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IS PSYCHOLOGICAL ABUSE RECOGNISED IN AUSTRALIAN LAW?


Domestic violence is a prevalent issue in today's society, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only added to the problem. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, cases of family and domestic violence-related sexual assault have increased by 13% since 2019.


Despite these alarming statistics, the recognition of psychological abuse in the legal system remains a prevalent issue. This form of abuse, which can involve stalking, taunting, manipulation, threats, and coercion, is just as common as physical abuse.


The Parliament of Queensland Acknowledges Psychological Harm


The Parliament of Queensland has officially acknowledged the harm caused by psychological abuse in the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012. The act recognizes the "serious impacts" that domestic violence can have on victims, including physical, emotional, and psychological harm.


Emotional or psychological abuse is defined as a form of domestic violence in section 8 of the Act, which outlines the behaviour that constitutes domestic violence, including physical or sexual abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, economic abuse, threats, coercion, and any behaviour that controls or dominates the victim and causes them to fear for their safety or well-being.


The definition of emotional or psychological abuse is provided in section 11 of the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012. It refers to behaviour that "torments, intimidates, harasses, or is offensive" to the victim.


Examples of psychological abuse include:

  • Stalking in public, including by vehicle or on foot

  • Loitering outside the victim's home or workplace

  • Repeatedly contacting the victim without consent via phone, SMS, email, or social media

  • Derogatory taunts, including racial slurs

  • Threatening to disclose the victim's sexual orientation without consent

  • Threatening to withhold the victim's medication

  • Preventing the victim from connecting with family, friends, or culture, or expressing their cultural identity

Possibilities for a Criminal Offence Charge


There is no specific punishment or criminal offence for emotional or psychological abuse in Queensland. However, victims of psychological abuse can apply for a Domestic Violence Order (DVO), which, if breached by the abuser, can result in criminal charges.


Coercive Control


Currently, there is a push to criminalise what is called “coercive control”. Coercive controlling behaviours usually involve manipulation and intimidation, exploiting their partner's vulnerabilities to become dependent on the perpetrator.

Coercive control can include:

  • Monitoring of movements

  • Micromanagement of movements, what is worn, where the victim can go and when

  • Threats and humiliation

  • Isolation from family and friends

  • Degrading put-downs

  • Financial control

  • Removing reproductive control

  • ‘Gaslighting’

In Queensland, coercive and controlling behaviours are recognised under the definition of domestic violence in the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012 and can be a foundation for domestic and family violence orders, however, coercive control is not currently a criminal offence.


Legal Support


If you feel as though you require additional protection by making an application for a domestic violence order, or should you be required to respond to a domestic violence order, please contact our dedicated team of lawyers so that we can provide you with comprehensive advice as to the most appropriate way to proceed.


Find out more about our Domestic Violence services: https://www.chcriminallawyers.com.au/domestic-violence


Contact Creevey Horrell Criminal Lawyers


Based in Brisbane, Roma, Toowoomba and Townsville.

Visit www.chcriminallawyers.com.au/contact-us to contact us today.


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