The power in understanding patterns of coercive control

The power in understanding patterns of coercive control

Heather Nancarrow, Hayley Boxall, Emma Rogers and Jackie Wruck
23 June 2021

This webinar explored how services can support women to describe the impacts of coercive control and respond to their partner’s behaviours.

Woman on the phone sitting on the ground against a wall with her head in her palm.

Audio transcript: The power in understanding patterns of coercive control

DR NANCARROW: Hello everyone. On behalf of AIFS, ANROWS and the Australian Institute of Criminology I would like to welcome you to today's webinar, The Power in Understanding Patterns of Coercive Control. I'm Dr Heather Nancarrow, CEO of ANROWS. Wherever we are today we are on unseeded Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lands. I'm speaking to you today from the lands of the Yuggera and Turrbal peoples. I acknowledge the traditional owners of these lands and the lands across Australia from which we come together today for this important discussion. On behalf of our webinar presenters I pay respects to Elders past, present and emerging and I acknowledge and pay respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are participating in this webinar.

Coercive control may be a term you are familiar with or perhaps you've only recently heard about it. However, for decades the concept of coercive control or patriarchal power and control has underpinned feminist advocacy for a wide range of responses to address intimate partner abuse.

Recently discussions about coercive control have focused on the introduction of a criminal offence, however, this webinar is not the focus – sorry, this is not the focus of today's webinar. Today we plan to unpack the definition of coercive control, examine prevalence particularly during COVID-19 and discuss how to enhance service and practice responses to coercive control.

Let me now introduce you to our esteemed presenters. First, we have Hayley Boxall, research manager, Violence Against Women and Children program at the Australian Institute of Criminology. Hayley has published extensively in the areas of domestic, family and sexual violence and child abuse and neglect with a primary focus on the offending and reoffending patterns of domestic family and sexual violence offenders. The impact of natural disasters on domestic, family and sexual violence and adolescent family violence and domestic violence among many other aspects of her work. I should say and domestic violence desistance processes importantly which has been a more recent focus of Hayley's work. Hayley will draw on her recent research and discuss the prevalence of coercive control across Australia.

To follow Hayley we have a pre-recorded video that features practical suggestions about engaging with and supporting women to describe and expose patterns of controlling behaviour. This will be presented by Emma and Jackie. Emma has 25 years of experience working in the social work field in Australia and in the UK in the areas of domestic and family violence in women's refugees, mental health, youth homelessness, asylum seeker support and child protection.

Emma currently works for the Queensland Government Department of Child Safety, Youth Justice and Multicultural Affairs as the acting principal program officer with the Walking with Dads program. For the past four years she has developed and worked in this innovative program. It has a strong partnering foundation with mothers and children to create interventions for fathers who use violence, to hold them accountable and responsible for their destruction behaviours, to increase safety and wellbeing for families. Emma is also a certified Safe & Together certified trainer.

Jackie Wruck is a proud Aboriginal Yidinji woman from Far North Queensland in the Yarrabah region and is a crisis practitioner at the Centre Against Domestic Abuse. Jackie's own experience of domestic and family violence led to her becoming a certified Safe & Together trainer. Jackie previously worked as a cultural adviser for the Walking with Dads program that works with and walks with fathers who have perpetrated violence in their families. Emma and Jackie will join us live after the presentations for a Q&A session.

So what is coercive control? What exactly are we talking about today? So I wanted to introduce the topic by describing, to some extent, what coercive control is and what it's not because unfortunately it's become, in some quarters, potentially synonymous with nonphysical forms of behaviour. So it's important to understand that coercive control is a context for various tactics of abuse.

Now those tactics may be physical violence or may be nonphysical forms of abuse and they might be very subtle ways of dominating and controlling a partner. They might not be actions that would be obvious to others as a form of abuse or they might not even be obvious to others as signalling something to dominate, to control the actions of the other person.

Essentially as Evan Stark describes it patriarchal coercive control is about removing the – it's an attack on autonomy, equality and liberty. So it's about removing personhood from the other person and internationally the clinical research shows that it's all – coercive control is almost exclusively perpetrated by men against intimate female partners but it also occurs in other family contexts. It is very much associated with patriarchal contexts of power and control and male dominance over females in personal relationships.

So one of the things that it's important to recognise is that all of the work that we do in the domestic and family violence field particularly in Australia as elsewhere, is premised on the concept of power and control. So back in the day, in the early 1980s when a range of strategies were being developed, including domestic violence law but also you know, practice and response and education work, that was all premised on an understanding of power and control and largely the work was informed by the work of Ellen Pence and Michael Paymar who developed the power and control wheel.

On that wheel the range of strategies of abuse or tactics of abuse that are described including nonphysical forms of abuse such as social isolation, intimidation, harassment, using male privilege, making all the big decisions, controlling the finances and belittling and emotionally abusing a partner and as I said, Evan Stark refers to it and we're now having, you know, more discussion about the concept of coercive control. It really is about those tactics are designed to control the life of the other person and make that other person mentally, socially, physically dependent on the perpetrator in order that they are the one who has control over that person's life.

So I think that's probably enough of a discussion about that and you'll certainly hear some more about this from Hayley and Jackie and Emma as we go through the presentation.

So over the past 18 months Hayley has led research published by the Australian Institute of Criminology which examined the experiences of coercive control among Australian women including during the COVID-19 pandemic. An extension of this research was funded by ANROWS under the Fourth Action Plan. ANROWS receives that funding from the Commonwealth Government Department of Social Services.

If like Hayley you are working on external projects addressing violence against women you can submit your project to ANROWS as Register of Active Research otherwise known RAR and it's really important that we ensure that there's a comprehensive centralised database which is available on the ANROWS website to make publicly available what research is currently underway in the violence against women area and what evidence gaps remain. This is a particularly important complementary resource for Australia's National Research Agenda to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children which was developed by and published by ANROWS last year.

So today Hayley will share with us the results of her research about the prevalence of coercive control in Australia and I'd like now very much to handover to you, Hayley and thank you for your presentation that we're about to hear.

MS BOXALL: Thanks, Heather. So as Heather said, I've been asked to speak to you today about the AIC's research which has looked at understanding the prevalence of different types of intimate partner abuse in Australia and in particular coercive control. However, I kind of wanted to start by taking a little bit of a sojourn which people who know me and have seen me present previously know that I tend to do because I want to begin by talking a little bit about how we measure coercive control because I think that some of the lessons we have learned from research will probably resonate with the practitioners here today.

So measuring the prevalence of coercive control in any kind of population particularly at a national level, is really difficult. This is because the behaviours and the language are actually pretty new. So as Heather kind of said, we've talked about patriarchal powers and we've talked about power and control and domination but coercive control as a term is relatively new. So it could be problematic if you simply ask someone, 'Have you experienced coercive control?', and expect that they will understand.

Even when someone does have the language one of the features of coercive control is gaslighting. So convincing someone that their worldview is wrong and imposing their own worldview on them. So I have spoken to women as part of my research who have worked in the gender based violence sector as advocates and practitioners who themselves did not recognise that they were experiencing coercive control. Instead they thought that their partner was simply difficult or jealous.

