Experts in the Media

Jackie Fitzgerald –

Executive Director, Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research

Coercive control present in more than half of DV cases

Abusive coercion or control is present in more than half of all domestic violence cases in NSW.

And as rates of domestic abuse continue to rise, coercive control will become a criminal offence in the state from July 2024.

A study by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research released on Tuesday scanned police reports of 526,787 domestic violence-related events between January 2009 and March 2020.

It found in 57 per cent of events, at least one coercive control behaviour was reported, with property damage and theft, intimidation and threats, and verbal abuse being the three most common behaviours.

Threats of harm were involved in 10 per cent of incidents and six per cent contained a threat to kill.

A 2021 NSW parliamentary inquiry prompted laws against ongoing forms of coercive control such as social isolation or financial manipulation.

For a successful prosecution, it must be proven that someone engaged in repeated abusive behaviour, and that they intended to coerce or control.

It is hoped the new laws and other measures will improve awareness about the breadth of domestic violence behaviours, bureau executive director Jackie Fitzgerald said.

“Historically, physical assault has been the most common framing of domestic violence,” she said.

“But this really shows how limiting that is and the breadth of behaviours that contribute to domestic violence is really wide.”

Domestic violence-related assaults in NSW have increased by 13.5 per cent over the past five years, according to the bureau.

“What’s difficult for us to tell is how much of that is an increase in reporting of domestic violence, and how much is an increase in the actual prevalence or the occurrence of domestic violence,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

One of the aims of the study was to see if it is possible to predict which events of coercive control are followed by violence within a year.

It found while the method was effective at detecting coercive control, it did not measurably improve the ability to predict future domestic violence events.