Coercive control

  • Behn & Ziomek [2019] FamCA 298 (10 May 2019) – Family Court of Australia

    McClelland DCJ recognized that the father was using repeated litigation in a way that amounted to coercive and controlling conduct:

    [245] Additionally, I find that the manner in which the father has conducted himself throughout this litigation amounts to coercive and controlling conduct as against the mother. As set out above and annexed to these Reasons for Judgment, the father has brought an excessive number of interim applications, including two Contravention Applications. In that regard, during cross-examination, Ms O gave the following evidence:

    Question: … Would you suggest that, should the Court reinstate a regime whereby the father spends time with the child, that the father will continue to do such things as use the Court system to control the mother?

    Answer: That’s another very common feature of perpetrators of coercive controlling family violence. Yes. Continued litigation. And that in turn has a negative impact not just on the other parties but on the children obviously because coming before – having to be interviewed by someone like me over and over again or the ICL, or whomever it is, is an incredibly stressful experience for children.

    [246] It was not disputed that in the period between 19 April 2016 and 10 May 2016, at the request of the father, the Police attended the mother’s home on seven occasions to conduct welfare checks on the child. I am also satisfied that the father acted in a coercive and controlling manner by requesting that the Police conduct such a number of unnecessary welfare checks on the child.

    [247] I am further satisfied that the father has sought to exercise control over the mother by dictating to her the appropriate medical treatment for the child and when the child should commence school. I set out the evidence relevant to that issue below.
  • Maluka & Maluka [2009] FamCA 647 (24 July 2009) – Family Court of Australia

    In this case Benjamin J made several comments about coercive control:

    [396] In many ways the facts as between the parties that I have determined in this case fit most, if not all, of the indicators of coercive controlling violence. The father has used coercion, control, violence, intimidation and threats throughout the relationship, including after separation. He seeks to intimidate and control the mother with the attendant violence, abuse, isolation and aggression. From time to time he focuses this on the children. He dominates and controls the children, particularly X, but his behaviour with regard to Y and her reaction to his verbal abuse of her in June 2008 is indicative of his continuing coercive controlling violence.

    [397 The father exercised economic power to control and manipulate the mother and effectively the children. He endeavoured to isolate mother and in effect continues to do so. In that process he denies or minimises his involvement and culpability.

    [399] The effect of that long term violence, control and manipulation imposed by the father on the mother has from time to time undermined the mother’s parental authority and undermined her parenting role…
  • R v Smith [2021] ACTSC 114 (3 June 2021) – Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court

    Mossop J observed:

    [25] The sexual intercourse without consent is constituted by the digital penetration of the complainant’s vagina. This is a case in which the sexual intercourse can properly be described as an act of sexual violence. There is nothing which suggests that the act was performed for the purposes of sexual gratification. Rather, it was an assault designed to degrade the victim and formed part of a pattern of demeaning and controlling behaviour on the part of the offender. That demeaning and controlling behaviour is an important part of the context in which the offence occurred.
  • R v Brown [2015] ACTSC 65 (5 March 2015) – Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court

    Burns J at [4]-[5]: Burns J accepted the opinions and statements he quoted from clinical psychologist, Dr Michael Barry’s report. Dr Barry said: ‘At the time of the offence, Miss Brown had been in an emotionally and physically abusive relationship for over two years. She described a gradual deterioration in her mental health, reporting low self-worth and feeling overwhelmed, feeling that she did not “fit in anywhere” and she described a “sense of loss in the world”. She reported that despite Mr Ruspandini’s treatment of her, she felt that he was the only one who she could rely on.

    Domestic violence and emotional abuse are behaviours used by one person in a relationship to control the other. Research into the cycle of domestic violence suggests that it is common for victims of domestic violence to blame themselves for the abuse and to experience major disruption in their self and world view. Domestic abuse can have a serious impact on the way a person thinks and interacts with the world around them. The chronic exposure to violence, or the threat of violence, and the stress and fear resulting from this exposure, can cause not only immediate physical injury, but also mental shifts that occur as the mind attempts to process trauma or protect the body.

    Domestic violence affects a person’s thoughts, feeling and behaviours, and can significantly impact on mental stability. While the effects of physical abuse are obvious, the effects of emotional abuse are easier to hide and harder to repair. It is common for victims of emotional abuse to blame themselves and minimise their abuse, particularly when they are repeatedly told that it is their fault that their partner becomes angry or aggressive’.
  • R v Hamid [2006] NSWCCA 302 (20 September 2006) – New South Wales Court of Criminal Appeal

    Johnson J: ‘An adequate account of domestic violence should recognise that it typically involves the exercise of power and control over the victim, is commonly recurrent, may escalate over time, may affect a number of people beyond the primary target (including children, other family members and supporters of the victim) and that it contributes to the subordination of women; domestic violence typically involves the violation of trust by someone with whom the victim shares, or has shared, an intimate relationship; the offender may no longer need to resort to violence in order to instil fear and control: J Stubbs, “Restorative Justice, Domestic Violence and Family Violence”, Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearing House, Issues Paper 9, 2004, pp 6–7’ ([77]).