So many women who experience coercive control talk about feeling like they're in a washing machine or that they're being constantly dumped by waves in the surf and they don't know what their reference point is. They don't know where the surface is. So in these kind of contexts in can be really difficult for women to identify a pattern of abusive behaviour.

So coercive control can be difficult to identify and difficult to name particularly by women who are still in the midst of it and are being told that they are the ones who are crazy, they are the ones who are in the wrong and they are the ones being unreasonable. However, we also need to recognise that labels can be terrifying. No one wants to believe that they are being abused by someone that they love, no one wants to believe that their lives are in danger and no one wants to believe that they are the case they heard about on the news.

So when we ask someone, 'Are you experiencing coercive control or domestic violence?', we run the risk of people denying and minimising because they do not identify with that label. So when we are attempting to measure the prevalence of coercive control the approach that most researchers take is to ask people whether they have experienced certain behaviours without explicitly labelling it as inherently violent and abusive. This reduces the burden on individuals to have the language to talk about what's happening or to recognise it as abusive.

So this checklist approach asks people about their experiences of things like being refused access to household necessities like the phone, being belittled and put down, stalking and so on and so forth. Then if they score enough of these behaviours they are believed or classified as potentially experiencing coercive control.

So of course, there are issues with any kind of checklist approach. First and foremost, as Heather pointed out, coercive control is about impact and it can be incredibly specific to the relationship. So a kiss on the cheek in one relationship is loving, in another it can be threatening. However, this approach can be really helpful for bypassing the language that can be confronting or not understandable and also create a pathway to assist women to themselves recognise the patterns or behaviours.

So a way of illustrating this is, one woman I spoke to as part of a research project had experienced coercive control throughout her relationship, primarily in the form of gaslighting and social isolation. However, many of these behaviours went under the guise of it's the best thing for the children if we move to a remote location where they have more space, if you home school them, if you limit their contact with your family because they're a bad influence. It was only after 20 years when they divorced when a court ordered mediator was observing his behaviours at the conference table and their impact on her that they slid over a pamphlet with a checklist. She ticked all of them and had a lightbulb moment. She said, it was like she had been physically ill for ages and had been given a diagnosis.

So the point I'm driving at is, is that when we are trying to detect the presence of coercive control in research and practitioner settings checklists can be a helpful if an imperfect tool for doing this.

So now to actually answer the question that I was actually asked to answer. So how prevalent is coercive control and frustratingly the answer is it depends. It depends on the population, it depends on the measure and it depends on the people who are responding to the research.

Let's start with one population, the Australian female community. So in 2020 the AIC administered a survey to 15,000 Australian women about their experiences of intimate partner violence in the first three months of the COIVD-19 pandemic. We asked about physical and sexual forms of violence as well as nonphysical forms of abuse, like threats, interfering with relationships, monitoring of behaviours and so on and so forth. As a very basic measure of coercive control we said that if someone experienced three or more nonphysical forms of abuse we believed that they were likely to be experiencing coercive control.

Of our 15,000 sample what we found is that about one in 20 women said that they had experienced coercive control and this increased to one in 10 among women who had been in a relationship in the last 12 months. Critically, among women who reported any experiences of domestic violence in the last three months 46 per cent said that they had experienced coercive control. So what we're seeing is that coercive control is a very common feature of women who experience any form of violence or abuse within their relationships.

So what does coercive control look like when we talk about the experiences of women and of course, it could be completely specific to the relationship and it might not be covered by the kind of checklists that we used but I think grouping the behaviours is really helpful for talking about what coercive control can look like.

So 73 per cent of women who said that they had experienced coercive control reported that their partner had been jealous or suspicious of their friends or family members. So this includes things like accusing them of having affairs, telling them that their friends and family members don't like them and things like that. So 67 per cent of women said their partner had emotionally abused or threatened them on a frequent basis. So this includes belittling, verbal abuse and those kinds of things.

Two in three women, so 65 per cent said that their partner had monitored their time or whereabouts. So this could include things like interrogating them when they came home and to ask them where had they been and who had they been with, to more sophisticated kind of forms of technology facilitated stalking and abuse. So hacking into their emails and things like that. Fifty six per cent reported that they had experienced financial abuse and 54 per cent reported that they had interfered with their relationships with family and friends.

So at the moment what I'm describing are women who had experienced nonphysical forms of coercive control. However, we do know that physical and sexual violence can form part of a pattern of controlling behaviours which has the designed impact the, I guess, wanted impact of controlling women's autonomy and isolating them and reducing their help seeking networks.

So about one in two women who had experienced nonphysical forms of coercive control had also experienced physical violence, so things like pushing, slapping and hitting in the last three months. However, when we look at those women in more detail it's really important that we identify that amongst women who are experiencing coercive control they were much more likely to experience really quite significant forms of physical violence compared with other people who weren't experiencing coercive control. So for example, 27 per cent of women said that they had been choked, strangled or grabbed around the throat in the last three months.

So I find these findings really concerning considering that we know that coercive control and things like non-fatal strangulation and sexual violence of which 30 per cent of the women who experience coercive control reported that they had been sexually assaulted by their partner are, I guess, key factors, risk factors for intimate partner homicide. So what we're seeing is that for a number of women who are experiencing coercive control they're also experiencing other forms of violence which may lead to lethal homicide.

So looking at these figures, so one in 20 women overall experience coercive control. That increased to one in 10 among women who had been in a relationship in the last 12 months. I mean this is really high. I mean we can't compare with the PSS. We don't really have anything, I guess, a baseline against which we can compare but we do know that as part of the most recent personal safety survey that 5.4 per cent of women said that they had been emotionally abused by their partner.

However, what we need to recognise is that like any other form of domestic violence coercive control is not a static kind of phenomena. It changes in nature over time and at different points. So research has shown that particular events are likely to lead to an increase in controlling behaviours. So this includes things like natural disasters, pregnancy and birth of children, problems in the family and problems for the perpetrator specifically.

What we have certainly found is that risk of experiencing coercive control is concentrated within particular communities in Australia. So what this means is that the risk of coercive control is not evenly distributed. So research that we conducted found that the odds of experiencing coercive control was three times higher for women with a long term restricted health conditions than those that did not. The odds of experiencing coercive control were five times higher for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women compared to nonindigenous women and the odds of experiencing coercive control is 2.5 times higher for pregnant women that for women who were not pregnant and the odds of experiencing coercive control are 1.4 times higher for women from non-English speaking backgrounds compared to English speaking backgrounds.

We also identified a strong, a really strong positive relationship between financial stress and coercive control. So the more financially stressed you are the more likely you are to report experiences of coercive control. However, financial stress can be an outcome of coercive control, in particular if those forms of coercive control are about you're not allowed to get employment or your money is my money and other forms of financially abusive behaviours. So we can't say that financial stress leads to coercive control. I think that relationship is really complicated and it's something that we're unpacking at AIC as part of future research.

