A Tasmanian woman has added her voice to calls to criminalise coercive control at a parliamentary inquiry into family, domestic and sexual violence.
Deborah Thomson, of Burnie, escaped a violent relationship 17 years ago. The physical abuse she suffered permanently impaired her vision and left her in need of brain surgery.
However, she said in some cases the psychological impacts of the mental abuse had a greater impact on her life.
Last week Ms Thomson fronted the House Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs to add her voice to a growing list of people calling for coercive control to be criminalised across Australia.
Speaking about her experience of abuse Ms Thomson, who has written a book about coercive control, said control was normally a precursor to the conditioning of victims to believe they are responsible for abuse.
IN OTHER NEWS:
She said her abuser began to control her very early in their relationship and lingered even after she had fled her partner.
"Right from the start the coercive control I experienced came in the form of grooming, he needed exclusive commitment very early into the relationship and he controlled virtually every movement I made," Ms Thomson said.
"There were daily interrogations - where I had been each day and who I had seen. Very early into the relationship I had to start asking permission to doing something or go someone. Throughout he would just dictate how I should act, think and feel.
"The emotional manipulation increased my confusion to such an extent that I was left wide open to that manipulation and kept me permanently ... in a state of mental confusion, vulnerability and you lose reality so you essentially become the abusers slave psychologically."
Tasmania is the only state in Australia with emotional abuse laws. They were introduced in 2004 alongside laws detailing economic abuse. The two laws have resulted in 198 charges in 16 years - 186 of which were in relation to emotional abuse.
There have been widespread calls from advocates and survivors for Australia to adopt federal coercive control laws similar to those in other parts of the world.
Last Thursday the Standing Committee, which Ms Thompson gave evidence to, heard from representatives from the Scottish Women's Aid and the Women's Aid Federation England.
Scotland and England both have laws criminalising coercive control. England's laws were implemented in 2015 after a two year campaign which started with the altering of the definition of domestic abuse in 2013.
Scotland's laws came into affect in 2018 and were the result of widespread community consultation and public debate.
SWA chief executive officer Dr Marsha Scott said Scotland's law resulted in more than 1000 convictions in its first year.
Responding to a question about concerns new laws would result in more female victims being wrongly arrested, Dr Scott said thanks to education and training, prosecution rates reflected expected gender ratios.
"Because domestic abuse is such a gendered phenomenon that, in terms of coercive control, women would be perpetrating at rates of under fiver per cent of the total," she said.
"The Crown Office published a report in September, I think, about the data from the first year of implementation.
"I was very glad to see that the cases that were prosecuted pretty much reflected that five per cent figure."
Women's Aid Federation England National Training Centre manager Jacqui Kilburn said any roll out of new laws must be accompanied by training for police, judges and crisis support workers.
"Unless you get a whole-system approach at the very beginning of this, you're not going to get anywhere," she said.
"Training in dribs and drabs doesn't work."
In giving evidence both women said they would change aspects of their law if given the chance to do it all over again.
The main concern raised was the lack of communication between courts on civil and criminal matters.
"There could be a perpetrator of domestic abuse in the criminal courts in the morning and there may be a conviction, and he goes to the Family Court in the afternoon to ask for his children," Ms Kilburn said.
"It's far more complicated than that, of course, but that's just an example."
The government has proposed merging the Family and Federal Court's in Australia to create a "single point of entry" for the family law jurisdiction.
Legal professionals, women's legal services and family violence services have vehemently opposed the moved - with 110 organisations from across Australia, including the Launceston Community Legal Centre, signing an open letter to the Attorney General opposing the changes.
The Standing Committee is expected to deliver a report early next year which will inform the government's next National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children.
What do you think? Send us a letter to the editor: