Welcome to Sisters In Law, the weekly news.com.au column that solves all your legal problems. This week, our resident attorneys and sisters Alison and Jillian Barrett of Maurice Blackburn advise a woman on her legal rights regarding her husband’s coercive and controlling behavior.
Is there a control and coercion law in Australia? I have been with my husband for 15 years and he has never touched me but he runs my whole life. He didn’t want to let me have my own money and chased all my friends and family. I used to be outgoing and lively, but now I’m hardly allowed to leave the house. It monitors the messages on my phone and the GPS tracks me when I go out. I want to leave but I don’t have my own money and I don’t know how to get out. What are my legal rights? – Tracey, QLD
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What you describe Tracey sounds like coercive control, which is a form of domestic violence where the perpetrator, your husband in this case, uses a pattern of behavior to dominate and control his victim.
The abuser displays behaviors that micromanage and condition his victim to isolate himself from others and to depend on the abuser.
The examples you provided are all examples of coercive control.
The behavior is more subtle than other forms of abuse, but it can be just as harmful to the victim and cause significant fear.
You are not alone Tracey, it can happen to anyone and it can eventually erode a person’s autonomy and ability to get out of the situation.
Unfortunately, coercive control is not a crime in Australia other than partial coverage in Tasmania where there is coverage for psychological violence.
In your home state of Queensland, however, the government has made a commitment to criminalize coercive control, which is an important step, and has established an independent task force. He will report to the government with his recommendations later this year.
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Criminal law as it currently exists unfortunately has limited effectiveness in protecting you in circumstances where you are not physically harmed, threatened, intimidated, stalked, or your property is not damaged.
If you were in these circumstances, you would be able to report the behavior to the police who could press charges, and you could also apply for a domestic violence order that would prohibit your husband from behaving in a specific way.
While the police may not be able to lay criminal charges associated with coercive control, it is important that you know that there is support available to you, including specialist services that may be able to help you plan. a safe exit from the situation.
We strongly recommend that you contact a support group that specializes in domestic violence, such as DV Connect Womensline or White Ribbon Australia.
These organizations will be able to provide you with support, advice and recommendations tailored to your unique situation.
They can also help you create a safety plan. This will detail the ways in which you and your children stay safe while you are still living with your husband, while you are leaving the relationship, and after you have left it.
This plan will outline the practical steps to help you. He can also provide advice on how to communicate your situation to family and friends and how to cope emotionally.
You mentioned that you don’t have your own money, which is definitely something else to worry about and how to survive financially if you were to leave.
You need to understand that you have rights to property and marital property even if you have not earned any income throughout your marriage.
A family violence support group will also help you refer you to the right legal advice.
If you are ever in immediate danger, call triple-0.
This legal information is general in nature and should not be construed as specific legal advice or relied on. People requiring specific legal advice should consult a lawyer.