So what I want to kind of leave you with is, if I leave you with anything, my core kind of, I guess, points to take home are one, checklists can be really helpful for not only measuring the presence and prevalence of coercive control but also providing women with aha moments where they are given a diagnosis for the behaviours they may been experiencing for decades.

Two, community estimates suggest that one in 20 women have experienced coercive control in the past three months and one in 10 women who have been in a relationship in the last 12 months reported experiencing coercive control but that risk of coercive control is concentrated. It's not evenly distributed across the Australian community.

Right. So that's enough from me. So now we have a prerecorded presentation and roleplay created by Emma Rogers and Jackie Wruck. Both Emma and Jackie will be with us live after for the Q&A. So just give us a little bit of time to get the roleplay up and running. There's nothing wrong. It just takes a little bit of time to get up.

MS WRUCK: Right. Hi everyone. Emma and I are back again in our sort of third webinar to talk about how to work with adult and child survivors and with their fathers and stepfathers who hurt and harmed their families. So we'll be discussing the practice of talking about coercive and controlling behaviours with survivors and how we listened to them to expose the perpetrator's behaviours, understand how his behaviours actually impact the family and we will discuss why it is important to understand not just the pattern of behaviour but also its impacts as well.

So as you can see from Emma's very artistic demonstration there where it's about understanding coercive control and how it equals understanding his patterns of behaviours and the impacts of his pattern on Mum and the kids' safety and their wellbeing.

This is more than just DV risk assessment. In the sector we often use DV risk assessment to understand his behaviours and his perpetrating against the survivor which gives us an assessment of risk to be able to safely plan around the pattern of coercive control.

Our framework for practice is actually the Safe & Together and you may have heard us talk about Safe & Together in previous webinars. So Safe & Together actually uses the perpetrator pattern based approach and that is survivor led and it's focused on all the ways that his perpetrating behaviours impact the children and the family functioning and mother's parenting. So Safe & Together actually developed a mapping tool that we used to list all of his behaviours and the multiple ways he harms the kids and the family functioning.

MS ROGERS: So exposing his coercive and controlling behaviours leads us to understand his level of dangerousness, how his behaviours impact the mother and children's safety, their wellbeing and their stability and leads us to explore what Mum is doing to manage and mitigate his behaviours and impacts to continue to care for and keep the children safe and well.

Often understanding behaviours is understanding all of the little things he does. Such as undermining her parenting, making it hard for her to leave the house without him, taking the car when she needs it, changing the kids contact times, when she questions him he makes her look stupid. These are all the little things that can together add up and have a big impact on her.

When we understand what she is doing in the context of his behaviours to keep the kids safe and provide for their stability, their nurturance and recovery we understand her safety plan and we can then support this safety plan and not undermine it as practitioners. We can also work towards enhancing the safety plan with her.

So similar to looking at his behaviours we look at all the things she is doing to protect and nurture the kids and mitigate his behaviours. Like telling them she loves them, that it'll be okay, tucking them in at night, reading to them, checking in on them, letting them go over to family members, making their favourite meal, keeping routine and drawing attention to herself away from the kids. All of these things can have a big impact on their safety and stability and their recovery.

Also critically important, if we understand his pattern or behaviour and all the ways he impacts the kids we can discuss with Mum how we, as practitioners and the system, can intervene with him to reduce the risk he poses to the family and the impacts and increase safety and wellbeing for them. So understanding the impacts, which is the harm, means it's much easier for us to focus on goals with the perpetrator on how we can improve safety and wellbeing and stability for the family.

For instance, in our previous webinar we used an example of him improving the social outcomes for his kids. You know, if he stopped the property damage to the family home then the kids could bring friends over because they were too embarrassed to bring friends over. It's this detail that can often motivate fathers to stop and think about his specific behaviours and impacts.

So detailing the behaviours and all of his harm to the kids means we can hold him accountable for it. Having a broader assessment framework with the impacts means we can draw from this to motivate fathers and stepfathers and assist him to connect his behaviours to the harm to the kids.

So understanding his pattern of coercive control and the impact which is the harm it causes assists us in knowing his level of dangerousness, what her safety plan is and give us goals to hold him accountable for.

MS WRUCK: So what's the most unbearable thing he does? What's the most restrictive or the most frightening or stressful? What does he do that impacts the kids the most? There's a range of questions which we can ask that lead us to the behaviours and impacts and we've picked a few of them out from ones that we have learned from other practitioners and mainly from how survivors and the kids are talking about his behaviours and the harm he is causing.

So our point is that we don't want to speak in an intimating language but in a way that she and the children can relate to. They want us to understand their reality of experiencing the perpetrator's behaviours and how it impacts them. So whenever we can I think we should use the survivor's language.

MS ROGERS: Yeah. Well in child safety we have in the past and you know, I still sometimes today hear practitioners state we have to educate Mum on domestic violence and coercive control so she gets it but instead it's us that needs to learn from her what coercive and controlling behaviours he perpetrates on her and the kids and how they impact her and the kids' lives and how she wants us to help. So it's us that needs to learn of her and of course, we know it's the perpetrator who needs educating about his impacts of his behaviours so you know, he can work towards stopping them.

Sometimes what we think is most harmful or most stressful or most unbearable is different to what her and the kids believe it is. Our role is not just to assess the harm on the DV risk assessment but expose all of his behaviours and expose all of the harm. To give the survivors space so she can unpack all of his behaviours and the many impacts on her and the kids. We thought we'd demonstrate how we would talk to survivors, not just about the behaviours but the impacts too. So take it away, Jackie.

MS WRUCK: Emma, I'm here to talk about your partner's behaviours and the impacts on you and the kids. Can we start with what he does which is most unbearable for you?

MS ROGERS: Well there are many things, you know, that he does that are really difficult but what I find the most unbearable is that he is constantly checking up on me. Calling me, wanting to know where I am, what I'm doing, who I'm with, it's just relentless.

MS WRUCK: How often would he do this?

MS ROGERS: I think probably on average he calls me about 50 times a day.

MS WRUCK: Oh wow, that sounds really stressful and how does that impact your life?

MS ROGERS: Well I've lost my job before because of it, because of what he does and now even he interrupts my work so much it's noticed by my supervisor. I'm exhausted mentally from it. You know, I'm on edge, I'm anxious. If I don't answer his calls he – you know, when I get home he verbally abuses me and then kids hear it. So I try to answer his calls whenever I can.

MS WRUCK: M'mm. Like how does that impact you especially if you don't work?

MS ROGERS: Oh well my husband doesn't work so we rely on my income. So when I lost my job I couldn't pay for petrol to get my son to soccer practice and he missed out on a birthday party. Like it's embarrassing and it's bad for my son. He was really disappointed he couldn't do the things that he loves.

MS WRUCK: How does this impact the kids?

MS ROGERS: Well now he's checking up on my teenage daughter too and she hates him for it and she keeps away from him because he's constantly checking up on her.

MS WRUCK: How does that impact her?

MS ROGERS: Well she still loves but she says she hates him as well and she stays in her room all the time away from him and then she's away from me too. So it impacts my relationship with her.

MS WRUCK: Absolutely. So how does that impact your son?

