Experiences of coercive control among Australian women during COVID-19

Researchers from the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) have looked into what is often invisible in plain sight: coercive control. The new research released today describes coercive control experiences among Australian women.

The study analysed survey data collected from more than 1,000 Australian women who were asked about their experiences of domestic violence during the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic and were in a current relationship between February and May 2020.

AIC Research Manager and co-author Anthony Morgan said that to better understand coercive control, and to articulate the ‘lived realities’ of victim–survivors, it is necessary to describe the nature of coercive controlling behaviours, as well as their co-occurrence with physical and sexual violence.

“The most common behaviours reported by women experiencing coercive control included jealousy, interfering with their friendships, as well as monitoring their movements, insulting and belittling them and financial abuse. However, many women also experienced physical and/or sexual violence during this period,” said Mr Morgan.

Among women who experienced coercive control, many reported very severe forms of violence. For example, 27 per cent reported non-fatal strangulation, and 23 per cent said they had been assaulted with a weapon.

AIC Research Manager and co-author Hayley Boxall said that this study found that women who had experienced coercive control were unlikely to seek help from formal or informal sources if they had not also experienced physical/sexual forms of abuse.

“Overall, the experiences reported by women highlight the complexity of describing coercive control and the need to avoid over-generalisations about what constitutes domestic violence,” said Ms Boxall.

AIC research like this study is essential for building understanding of coercive control among a wider audience, shaping discussions about the scope and impact of coercive controlling behaviours, and informing debate about the most effective responses to improve women’s safety.

The report is available at https://www.aic.gov.au/publications/sb/sb30