‘Coercive control’ is the new focus of fight against domestic violence

The threat of domestic violence has many women living in fear.

The threat of domestic violence has many women living in fear.

Understanding and identifying coercive control is key to tackling family and gender-based violence in Australia, the federal government says.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus met with his state counterparts in Perth on Friday, where they agreed to seven national principles to address coercive control.

Coercive control is a form of abuse where perpetrators display a pattern of controlling and manipulative behaviour designed to intimidate, isolate or control.

About 3.6 million Australians – 2.2 million women and 1.4 million men – have experienced emotional abuse by a partner at some point since the age of 15, a 2022 analysis by the Australian Bureau of Statistics found.

The abuse underpins domestic and family violence and can have traumatic and pervasive impacts on survivors and their loved ones, although its less-obvious signs can make it harder to recognise and address.

The seven principles released on Friday centre around understanding the common features of coercive control, as well as the impacts on victim-survivors.

They also note the importance of embedding lived experience when co-ordinating and designing approaches across prevention, early intervention, response and recovery.

The principles are designed to be used by government and non-government organisations involved in addressing coercive control. They will also be a tool to support greater community awareness.

Mr Dreyfus described the guidelines as a significant step forward, saying a consistent, national approach was critical.

“I sincerely thank everyone who has contributed to the development of the national principles, particularly the victim-survivors and their families,” he said.

During the drafting process, the government consulted survivors, academics, members of the legal sector, representatives from frontline services and other experts on family and domestic violence.

Additional resources for Indigenous communities will be released in the coming months.

In August, governments across the country set targets for ending violence for the first time, such as a 25 per cent annual reduction in female victims.

Targets have also been set to encourage more people to reject violence against women.

The NSW government has also taken steps to address a specific form of coercive control after announcing an $8.1 million investment on Sunday in legal initiatives to help those experiencing financial abuse.

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