MS ROGERS: Well he sort of blames me. He says to me why don't I just answer his call and make Dad feel better and then I feel bad for my son because he's in the middle.

MS WRUCK: Yeah. Is there anything that you do that would make him feel better about that?

MS ROGERS: Well he could just – you know, it would be good if Dad just stopped it. You know, but I do, I check in with my son and you know, we usually do this at night when it's quiet and you know, I make sure he's okay.

MS WRUCK: In that short example you can see here from the roleplay that sort of asking these questions that she can relate to will probably lead you to understanding what he does that impacts the family functioning and causes harm to the kids.

MS ROGERS: Yes, this is how we learn from her how to intervene with him and knowing this detail means we can hold him accountable. So before we speak with him we always take the survivor's lead, including the kids, about what we will talk to him about and how. In a previous webinar we roleplayed this, how we work with Mum to do this. So you can always check that out.

So hopefully these simple questions we just demonstrated will assist you to partner with Mum and with the kids too because these are the same sorts of questions we can ask kids, obviously with Mum's permission and being age appropriate.

Another thing to remember when asking about the kids, did he use the kids against her in any way? If so, what does that look like? You know, does he undermine her as a parent? Does he encourage the kids to undermine her and abuse her? So that's another part of it too that's important to find out.

MS WRUCK: Why do we have trouble identifying his coercive and controlling behaviours and impacts? And again, you can see Emma's very clear sort of stick drawing showing the mother sort of lips tight and tight lipped and minimising the abuse. We use the word 'minimising' as we hear often, too often. So if I had dollar for every time sort of I heard a practitioner say, 'minimising' to me over the years I think I'd be a millionaire by now.

MS ROGERS: Yeah.

MS WRUCK: So you can see here on the PowerPoint slide in red, when we use the word 'minimising' this is how it often ends up in reports. 'So Mum is minimising the violence and has no insight to the abuse and therefore cannot protect the children.' So this actually demonstrates how our views and bias about Mum and us not pivoting to the perpetrator and his behaviours often leads us to oppressive practice and destructive documentation which leads us to not understanding his pattern of coercive control and how he harms the family.

MS ROGERS: Yeah and what is interesting is when we say 'minimising' often we are speaking in the context that Mum is the problem not the perpetrator. Not our engagement skills or the system that she might not have confidence in. What we see in practice in documentation is the belief that we need to educate Mum on domestic violence and coercive control rather than focusing on the perpetrator and his pattern of behaviour that is causing the harm and often stopping Mum from talking with us and holding him accountable.

Of course, there are many reasons why women don't disclose due to feelings of shame, anxiety, cultural barriers, poor experiences before with practitioners and the system and them not, the practitioners not assisting them increasing safety. Also survivors feeling judged by practitioners. They have the fear that their children will be removed. The fear of the perpetrator is a big one obviously. Perpetrator has threatened Mum. Also threatened too with child safety and Family Law Courts to take the kids off her and sometimes survivors are scared of what we are going to talk to him about as we could make it worse for them.

When we understand that there are solid reasons why Mum is minimising we engage in a different way and we listen better to pick up the clues of what might be the barriers so we can work through them and partner with her.

MS WRUCK: Yeah and Emma, for some Aboriginal women like she can be worried that the practitioners are actually trying to exclude Dad from the family and that's not what many Aboriginal or even non-indigenous women and mothers want. They don't want us to totalise him by his abuse and we do not see the importance or benefits of what he brings to the family and also the community. So engaging and being an ally with her is what Safe & Together call partnering.

So when there is a good partnership and we are an ally we notice that the survivor feels comfortable in sharing the behaviours and impacts and she will explain what she has been doing for keeping herself and the kids safe.

MS ROGERS: So we thought we would roleplay this out. So you will see that in the partnering way we are not totalising Dad by his abuse and learn to see Dad like she and the kids do. So okay Jackie, can you tell me a bit more about what Dad does that is worrying you?

MS WRUCK: Well he's been really stressed and he doesn't usually act that bad. He's a good dad.

MS ROGERS: Yeah. Okay. So can you tell me what strengths he brings to the family first for you and your kids and then can we talk a little bit about what you think he does that weakens the family and what you want him to change? Would that be okay?

MS WRUCK: Yeah, that sounds good. Yeah well - - -

MS ROGERS: Okay.

MS WRUCK: - - - he takes them out for activities, especially the boys. He takes them fishing and then when I'm working sometimes he cooks dinner and that gives me a break.

MS ROGERS: Okay. So what is his connection like with each child? Is he closer to one child more than the other?

MS WRUCK: Well he's really close to my little two year old daughter. Um yeah.

MS ROGERS: Okay. How and what does he do that shows this?

MS WRUCK: Well she follows him everywhere and dotes on him and he loves that. He always doing things with her and he's very good at caring for her such as bathing her and dressing her.

MS ROGERS: Okay. Is there any worries you have about him with your daughter? Anything that makes you feel a little bit uneasy or uncomfortable?

MS WRUCK: Well I do think he's a bit over the top with her and he stops me from sort of being near her sometimes.

MS ROGERS: Okay. So when are those sort of times do you think when that happens?

MS WRUCK: Maybe bath times, maybe nappy changes and he just pressures me and says I should be doing other stuff because he's better than me at that.

MS ROGERS: So we're going to end the role play here but what you will see is that I'm finding out what she is most concerned about. If Mum talks to you about it then she's worried about it. So remember what we said earlier, that sometimes what she is most concerned about is not what we are. When we are asking questions about his behaviours and impacts we are also screening for all the abuses including sexual abuse.

It's often the questions about each individual child that can reveal concerns and the mother's fears. So she could be concerned about a range of things that we haven't even thought of such as sexual abuse or about becoming homeless due to his property damage. About losing connection with her family. If she separates and he gets care of the kids she won't be able to protect them. She won't be able to be there to protect the kids. So the point is, unless we ask about what she is concerned about the most, what she is most fearful of we will not know the risks he poses to them and the harm he has already caused.

So often we as practitioners are the first people she has had an opportunity to discuss her fears and worries with. Also remember to ask about each individual child like we did in the role play as the risk and harm may be different for each child.

MS WRUCK: So what are the benefits of exposing and documenting coercive and controlling behaviours and impacts? Obviously understanding the risk and for safety planning but we have seen a range of benefits in working with survivors and exposing all of the perpetrator's abusive behaviours and the multiple harms and impact and documenting them.

What survivors have said is having the coercive controlling behaviours listed with the direct impacts of these behaviours on her and the kids next to it provided her and us with clarity. We are together with her joining the dots between his patterns of behaviour and all the ways that these behaviours have been destructive to their lives.

MS ROGERS: Yeah. Well survivors have told us that this process of documenting and talking about the behaviours and impacts assisted her with her recovery and also her kids' recovery. When the kids have also contributed to it, and that sometimes occurs as well. The process of exposing means her and the kids are able to voice what he has done and how it's harmed them and also what they want him to stop and what they want him to do to make it better.

