By Poppy Wise | 23 Feb 2021

This week, a NSW government enquiry will examine the potential introduction of coercive control legislation in NSW.

The personal stories of victim-survivors who have undergone such abuse are harrowing, and as a researcher and evaluator in the domestic and family violence space, I’m sad to say, I’m all too familiar.

This important and timely enquiry follows Attorney General and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence Mark Speakman’s move in late 2020 to establish a Parliamentary Joint Select Committee to examine coercive control. While precedents for legislating against coercive control exist in England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland and more locally, in Tasmania, it remains a complex area of law. 

Coercive control is a form of domestic abuse involving repeated patterns of abusive behaviour.

Coercive control is a form of domestic abuse involving repeated patterns of abusive behaviour.  This behaviour can include physical, sexual, psychological, emotional or financial abuse, and the combined effects rob victim-survivors of their autonomy and independence.  This abuse is all too often the precursor to intimate partner homicide in Australia.

Our work in developing and evaluating a range of domestic and family violence interventions demonstrates the essential learnings gained through talking to those interventions are designed to serve.

My colleague, Christina Bagot and I, recently reflected on our combined years conducting research and evaluation in the domestic and family violence space. We made several key observations, although one resonates particularly strongly for me this week, as NSW considers the development of legislation to prevent coercive control: the critical inclusion of the victim-survivor voice in our work.

While considerations of victim-safety must remain paramount, to ensure the risk of re-traumatisation is avoided, our work in developing and evaluating a range of domestic and family violence interventions demonstrates the essential learnings gained through talking to those interventions are designed to serve.  The adage ‘nothing about us without us’ rings strongly throughout so many areas of our work.  In the case of coercive control, where the abusive behaviours are often highly nuanced, understanding the specific nature, scope and impact of coercive control would be truly impossible for law-makers without the inclusion of the brave voices of victim-survivors. 

Fifty organisations and witnesses are due to give evidence before the hearings over the next few days.  Enormous respect and gratitude should be paid to those courageous victim-survivors and their families and friends, willing to share their stories to inform future legislation and protect the people of NSW. 

To learn more about the research and evaluation work that we do in this space, please reach out to our team.

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