Published: 14 December 2020

This year has been a challenging one in so many ways. Pressure on our relationships from family, to friends and colleagues, has been profound. For some, it has also heightened the risk and/or seriousness of family violence and abuse. Christmas, while a lovely family time for many, can be a time of great stress and heightened risk for those in abusive relationships.

Tasmania has been a leader in criminalising many manifestations of family violence beyond physical acts, recognising the infliction of psychological harm as a core feature of family violence. Coercive control refers to a pattern of controlling behaviours that create an unequal power dynamic, giving the perpetrator power over their partner, making it difficult for them to leave.

Tasmanian law recognises:

- economic abuse, demonstrated by one person controlling another's access to money or resources thus creating financial dependency;
- emotional abuse, including verbal abuse and constant criticism, intimidation, stalking and harassment.
- physical abuse, of the victim or other person close to them or a pet;
- damage to property; and
- breaching any existing orders relating to family violence.

Coercive controllers will constantly blame and criticise their partner, from how they dress to how they care for the children and home, undermining their confidence. Over time victims begin to doubt themselves, become more anxious and less confident, feel they are always wrong and all problems, including the perpetrators behaviour, are their fault. This results in a life of continuous apologies by the victim.

Coercive controllers isolate their partner from family and friends, initially often subtly. They demand constant attention, are moody and jealous, frequently change the 'rules' and make victims feel they are 'walking on eggshells'.

They underplay and lie about their partners' experiences and suggest they are imagining things, causing victims to distrust their own memory.

Over Christmas and the holiday period, let us all be alert to these forms of abuse and acknowledge that this is a time of heightened risk and be available to assist if needed, without judgment.

For those seeking help, the Family Violence Counselling and Support Service is available on 1800 608 122. Telephone and online counselling is available at 1800 RESPECT or by calling 1800 737 732

The Advocate, Monday 14 December 2020

Go Back