'Mum's upset' is a truth telling exercise. You know it assists with their healing and it's a document they can also use with counsellors. They also don't have to retell their story when it's documented, and then you know the survivor can share this with other services when she wishes.

This documentation also assists with collaboration with other services, and working out how to intervene with him to hold him accountable. Knowing this information assists us with a design on how we intervene and engage with him.

From this engagement, we can gather assessment information about how capacity to understand and take accountability and responsibility for his abusive behaviours. His capacity to put the kids first and support her as a mum.

So we get intel. When we feed back this to Mum she then has information that she can make decisions for her and her kids and assists her with having space for action. Space for action is a term we love as it describes how she can, from our information, from our engagement with him, make informed decisions for her and her kids' safety and wellbeing.

MS WRUCK: What my mother wanted was someone to talk to my dad about his behaviours and the impacts it was having on the family functioning which actually led to impacts on us individually. My dad did not see the effect of his behaviours which it had on my brothers until it was too late. And he might’ve stopped but the point is no one ever tried to talk to him.

My mum and dad separated because of this violence and it wasn't until he lost as a family unit that he was all alone and he slowly made change himself. So he did this without support and help of his family and others.

All my mum wanted was to have someone to help my dad and she could've felt like the system was working for us and not against us. Even if he didn't choose to change, at least we knew what he could do now or next and workout our options.

When he was not held accountable, mothers and society blame themselves and we put it on them. The process of exposing the behaviours and impacts provides accountability and puts it back on him.

It was a family GP who took my mother aside and acknowledged what she was going through and listened to her. So she said that if she had services like they are today, things may have been a bit different. She still loved my dad and he loved us but we needed someone to explain the impacts of his behaviours and what it was doing to us as kids. This could have motivated him sooner to seek help and be a better dad.

MS ROGERS: Thank you Jackie. I've got a few final thoughts. I've been talking about domestic violence in my lifetime for the past 35 years, and I don't mean public speaking, I just mean in general with family and friends and colleagues. And I often think what has changed in 30 years.

So I asked my partner who turned 50 this year, 'Do you think domestic violence will end in 150 years' time?' And he said, 'No, it will be the same.' So I thought I'd ask my 13 year old son the same question, if he thinks domestic violence will end in 150 years' time and he said, 'Yes. I think that men will learn to stop it by then, Mum.'

And it made me think, we need my son's optimism and hope for the future, and it's because we don't have hope for men that they can change, that we are not talking to them about their abusive behaviours and the destructive impacts that they have on their loved ones, which then stops them from facing the suffering that they have caused.

When we don't hold them accountable as a system, then we are putting it back on survivors to create safety. Us not holding them accountable and shifting to his behaviours and impacts leads us to mother blaming and shaming even if unintentionally and he disappears from the frame.

So when I'm working with a 50 year old man who has been perpetrating abuse against his loved ones for years, and he tells me that no one has ever spoken to him before about the impacts of his behaviours on his kids before, I think 'Why?'

We will never have accountability for men who scare and hurt their families if we don't talk to men about the impacts of their coercive and controlling behaviours are every opportunity, at every touch point. So I mean at doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, drug and alcohol services, mental health services, child safety, police, probation parole, in prisons, at neighbourhood centres, at work, community centres, sporting clubs, family members. I mean everywhere.

So I think it's the young people of the future who have the hope that abusive men can change that will make this change happen and focus on him so we as practitioners in a society have to have hope because that leads us to accountability, thank you.

DR NANCARROW: Well thank you Hayley, Emma and Jackie for your presentations today, that's given so much information and such depths of information there from each of the presentations. I want to thank you, Jackie, for sharing your personal story as well and it certainly did ring home a number of the key points that were made during the presentations.

Hayley, I think that you know it was an important point you made about the, you know violence against women or coercive control you know whilst it affects across the spectrum, it's not distributed equally and we you know need to ensure that policy programs, practice and prevention, you know, recognise the uneven distribution of abusive behaviour in relationships across the country, and that resources are targeted effectively in that regard.

I also thought that, Emma and Jackie, you provided some really excellent practical examples of the importance of engaging with women from where they're at and you know using language that resonates with them rather than the language of the practitioners. And not just language but also concepts and understanding the circumstances from their own individual experience and you know the risk of a universalising experience I guess.

So we'll move fairly quickly to questions. We've got about 10 minutes left before we need to wrap up, so I just want to remind the audience that the focus of today's webinar is on unpacking the concept of coercive control and practice responses in particular, noting that there's been a lot of discussion about criminalisation of coercive control. The legal system's response is one element, it's not the focus of today's webinar.

But as there are many of you attending today, we'll get straight into the questions, and I'm going to start with two questions that I think will begin with Emma and Jackie, and then there are a lot of questions coming through from the audience and I'll put these two questions to you, Emma and Jackie now and as you're answering them I'll scroll through the range of other questions that have come and select a question.

So the first two questions that I have is when advising families, 'How do you find the balance between what you would put up with or tolerate in a relationship and not imposing your position on others. Those that you're supporting or counselling?' So there's that question about that balance. And, 'How can victim survivors safely collect evidence of coercive control?' So I'll hand over to you to respond to those two questions, please.

MS WRUCK: Yeah I guess I'll start with in regards to the first question, how do we not put our sort of own views and values on you know the person that we're dealing with. And I think that's just a professional standard that you know, us as practitioners should always be looking at our, you know, especially me being Aboriginal, being aware of my own sort of cultural beliefs and my standards of how you know what I think about parenting and stuff like that. And I've got to actually be professional and place myself up in regards to not putting that before and making my own assumptions on these families, because these families will know and they know when you're actually, you know, judging them and stuff like that.

So being aware, and I think as any practitioner, being aware of what your buttons are that push you and making sure that you know you're actually focusing on the family, because she's actually the expert in her family's lives, so.

MS ROGERS: Yeah I totally agree with that. I think, you know, we take her lead. So what she's saying is behaviours that are problematic for her and the kids and how it impacts her and the kids is what we discuss. So we take her lead on those behaviours.

MS WRUCK: And the dangers of not doing that is that you may drift off and go into a, you know straight down to fixing the problem which is not what she sees.

MS ROGERS: Yeah exactly.

MS WRUCK: So we've wasted time over here on something that's really not relevant.

MS ROGERS: Yep.

MS WRUCK: And not going to help them.

DR NANCARROW: Great answer, thank you. The second question was, 'How can victim survivors safely collect evidence of coercive control?' So you know if they're wanting to seek support for coercive controlling behaviour, you know have you got any tips or thoughts on how the victim survivor might be able to document themselves the worst controlling behaviour to record it.

MS ROGERS: Yeah okay, so there might be a friend that they're talking to that they can, you know, that they can collect that for them. Obviously professionals we would collect that information for them. But I know there is some - I have to say I'm not up to scratch with apps and things like that that people use to document, but we would always recommend that you know they have a safe person that can actually document that for them and have that there for them with a timeline if they need that, what they need on that.

So usually that, we don't really - in a sense, well I don't really come across that there's usually someone that is actually recording it for them but yeah definitely with survivors that's something that I have to think about that he wouldn't get a copy of that, it could be dangerous for them.

