Coercive control is poised to be established as a distinct criminal offense in Queensland, as outlined in pioneering legislative proposals unveiled by the Palaszczuk government for implementation by 2024.
Within the framework of these proposed laws, the government endeavours to proscribe the conduct of an adult meeting the following qualifications: the individual is involved in a domestic relationship with another party, and the individual consistently engages in a repeated pattern of behaviour characterized by acts of domestic violence on multiple occasions.
The new maximum penalty under the new provisions would be 14 years Imprisonment.
What is coercive control?
Coercive control, in formal terms, can be defined as a recurrent pattern of conduct encompassing emotional, psychological, and financial abuse, as well as the acts of isolating, intimidating, engaging in sexual coercion, and resorting to cyberstalking.
How can I identify coercive control?
In order to identify coercive control, one should be vigilant for the following signs:
- Isolation: An abusive partner may isolate you from your support network, such as friends and family, to undermine your access to the necessary support.
- Monitoring: They may engage in constant surveillance, monitoring your activities throughout the day.
- Denial of Freedom and Autonomy: Coercive controllers may restrict your freedom and independence, which can manifest as preventing you from attending work or school, limiting transportation options, stalking your movements, taking control of your devices and passwords, and more.
- Gaslighting: Gaslighting is a manipulative tactic used by abusers to make you doubt your own reality and sanity by insisting on their version of events, even when evidence contradicts it.
- Verbal Abuse: Coercive control may include name-calling, severe criticism, and malicious put-downs, which constitute extreme forms of bullying.
- Financial Control: This involves limiting access to money and controlling finances as a means of disempowering you. It can include imposing strict budgets, restricting access to bank accounts, hiding financial resources, preventing you from having a credit card, and closely monitoring your spending.
- Domestic Duties: Abusers might coerce you into shouldering all domestic duties, such as cleaning, cooking, and childcare, without sharing responsibilities.
- Child Manipulation: If you have children, the abuser may attempt to manipulate them against you by making derogatory comments, belittling you in their presence, or sowing a narrative that portrays you as abnormal.
- Health and Body Control: The abuser may exert control over aspects of your health and body, including monitoring and regulating your eating, sleeping, exercise, bathroom usage, medical choices, and medications.
- Jealousy: Abusers may exhibit unwarranted jealousy, making accusations about your interactions with family, friends, or online contacts in an effort to isolate you further.
- Sexual Control: They might regulate your sexual relationship, imposing demands regarding the frequency and types of sexual activities.
- Threats: In extreme cases, coercive controllers may resort to threats against your children or pets, using them as tools of intimidation when other forms of control prove ineffective.
These behaviours collectively constitute the manifestations of coercive control, which is a serious issue that warrants attention and intervention.
WHY WOULD THE NEW COERCIVE CONTROL LAW BE NEEDED?
The proposed legislation represents a significant response to the findings of the Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce, which has recommended its implementation in order to address the profound distress experienced by victims of abuse. This distress stems not only from their perpetrators but also from the involvement of the perpetrator’s family and acquaintances, as well as individuals hired to survey and monitor them. The envisaged measures include the introduction of community education campaigns and training initiatives focused on the recognition and understanding of coercive control dynamics.
Additionally, these proposed laws aim to establish a court-based perpetrator diversion scheme, thereby enhancing the legal framework’s capacity to address and prevent such abusive behaviours. Moreover, the legislation advances the adoption of an affirmative consent model akin to those in New South Wales and Victoria, reflecting a commitment to providing robust protections for victims of coercive control.
HOW COULD THE NEW LAWS HELP ME?
The primary objective underlying the proposed legislative measures is to mitigate the pervasive issue of domestic violence in Queensland. Recent statistics, as of August 2023, have revealed a disturbing surge in domestic violence incidents, with the state recording an alarming daily average of nearly 500 such cases. This sharp increase, exceeding 40 percent, has been observed since the tragic murders of Hannah Clarke and her children. These disconcerting figures have deeply unsettled law enforcement officials, including Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll, who, despite her extensive career, found these statistics unprecedented.
The state reported a distressing total of 171,750 domestic violence incidents during the 2022-23 financial year, translating to approximately 470.5 cases daily. This stark contrast from the figures in prior years, such as 138,928 incidents in 2020-21 and 90,000 in 2017-18, underscores the pressing need for effective legal measures.
In alignment with New South Wales and Victoria, Queensland is poised to adopt an affirmative consent model. In addition to these significant legislative changes, community education campaigns and training programs focusing on coercive control are being introduced.
Our team specialise in criminal law. Our role is to sit down with you and work out the strategy that will get you the best possible result. If you have any questions about this article or any other topic of law, please call our team of experts on 1300 066 669.