Many of the state’s legal and domestic violence advocacy bodies believe lawmakers must not wait for another tragic headline to consider criminalising coercive control – and with a spike in violence during COVID-19 lockdowns, they say time is running out.In NSW, the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 does not make explicit reference to psychological, financial or emotional abuse, unlike similar laws in Tasmania that are rarely used.
The NSW Domestic Violence Death Review Team’s most recent report, investigating murders between 2017 and 2019, found 77 of the 78 perpetrators used coercive control on their partner before killing them.
Women’s Safety CEO Hayley Foster said local support organisations had recorded significant increases in requests for help.
“The current understanding of domestic violence as an incident-based offence, rather than a sustained pattern of behaviours, further endangers women by increasing the likelihood that they will be misidentified as the primary aggressor.”
But Foster says her organisation would only support the enacting of coercive control legislation in NSW “if we have system reform to accompany it”.
This includes working to address rates of misidentifying the primary aggressor in a domestic violence incident; in a recent Women’s Safety NSW survey 70 per cent of the frontline worker respondents said this occurred frequently.