So it would have to be in a - if they did have any documentation it would have to be in a safe place. Certainly when we're doing risk management plans for him and we just - you know mum's designing that. We have that - you know we can keep that at a professional location, say the DV service might be entrusted safety records, and we have a caveat that this cannot be, you know, shared due to the safety of Mum and the kids. So that's probably what I would say on that one.

MS WRUCK: Yeah I agree. And like with their services that they do engage with, you know, especially me being over here at CADA we would offer to hold the information for them if they needed. But they're not silly. They will already have a book that they're actually recording stuff down so yeah. And they keep it in a safe place.

DR NANCARROW: Great, thanks very much for those responses. I might turn to Hayley, if we could ask Hayley to join in. Hayley, you might want to add to that, but I also have a specific question that I think would be great for you to respond to if you don't mind. Did you want to add anything to what Jackie and Emma said first?

MS BOXALL: Just to kind of echo that, what Jackie was kind of talking about, is that a lot of the women that I've interviewed as part of my research are already documenting a lot of this stuff. But they might delete it off their phones because they're very mindful of their risk management strategies. So having a safe space for them to store that information I think would be incredibly valuable. But nothing else to add.

DR NANCARROW: Great, terrific. Thanks for that, Hayley. So this question is I think perhaps an interesting, well it's a really interesting question but I'd wonder whether you'd like to respond first, Hayley, and then perhaps Jackie and Emma might respond. But the question is, 'Do we know about the distribution of the perpetrators who we know are at risk of using coercive controlling behaviours?' So do you want to talk about that in terms of, you know, what's the sort of profile of coercive controlling perpetrators?

MS BOXALL: It's a really good question and we don't really have the research on it because most of the research that we've done has been victim survivor focused. Having said that, when we look at the characteristics of communities and the distribution of different types of domestic violence that women are reporting, one of the interesting things that we have found is that socioeconomic status matters in terms of the types of violence that women report.

So in particular, women who are residing in higher socioeconomic status kind of areas, so middle to upper class kind of affluence levels, are more likely to report experiences of emotional abuse and coercive control than women living in lower socioeconomic areas. And but to be honest we haven't done enough research on the, I guess community level characteristics and the implication for distribution of domestic violence. However, as far as I'm aware there's some stuff that's starting to be done in New Zealand in particular, so it's a bit of a watch this space kind of thing.

DR NANCARROW: Thanks Hayley, I mean I guess I would just add to that that the international literature, you know - and going back even to the 90s, the work of Edward Gondolf in particular really highlighted the - that it seemed that the perpetrators of coercive controlling abuse were more likely to hold very rigid gender role stereotypes and you know really adhere to those, and in some cases felt inadequate in relation to the male role stereotype and so used aggression and forms of control as a way of asserting their maleness in a context where they felt able to do that, which was in their personal relationships.

But you know some of that - and I think that some of the clinical research, so Stark and Johnson's on typologies would indicate those sort of risk factors as being those men who hold very rigid role stereotypes. But yeah, it'd be great if we can get some funding to you, Hayley, to do some research in Australia of the distribution of you know perpetrators of coercive controlling behaviour so we can understand that better and respond better.

We have had so many questions come in so we will try to answer a few more of them. The first one is, and it has been asked by many people, whether there's a checklist on coercive control and if so how do they get it?

MS BOXALL: I guess when I was referring to 'checklists' there's quite a few that have been developed in a research context for the specific purpose of using surveys to look at prevalence of coercive control so a range of different validated tools, one that we used for the purpose of the survey that we administered was based on a dominance and subordination subscale of the psychological maltreatment study and that has about 12/13 items in it. So that's a useful kind of place to start if you're just trying to think about questions that you can kind of ask, behaviours that you can talk about. So if you go on that AIC website, at the technical appendices to the report that we did on coercive control, there's a list of the questions that we ask about, so that can be a useful place to start.

However, I know that there are a range of different tools that practitioners use specifically, so at that point I'm going to throw over to Jackie and Emma to provide a bit of information about that.

MS WRUCK: So I guess where I'm working at at the moment, and even in my previous jobs, the one I'd mainly use is the Clare Murphy's coercive control tool and we'll be forwarding that through to sort of the webinar people to sort of make it available for everyone. That's the one that we probably - shows different behaviours and it really drills down in regards to what mind games and stuff like that that he plays. And it's actually a good tool for the women to go through and sit, sit and think about, because there's probably a whole lot more that they didn't realise and that makes it a bit - makes them aware of, 'Oh gee, is it this one as well? Is it this one?' So we hand those out to our like women we deal with, so.

MS ROGERS: Yeah, there's a highlighter and they just highlight all the different behaviours that they're experiencing, yeah.

DR NANCARROW: Thank you. So a further question from the audience is are there any differences for same-sex couples regarding coercive control compared to heterosexual couples? I'll open that to anyone.

MS ROGERS: Is it? Okay okay. You know in my role, we do at times get same-sex couples. Obviously not as much, it's a very small percentage. But what we find is is that it's actually very similar behaviours that we're experiencing from the women who's a perpetrator in a same-sex relationship. And we would do exactly the same as what we would do when we're working with men who are perpetrating coercive controlling behaviours and that is map. You look at their behaviours, what they were doing, talking to the survivor, the victim survivor, and those behaviours that that person is perpetrating and also the impacts on them. So we do exactly the same.

But we also sometimes, we do get occasions when we get obviously practitioners who'll come to us to say that Mum is more abusive than Dad. We will map those behaviours and what we find is that women's behaviours are often in response to his behaviours. So it's you know, it's a reaction to what he's doing to her. So I think that's what I would probably say on that.

MS WRUCK: I agree. I'd be - if I had a same-sex couple I'd be treating them and mapping behaviours in the same fashion that I would with you know a male and female so, because the behaviours are all there. And it's all about behaviours, it's not about you know what sex they are, what you know - what relationship status.

MS ROGERS: Relationship status.

DR NANCARROW: Okay great, thank you. So Hayley, I'd like to turn to you first to ask if there is any research on women with disability and coercive control specifically, and then if Emma and Jackie, you might want to comment then on how should coercive control in this context be addressed from a practitioner perspective. But first Haley, is there any research that you're aware of in regard to women with disability and coercive control?

MS BOXALL: So it's on the rise in the sense that I'm aware of a number of projects that are underway and that have touched on this issue because women with a disability have been identified as a particularly vulnerable group. As I said, women with a long-term restrictive health conditions were found to have higher odds of experiencing coercive control but also physical and sexual violence than women who do not have these conditions.

There's some really great research that was conducted in the UK by the University of Glasgow that specifically looked at the experiences of women with disability including women who are deaf and are blind and their experiences of different forms of intimate partner violence. And I really like that project as well because they produce a number of resources for practitioners in terms of how to engage with women with disability. Because there were a number of I guess additional considerations when someone has a disability and they're experiencing coercive control because sometimes their perpetrator might be their carer.

