman, has announced a long-overdue and much-needed public inquiry into coercive control, calling on domestic violence survivors, frontline workers, legal experts, law enforcement, academics and the community to share their views.
Defined as a sustained pattern of manipulative behaviour, which can include emotional abuse, isolation, sexual coercion, financial abuse and cyber stalking, coercive control is already illegal in the UK, Ireland and Wales.
Are Media’s campaign is calling for legislation, resources, training and support to be implemented by July 2021 – and this public inquiry is the very first step in saving lives.
“The horrific rate of domestic violence murders in Australia remains stubbornly consistent and coercive and controlling behaviour is a common precursor to intimate partner homicide,” says Speakman. “Creating a coercive control offence would be a complex though potentially very worthwhile reform that could help prevent these homicides. Thorough research, consultation and careful consideration is crucial to avoid risks such as misidentifying victims as offenders or capturing behaviour that ought not to be criminalised.”
Following the horrific murders of Hannah Clarke and her children Aaliyah, Laianah and Trey in February this year at the hands of her estranged-husband, and the brutal killing of Dr Preethi Reddy, who was stabbed to death by her controlling ex-boyfriend last year, this legislation cannot come soon enough.
Speaking at yesterday’s campaign launch, Preethi’s sister Nithya said she was hopeful change was coming – at long last.
“I do believe we are at the crux of having a coercive control law passed in our country. Compared to where we were just over 18-months ago when my big sister Dr Preethi Reddy was killed on the 3rd of March, 2019, our country has come far in our understanding of coercive control, but that’s only because of tragedies like hers, as well as the tragedy of Hannah Clarke and her three children,” Nithya said. “It has to stop. We have to speak up. We have to take action. We have to value the lives of our women and children enough to bring justice [and] to make lasting changes.”
To help us change the law, we need you. Sign our petition calling on the government to make coercive control a crime and help us change the lives of thousands of women.
If you or anyone you know needs help or advice, contact 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.