    [403] I am satisfied that the father represents a real danger to the mother and the children of continuing his coercive controlling violence and that the mother ought to have the ability to bring up these children free of that behaviour and its consequential fear and the children ought to be able to escape the direct and indirect consequences of that behaviour and the actuality of that behaviour by the father.
  • R v Aumash [2020] NSWDC 168 (1 May 2020) – New South Wales District Court

    Haesler SC DCJ observed:

    “In earlier messages Aumash had sought to control, threaten, and demean Ms White. His intention this day was clear. It was part of a pattern of behaviour. He also sought to cajole her into dropping the charges and excusing his criminal actions toward her. I can infer from those facts that the messages were similar in content to those sent on other days. That conclusion can be drawn beyond reasonable doubt.

    The extent of his harassment and the motivation for his actions this day make this a particularly serious example of offences of this type. It requires a custodial sentence: s17 Crimes Act 1914 (Cth).” [33]-[34]
  • R v Ritter [2016] SASCFC 88 (16 August 2016) – South Australia Supreme Court (Full Court)
    Parker J at [17]-[21]: ‘At the time of the offending the appellant and the victim had been in a relationship for approximately two years. His behaviour towards her was violent and controlling. About one month into the relationship the appellant began verbally abusing the victim. This progressed to physical abuse occurring about twice each week. By the last year of the relationship the frequency of assaults had escalated to the point where the appellant was assaulting the victim on a daily basis. The assaults included punching, slapping, kicking, throwing items and spitting. When the victim was threatened or attacked by the appellant she would try to leave their flat, often running into nearby streets and parks and attempting to hide. The appellant would frequently chase her or track her down in order to continue his abuse. The appellant monitored the victim’s movements and rarely let her leave the house without him. He also controlled her finances, regularly forcing her to withdraw money from her account for his benefit, including so that he could buy drugs and alcohol. The appellant regularly threatened that if the victim reported any abuse to the police or left the relationship he would harm her and her children. She was too frightened to leave or to report the abuse to police, friends and family’.
  • Baker (a pseudonym) v The Queen [2021] VSCA 158 (9 June 2021) – Victorian Court of Appeal

    McLeish and Osborn JJA observed:

    36 Moreover, this offending involved aggravating features which distinguish it from offending of less seriousness. It took place in the context of a history of violence, manipulation and coercion against Ms Anderson and involved an attempt to pervert the course of justice in respect of his own serious offending. That serves to make the attempt itself more serious. Further, the offending had the especially unpleasant features of seeking to exploit Ms Anderson’s emotional and psychological vulnerability by threatening her ability to access the ashes of her stillborn child and also threatening her dignity and right to privacy with the exposure of intimate images.

    37 An attempt by a perpetrator of family violence to prevent a victim from seeking the full protection of the law and their physical and emotional safety is a very serious matter which calls for general deterrence and denunciation….

    40 … Charge 8 involved repeated attempts by the applicant to conceal his wrongdoing over the previous 18 months, by means of emotional and physical threats directed at Ms Anderson. It was distinct offending that called for significant additional punishment.
  • Mercer (a pseudonym) v The Queen [2021] VSCA 132 (14 May 2021) – Victorian Court of Appeal

    The court made the following observations relevant to coercive control at [64]-[65]:

    “In our view, the answer to the applicant’s contention regarding the ‘attempt to pervert’ sentence is to be found in the judge’s sentencing reasons. As noted earlier, her Honour said:

    You attempted to persuade a victim to withdraw her allegation to police. This is reprehensible – it was motivated by your self-interest and need for control. While it was unaccompanied by threats or violence, it was protracted and repeated and it preyed upon [the complainant’s] vulnerabilities. And of course it was also committed in breach of your intervention order, which was also unsuccessful in preventing you from continuing to control [her].

    In our view, the applicant’s persistent and cynical assertion of control over the complainant, and his exploitation of her known vulnerabilities, made this case just as serious as if there had been explicit threats or actual violence. The transcripts of the calls make plain his exertion of coercive psychological pressure on her, encouraging her to think that they can ‘work things out’ between them and asking questions like ‘Do you want me to get out or not?’ The fact that the conduct about which he was asking her to lie involved his own criminal violence against her was a further aggravating feature. In our view, the applicant’s moral culpability for this offence was high.
  • Pasinis v The Queen [2014] VSCA 97 (22 May 2014) – Victorian Court of Appeal

    Neave JA and Kyrou AJA observed:

    [54] The effects of family violence are now well documented. They are not confined to physical injury. Victims often feel responsible for the violence and ashamed that they were not able to prevent the perpetrator from offending. As occurred in this case, it is common for victims to deny or conceal that their partners have assaulted them until the violence becomes unbearable. This phenomenon was reflected in the behaviour of D, which is described at [5] and [8] to [10] above. Victims who have been dominated, controlled and beaten by their partners over a significant period experience serious and longlasting psychological trauma. As in the present case, the physical effects of the violence and its erosion of the victim’s confidence can also affect their ability to participate in paid work and have [43] [o]ther serious financial effects.