A lot of time the behaviours that the perpetrator are exhibiting can be very easily explained by needing to care for the respondent. So things like, 'You can't do that because you don't have the physical capability of it.' They have a lot of power of attorney and things like that which can hide these kind of behaviours. And then when we think about it through the lens of elder abuse, disability and coercive control, it becomes even more complicated. Some of the research that I've done has actually found that adolescents who were in the care of grandparents are exhibiting coercive controlling behaviours against their elderly carers.

So it's something that we can kind of see through a family violence lens, not just an intimate partner violence lens. So yes there is quite a bit out there but I would direct people in the first instance to the University of Glasgow project as a starting point.

DR NANCARROW: Great, thanks Hayley. Emma and Jackie?

MS ROGERS: Yeah I was going to say that, you know that we experience that a lot in regards to the perpetrators, often the carer, and is getting the caring payments. So what we are focusing on are his, again his pattern, his tactics, his strategy, what he's doing to use the disability against her and get more control and power over her.

And I think that's for us to find that out with our engagement with her and partnering with her, and that we - you know because definitely he's very clever at manipulating workers and practitioners to see that he's doing it in a caring capacity and when you dig a bit deeper and then when you can speak to mum on her own and partner with her, then you can start to find out actually how all of his - how this is part of his pattern and he's using the system against her. So I think we see that quite a lot, don't we?

MS WRUCK: Absolutely. And just being aware I think of the intersections and intersectionalities there in regards to, you know, also whether he's using the drugs to sort of control her as well and being aware of all those little subtle things that may look as caring but isn't.

DR NANCARROW: Okay great thank you. So Hayley, this question's for you I think. 'Do narcissistic traits and resulting behaviours classify as coercive control?' What do you think?

MS BOXALL: Yes? So this is a really difficult one to answer and it's something I've been thinking a lot about in the research that I've been doing about when behaviours that are coercive controlling as underpinned by a personality disorder, a mental illness, an addiction, how do we disentangle - how do we engage with those behaviours.

So as part of a previous webinar we did around economic abuse and intimate partner violence, one of the questions we have was well if someone's economic abuse is being driven by their gambling addiction, what does that response look like as opposed to someone who's coercive controlling behaviours are driven by a need for control and dominance over their partner.

Certainly, a lot of the women that I have spoken to who have experienced coercive control have talked about their partner either having been diagnosed with narcissism or having - or distributing traits of narcissism, and I don't know what we do with that information because I know that personality disorders are incredibly difficult to treat.

And I think the reality is is that regardless of the source, they have the same impact. It's just that they might manifest slightly differently. So in the sense of yes, from my own research I do see a high level of overlap between narcissistic personality disorder and coercive controlling behaviours. They are master manipulators, all those kinds of things.

I don't know what we do about that though. I don't know how the treatment model differs when we're dealing with a narcissistic offender versus someone who is not a narcissistic offender but maybe Jackie and Emma can answer that.

MS ROGERS: You know, I think that we certainly hear that a lot and certainly over the last few years about you know he's a narcissist. We try not to go down that line because what we find is that once you label someone that, that we actually don't do the work. The work is we need to know what his pattern is of coercive control. We know how it impacts the family and then we need to see how we can intervene with him to produce that issue for that. So once we - you know when we do that I think that it's overused and that actually, of course certainly in child safety we will get men with personality disorders. But often it's a smaller percentage than what we think and if we overuse that term I think it can actually stop our work and our DV informant work that we need to do.

So a little bit what you're saying, Hayley, that you know that you still have to carry on and do that work. And of course if that comes - you know we can see that he doesn't have capacity and it is to do with, you know he has a diagnosis of a personality disorder or what that's about then we need to then address that obviously but I think we've got to be really about the overuse of that and first let's look at his pattern, his strategy and that.

People can google a lot and say, 'You know this comes under narcissism.' It does look like that, but actually what we find generally is that we are just talking generally to dads, stepdads, boyfriends, fathering figures that just do not put their kids and families first. And that is what we need to work on.

MS WRUCK: Yeah, and we don't want to blame the, you know the label for his behaviour. So let's not confuse that.

DR NANCARROW: Okay thank you. Well the question really is a follow on from that I guess and it relates to the response to perpetrators of coercive control. So where can they be referred to to get help, and how can we - or how can they be supported to change their behaviour?

MS WRUCK: Yeah I guess man behaviour change programs, the MensLine and stuff like that. You know I think probably using community, especially with Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander people. You know look at - and even with non-Indigenous people, who are they around that can help and who are you know a figure to this person who is using that coercive control and how can they role model and keep this person in check in regards to their behaviour. But - and it all depends on where they live, the availability of services and stuff like that too.

MS WRUCK: Yeah. Yeah absolutely, yeah.

DR NANCARROW: Okay great. All right, so just following on from that I guess - or did you want to add something, Hayley? Sorry? No? So just finally, I think the final question for today is, 'Should kids be involved in changing dad's behaviour and if so, how can they be involved?'

MS ROGERS: Yeah I think kids are you know a big motivating factor for dads and stepdads to change behaviours, and I think you know what began, what we do is we take the lead of the survivor, we take the lead of mum, and we certainly have had kids that have wanted to express their views about dad, wanting to talk about what they want him to do in regards to change, what they want him to do in regards to their recovery and what they're wanting to do to stop and start. So I think that's really important that kids' voices are heard and that we can, you know, check in with them and mum as well to see what we can talk to him about. So that's how we would work. But generally kids are you know, really want to actually talk about that and talk about what they want him to do.

MS WRUCK: I think when they're included, it makes it really quite real for the father, yeah. So it's coming out on paper, it's actually his children as well, and wishes and - yeah.

MS ROGERS: Yes, yep that's right.

MS WRUCK: Making it really.

MS ROGERS: Yeah and if you talk to dads, they all say, 'I don't want my kids to be scared of me.' You know.

MS WRUCK: M'hmm.

MS ROGERS: So - - -

DR NANCARROW: Yeah, so what you were saying - back to you were saying it's a powerful motivator.

MS ROGERS: Yep.

DR NANCARROW: Yeah, well thank you very much for that and I think that we'll leave it at that, but I do want to thank you, Hayley, Jackie and Emma once again for your excellent presentations and the responses to these questions.

I want to thank the participants of the webinar for their questions and I want to thank everybody who was involved in convening the webinar which I think has been a really excellent set of presentations and responses to really important questions. So thanks one and all, and I'll sign off now and say goodbye.

MS ROGERS: Bye.

MS WRUCK: Bye bye.

WEBINAR CONCLUDED

IMPORTANT INFORMATION - PLEASE READ

The transcript is provided for information purposes only and is provided on the basis that all persons accessing the transcript undertake responsibility for assessing the relevance and accuracy of its content. Before using the material contained in the transcript, the permission of the relevant presenter should be obtained.

The Commonwealth of Australia, represented by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS), is not responsible for, and makes no representations in relation to, the accuracy of this transcript. AIFS does not accept any liability to any person for the content (or the use of such content) included in the transcript. The transcript may include or summarise views, standards or recommendations of third parties. The inclusion of such material is not an endorsement by AIFS of that material; nor does it indicate a commitment by AIFS to any particular course of action.

Slide outline: The power in understanding patterns of coercive control

1. Theory and Practice

Alt text: Stick drawing of a woman and child with text boxes - coercive control=behaviours impacts

2. More than just a DV Risk Assessment

  • Understand his level of dangerousness and harm to kids
  • Survivors safety plan
  • Gives us goals to use to hold him accountable

3. How survivors are talking and thinking about coercive control:

4. minimising vs managing

Report: Mum is minimising the violence and has no insight into the abuse and therefore cannot protect the children.

Alt text: Stick drawing showing a mother tight-lipped and minimising the abuse.  

 

5. Benefits of exposing and documenting coercive and controlling behaviours and impacts

  • Clarity
  • Truth telling
  • Recovery
  • Healing
  • Not retelling
  • Space for action
  • Accountability for the perpetrator
  • Helps collaboration

And more …

6. RECAP

  • Don’t use intimidating language
  • Expose behaviours and impacts
  • Minimising becomes managing
  • Don’t totalise Dad by his abuse
  • Find out what mum is risk assessing for

7. The future

Alt text: Photo of a family enjoying the day on the beach with their dog. 

This webinar was held on Wednesday, 23 June 2021. Please post your questions and comments below.

Domestic and family violence service responses often place physical and sexual violence above other forms of abuse in terms of their risk and potential for harm. However, minimising the harm caused by non-physical forms of violence can have a negative effect on service responses for victim-survivors.

This webinar explored ways that services can use the language of coercive control to support women to expose patterns of abusive behaviour. Specifically, it:

  • Describe coercive control and its prevalence in Australia
  • Share one woman’s lived experience of coercive control
  • Present practical strategies that support women to describe and expose patterns of controlling behaviour

This webinar will be of interest to professionals working in domestic and family violence, mental health, child protection and other social services.

Questions answered during presenter Q&A

To view the presenter Q&A, go to 47:32 in the recording

  1. When advising families, how do you find the balance between “what you would tolerate” and not imposing your position on others? 
  2. How can victim/survivors safely collect evidence about coercive control? 
  3. What is the profile of coercive controlling perpetrators?  
  4. Is there a checklist on coercive control and where can I get it? 
  5. Are there any differences for same-sex couples regarding coercive control compared to heterosexual couples? 
  6. Is there existing research on women with disability and coercive control? 
  7. Do narcissistic traits and resulting behaviours classify as coercive control? 
  8. Where can we refer perpetrators of coercive control to support them to change their behaviours?

Related resources


This webinar is presented in collaboration with ANROWS and the Australian Institute of Criminology.

ANROWS (Australia's National Research Organisation for Women's Safety) logo


Featured image: © GettyImages/Rattankun Thongbun

Related topics

About the presenters

Heather Nancarrow

Dr Heather Nancarrow is the CEO of Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS). For more than 35 years, Heather has worked to address violence against women, including in community services and advocacy, government policy and research. Heather is an adjunct associate professor at UNSW and an adjunct research fellow at the Griffith Criminology Institute, Griffith University. Her scholarship is focused on justice responses to violence against women, particularly as they relate to violence in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Heather’s book Unintended Consequences of Domestic Violence Law: Gendered Aspirations and Racialised Realities was published in 2019 by Palgrave Macmillan.

Hayley Boxall

Since joining the Australian Institute of Criminology 10 years ago, Hayley has published extensively in the areas of domestic, family and sexual violence (DFSV) and child abuse and neglect, with a primary focus on the offending and reoffending patterns of DFSV offenders, the impact of natural disasters on DFSV, adolescent family violence and domestic violence desistance processes. She has also been involved in the evaluation of a range of government-funded programs, such as the Adolescent Family Violence Program, the ‘Preventing Violence against Women in our Community’ project and restorative justice approaches to DFSV. Hayley is a PhD candidate at the Australian National University. Her thesis focuses on factors associated with domestic violence desistance processes.

Emma Rogers

Emma has 25 years of experience working in the field of social work in Australia and the UK in the areas of domestic and family violence (women’s refuges), mental health, youth homelessness, asylum seeker support and child protection. Emma currently works for the Queensland Government Department of Child Safety, Youth Justice and Multicultural Affairs as the acting Walking with Dads Principal Program Officer. For the past four years she has developed and worked in the Walking with Dads Program – an innovative program that has a strong partnering foundation with mothers and children to create interventions for fathers, to hold them accountable and responsible for their destructive behaviours and to increase safety and wellbeing for families. Emma is also a certified Safe & Together Trainer.

Jackie Wruck

Jackie Wruck is a proud Aboriginal Yindinji woman from Far North Queensland, Yarrabah region, and is a Crisis Practitioner at the Centre Against Domestic Abuse. Jackie’s own experience of domestic and family violence led her to becoming a certified Safe & Together trainer. Jackie previously worked as a facilitator and cultural advisor for the Walking with Dads program at the Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women in Queensland. Walking with Dads works with, and walks with, fathers who have perpetrated violence in their families. Working with families all her life, Jackie is a vocal advocate for families and is passionate about keeping children out of the child protection system and making sure families’ voices are heard.

Comments

HI, Was wondering if there will be a recorded version of this webinar. Our team would like to attend however are in meeting's at this time. Thanks Belinda
Belinda Duxbury
Hi Belinda, thanks for your query. A recording of the presentation (including slides, audio and transcript) will be published on this page shortly after the broadcast.
Amanda Coleiro
Thanks for organising!
melinda tynan
Hi, I was wondering if coercive control against men was going to be addressed in this seminar? it seems that the it is entirely focused on women as the victim (which for the most part i know is very common). However i am aware that there are women (personal experience) who are narcissistic and display coercive control towards their partners in the form of emotional and verbal abuse and blackmail. it is disappointing to see that this is not highlighting that men can also be affected by this.
Dani
Hi Dani, thanks for your feedback. We have received several questions relating to cc against men, it's likely that this will be posed as a question for the presenters during the live event next week.
Cat Strawa
Hi Hayley, I was trying to find a copy of the checklist with the more appropriate language / words to use when getting survivors to describe or identify DFV - coercive control but could not find this anywhere. Can you please tell me where to access this as could not find it anywhere. Really enjoyed webinar thanks.
Eileen
Hi Eileen, glad you enjoyed the webinar. The checklist idea that Hayley discussed was not in reference to a particular tool, but more checklists in general as part of a broader risk assessment process. The panel discussed this further in our extended Q&A session, and an example of using these in practice was provided by Emma and Jackie. So tune into that part of the recording when it is available shortly. Thanks
Mitchell Bowden
Hi I missed this webinar and was hoping to catch up with it now. Where is it or am I too late to see it? Cheers S
Stephanie
Hi Stephanie, a recording of the presentation, including powerpoint slides, audio and transcript, will be made available on this webpage over the next few weeks. If you'd like to be notified when it becomes available you can sign up to the CFCA News email will announce it: http://aifs.gov.au/cfca/subscribe
Cat Strawa