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  • Writer's pictureDebbs Murray

Family Violence - Messages in a Minute - Coercive Control



Family violence is deeply complex, with layer upon layer of individual experiences of victimisation and perpetration of harm. Coercive control in the context of family violence can be physical and it can be non-physical, and risk of harm exists within both.


I am committed to supporting our family violence sector and our community to better understand what Coercive Control is, what if feels like, what it looks like, so that we can all better identify it when it is present.


Often (normally), Coercive Control is unseen, it is a series of behaviours that we refer to as patterns of Harm, that are perpetrated against primary victims in order to get some kind of expected response, and this is normally control of some sort over the primary victim.


In Aotearoa New Zealand we still measure risk based on physical injuries, and we always need to do this, but we also need to be exploring coercive control and recognising that many wounds are unseen, they are not visible. It may not be that there are multiple forms of coercive control, it could be that there is only one act, but it is perpetrated over and over again and therefore is a pattern of harm ie: a single threat of harm, a look, an action that immediately gains “active compliance” from the primary victim.


Coercive Control and family violence are known as ‘Liberty Crimes’ for they remove our ability to exist freely in our own worlds, our liberty is taken, our freedom is taken.


Often when Coercive Control occurs over and over, we begin to loss our sense of self, we feel that who we are is stripped away, and we can no longer be ourselves, or we may not even remember who and what we used to be like.


Primary victims are strong and courageous, but often they are entrapped by the violence they are being subjected to, and often it is too unsafe, or they are unable to reach out for support. But that doesn’t mean they do not want support. The more we understand, the more appropriately we can respond.


We have no legislation in Aotearoa New Zealand that criminalises coercive control – in particular non-physical violence. Unless there is a Protection Order, and most people do not have Protection Orders, and if they do it is not easy to gain conviction for a Breach of Protection Order for non-physical violence.

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