A Tasmanian not-for-profit has called for coercion and control to be criminalised, in a submission to a national inquiry into family violence.
The House Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs announced the inquiry in June.
It is separate to an inquiry being conducted by a Senate Select Committee, which is currently hearing evidence.
In other news:
In a submission to the new inquiry the Women’s Legal Service Tasmania makes the case for criminalising coercion and control.
Coercion and control laws would apply to acts or patterns of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation that is used to control victims.
In its submission the service said new laws would not work unless there was systematic reform and support for implementation measures.
“This in part requires, police, lawyers and courts to embrace and consider coercion and control as a series of behaviours and actions as opposed to focusing on single incidents,” the submission reads.
“It also requires an investment in facilitated discussions within the community to challenge norms permissive of family violence.
“It requires the links between gender inequality and family violence to be recognised by all those responding to family violence.”
University of Tasmania senior law lecturer Dr Caroline Spiranovic said criminalising coercion and control had some appeal, but it needed to be carefully considered.
She said while laws varied across states – coercive control laws could help address gaps in existing family violence laws and definitions.
“Family violence involves a range of behaviours that are much broader than the behaviours captured in traditional criminal offences,” Dr Spiranovic said.
“These broader behaviours include various forms of emotional abuse and economic abuse, which are recognised and criminalised in Tasmania.
“It has been argued that introducing a criminal offence of coercive control in Australia, similar to what they have done in the United Kingdom, would go a long way to recognising the true and total harms of non-physical forms of abuse.”
Dr Spiranovic said coercive control laws might not bring about real change for victims because they wouldn’t remove barriers for seeking support.
She said barriers could include fear of retaliation from a partner, a desire to keep the family together or a belief that complaints won’t be taken seriously.
“There are also some real challenges in how we define and substantiate coercive and controlling behaviours,” Dr Spiranovic said.
“In family relationships, there will likely be some elements of influence on one another’s behaviour or at least compromise for instance on issues such as spending, parenting and sharing time together.
“So it can be difficult to clearly draw a line and define the threshold or point where these behaviours become coercive and controlling.”
Brad Chilcott, the new executive director of White Ribbon – Australia’s biggest male-focused family violence organisation – has signalled his support for the introduction of coercive control laws.
In an opinion piece published in The Guardian last month, he addressed the issue and again discussed it with Rosie Batty OAM during a live-streamed interview on Friday.
Engendered Equality chief executive officer Alina Thomas said her organisation also supported the push for criminalising coercive control.
If this article raises concerns for you or anyone you know contact the 24-hour national sexual assault and family violence counselling service on 1800 737 732.
What do you think? Send us a letter to the editor: