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Coercive Control

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At Gidget Foundation Australia our work focuses on the emotional wellbeing of expectant and new parents. This is a period of great complexity and often increased vulnerability regarding one’s mental health. However, statistics tell us that in the perinatal period, pregnant, young and indigenous women face a greater risk of experiencing domestic and family violence (DFV).

DFV occurs across all ages, socioeconomic and demographic groups but mainly affects women and children and is a major health issue that we at Gidget Foundation Australia see amongst our client group in all its different forms. In 2015–16, the financial cost of violence against women and their children in Australia was estimated at $22 billion (KPMG 2016).

Family and domestic violence can have far- reaching consequences and is important to understand. Coercive control is one aspect of this abuse.

Unfortunately, some believe that DFV must be visible to others for it to be defined as such, and for support to be justified. Some may feel that unless there is physical or sexual violence, they must endure the fear and emotional harm they experience, as it is less definable, less obvious or acknowledged by those in the outside world.

Did you know that violence of any kind, or cruel, degrading treatment is a violation of Australian, and the United Nations, declaration of human rights? However, a staggering 23% of females aged 18 and over, reported experiencing emotional abuse by a current or previous partner during their lifetime*.

Amongst the multitude of challenges, emotional abuse can be felt as an almost indescribable sense of constant terror. This leaves the victim of this behaviour even more isolated, and ultimately in the position that the perpetrator has been directing them toward – dependency, bereft of confidence and emotionally harmed.

Like most abuse, coercive control is an insidious form of abuse where one may find themselves at the behest of the perpetrators imposing control. Often exercised in a partner relationship, this ‘intimate terrorism’ (Johnson, 2008) is not a singular event. Rather, it is a repetition of behaviour that incites feelings of isolation, humiliation, denigration, subjugation, exploitation, and fear in the victim.

Coercive control may be exercised by a perpetrator toward their partner or co-parent, through repeated:

  • Put downs and insults
  • Erosion of their self-esteem or sense of independence
  • Isolating from family, friends or others
  • Threats of self-harm or threats of harm to children
  • Stalking (online, driving past, watching over work or social settings)
  • Controlling technology such as: tracking apps, monitoring activity, and reading messages, online banking, threatening use of social media to demean, discredit or shame
  • Gaslighting (mismatch between words and behaviour, invalidating their partner’s reality, lying)
  • Prohibiting access to medical or other services
  • Limiting access to or information about finances or not allowing employment
  • Obstructing choice around reproductive health and decision-making
  • Regulating and monitoring a partner’s daily activities (setting rules about housework, appearance, social contact, where they may go)

If you are in immediate danger, call 000 for Police and Ambulance help.

If this resonates for you personally, or in relation to a friend or family member, we encourage you to seek out specific support with the assistance of the following organisations:

1800 Respect

This is a 24-hour national sexual assault, family and domestic violence counselling line for any Australian who has experienced, or is at risk of, family and domestic violence and/or sexual assault. Call on 1800 737 732
Individuals can also access local support services and search the internet using Daisy, a free app developed by 1800RESPECT that protects
user privacy.

Relationships Australia

Relationships Australia (has a Quick Exit button located on bottom left of screen, as at time of this document being created). Call on 1800 737 732

Men's Referral Service

This service from No to Violence offers assistance, information and counselling to help men who use family violence. Call on 1300 766 491

Mensline Australia

Supports men and boys who are dealing with family and relationship difficulties. 24/7 telephone and online support an information service for Australian men. Call on 1300 789 978

Lifeline Australia

Anyone across Australia experiencing a personal crisis or thinking about suicide can call 13 11 14, or text 0477 13 11 14 at night (6pm-midnight AEDT). Someone will help put you in contact with a crisis service in your state or territory.

Need urgent help?

1300 726 306
Mon-Fri 9.00am to 7.30pm
Saturdays and PH 9:00am to 4:00pm


13 11 14
Helpline is open 24 hours/day

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