Illustration of a woman underneath a fist

Coercive control: A pressing issue in rural and remote communities

The media is increasingly reporting acts of extreme family and domestic violence throughout Australia. In almost all cases of intimate partner homicide, coercive control has been part of the dynamic of the relationship.

Published: 9 November 2023
  • national
  • 9 November 2023
  • Austraian Psychological Society

Coercive control is an insidious pattern of behaviours which may be difficult to recognise outside the controlling relationship.

Although coercive control is not exclusively gender-based abuse, in most cases the perpetrator is a male exercising coercive control over a female victim. Many scholars believe that gender inequality is fundamental to the dynamic that allows this type of devastating abuse to occur.

Cumulatively, the behaviours may result in the perpetrator isolating the victim from friends and family, controlling their finances, subjugating the victim, forcing them to perform certain tasks, and degrading the victim’s self-confidence in ways that prevent them from seeking help. This type of abuse is often not physical and may be exercised using digital technologies such as mobile phone tracking or hidden cameras. Control to intimidate is also common in the treatment of prisoners of war.

If victims do seek help and/or attempt to leave the relationship, they are often at great risk of violent consequences, as the perpetrator may retaliate to punish the victim. Even if this is not the case, victims may be left with no financial resources and effectively homeless.

A pressing issue for rural and remote communities

Rural and remote victims of coercive control are particularly vulnerable. Geographic separation may already limit the amount of social support and contact with others outside the relationship. Furthermore, seeking help may be complicated in rural and remote communities where the perpetrator is well known and respected. This issue is exacerbated when victims are from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and may not be well known and/or the perpetrator purposefully destroys the victim’s reputation in the community.