18 February 2021

Ms TRISH DOYLE (Blue Mountains) (16:37): Next week public hearings for the joint select committee examining coercive control will begin. As many members have heard in this House and across the nation in recent times this committee, and work on a national level, is examining coercive control and domestic relationships, including whether it should be criminalised. Coercive and controlling behaviour is a form of domestic abuse involving repeated patterns of physical, sexual, psychological, emotional or financial abuse. It is often a precursor to intimate partner homicide. I acknowledge some of the very difficult steps and component parts of this committee, those who are working on the committee and those who are contributing to that work. The evidence for the need to expand legislation to include coercive control is overwhelming and any changes will be long overdue. More than 130 submissions so far have been received by the joint select committee. They have come from individual victim-survivors, community groups, academics, researchers, frontline services, legal minds and non-government organisations.

I acknowledge and thank everyone who has taken the time to write submissions to the committee. I am a very proud deputy chair of this committee and the shadow Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence. It is tough work and a tough area in which to work. To all of those who have facts and who are trying to pull together words to explain their lived experience, or the need for legislators to focus on coercive control, I say that we appreciate their time and effort in making their submissions. I especially acknowledge the women who testified, who, in the past, have found themselves, or who currently find themselves, in situations of coercive control.

We know that coercive control may not leave physical scars, but it does leave deep and long‑lasting emotional and psychological scars. It is awful enough to have had to live this nightmare day in, day out, but to then recall such terrifying circumstances, to get it down on paper and submit it to a committee of people they do not know takes a special kind of strength. We know that they are doing that for the benefit of others and I commend them for that. They should know that their stories will be heard. I, for one, commit to listen without judgement, to bear witness to their experience and to take action. I will share the words of one victim-survivor who has made her submission publicly available:

I want to speak to shine a light on domestic violence and be a voice for women who cannot speak ... Some women are ashamed; some are worried that others won't believe them. I want to increase the awareness in the community about coercive control and dispel stigmas in the community around domestic violence, for example victim blaming from those in society who do not understand the complexities of domestic violence and situations women can find themselves in. I want the right to share my experience. ... It is important for me to continue to use my voice, my power, which was taken away from me when I was under the spell of coercive control.

Another victim-survivor shares in her powerful submission:

I wish that coercive control had been made a criminal offence before I became a victim of it because it might have saved me, my children and countless others from the path we ended up on. If coercive control was criminalised, we would be having the conversation of what is and isn't healthy in a relationship. There would be a much better understanding of the "red flags" of potential abuse and I and many others could have made the decision to walk away from a relationship much earlier on, before we became too embroiled and emotionally invested. If coercive control had been a crime, I might not have believed I was mentally ill, or overreacting, or paranoid, or imagining things, or that my mind was playing tricks on me ... I would have realised that he was deliberately manipulating my reality. If coercive control had been a crime, my children might not have watched me be carried on a stretcher and rushed to hospital in an ambulance.

I thank those voices. My aim, and that of other committee members, is to hear the views from a wide range of voices and undertake thoughtful deliberations to ensure the very best outcome—gold standard legislation to criminalise coercive controlling behaviour.