Navigating the often subtle and insidious landscape of coercive control is not only challenging but can be vital for the well-being of individuals and families. It is important to be able to spot the signs of coercive control as early as possible.  

This form of abuse, often hidden beneath the surface, can have profound and lasting effects on those subjected to it. As leading family law experts, we want to shed light on this all-too-pervasive issue. 

In this article, we delve into what can constitute coercive control, the signs to look out for, and the legal avenues available in Australia to safeguard yourself and your loved ones. By raising awareness and understanding, we hope to empower individuals, equip them with knowledge, and ultimately, contribute to breaking the cycle of this silent form of domestic violence.

What is Coercive Control?

Coercive control can represent a complex and often less visible form of domestic violence that is not always immediately recognisable. Unlike physical violence and abuse, this type of abuse can be characterised by a pattern of behaviours designed to establish and maintain an imbalance of power within a relationship. The tactics employed, which encompass manipulation and intimidation, serve to instil fear, isolate the victim, and foster dependence on the abuser.

Although physical scars may be absent, the psychological impact and effect on life outcomes of coercive control can be deeply traumatising and long-lasting. Increasing recognition of this insidious form of abuse has resulted in a growing chorus advocating for legal reforms. In response to this, the Queensland Government is reportedly gearing up to make coercive control a criminal offence by the end of 2023, reflecting an important step in the legal acknowledgement and response to this form of domestic violence.

13 Signs and Examples of Coercive Control

Here are a few of the key signs of coercive control. It’s important to note that not all of the following signs need to be present in order for abuse to qualify as coercive control; any single one of these signs qualifies as coercive control.  And there may be other forms that are not included below.  As such, this list is not exhaustive. If you notice any of the following signs in your relationship or the relationship of a family member or friend, seek help today.

  1. Isolation from friends and family

    The abuser may seek to cut off the victim from their social networks, often under the guise of love or concern. This isolation can lead to the victim feeling alone and dependent on their abuser for social interaction and support.

  2. Control over daily life

    This could involve strict rules about mundane aspects of daily life, such as what to wear, what to eat, or where to go. This kind of micromanagement can significantly restrict the victim’s personal freedom and decision-making power.

  3. Surveillance and privacy invasion

    The abuser may monitor the victim’s communications, snoop on their personal devices or track their physical movements, undermining their personal privacy and autonomy.

  4. Deprivation of basic needs

    This could involve withholding access to necessary resources like money, food, transportation, or medical care, increasing the victim’s reliance on the abuser, significantly impacting their independence and well-being.

  5. Threats and intimidation

     The abuser may use threats, whether direct or indirect, to induce fear and compliance. This could involve threats of physical harm, threats to harm loved ones, or threats of self-harm. These threats may range from subtle hints to overt statements of harm.

  6. Gaslighting

    This psychological manipulation tactic is used to make victims question their own reality or sanity. The abuser may deny events, twist the truth, or belittle the victim’s feelings and experiences, leading them to doubt their own perceptions and judgement.

  7. Dehumanisation and degradation

    The victim may be subjected to constant criticism, humiliation, or insults, eroding their self-esteem and sense of self-worth. 

  8. Restricting freedom of movement

    This could involve the abuser refusing to let the victim leave the house, controlling where they can go, or even physically restraining them.

  9. Control over finances

    The abuser may control the victim’s access to financial resources, monitor their spending, or make all financial decisions, rendering the victim financially dependent.

  10. Manipulation of information

    The abuser might lie, withhold important information, or distort the truth to confuse and control the victim.

  11. Enforcing trivial demands

    The abuser may insist on the victim adhering to seemingly insignificant demands or routines, instilling a constant state of compliance and fear of consequences.

  12. Punishments or consequences for ‘disobedience’

    If the victim doesn’t comply with the abuser’s rules or demands, they may face punishments. These could range from emotional manipulation to physical harm, or threats towards someone or something close to the victim.

  13. Control over personal appearance

The abuser might dictate how the victim should look, including their clothing, hairstyle, makeup, or weight.

Each of these signs individually can be harmful, but when combined in a pattern of coercive control, they can have a deeply damaging and lasting impact on the victim’s emotional, psychological, and physical wellbeing. It’s crucial to recognise these signs and take action, whether you’re a victim or a concerned friend or family member.

How to Deal with Coercive Control

If you find yourself subjected to a situation of coercive control, it’s crucial to remember that you’re not alone and there are resources available to support you. Here are a few ways that you can deal with it:

  1. Recognise the signs: The first step is to understand what coercive control is and acknowledge if you’re experiencing it. This will empower you to seek the help you need.
  2. Reach out: Try and talk with trusted friends and family members about your situation. If you have no one close to you that you can talk to then reach out to one or more of the following resources. You could talk to a trusted medical practitioner.
  3. Utilise available resources: There are numerous dedicated hotlines available to provide immediate assistance. Here are a few key contacts:
  4. Prioritise safety: If you or your children are in immediate danger, call 000 immediately. Safety should always be the top priority.
  5. Seek legal advice: The intricacies of legal processes can be challenging to navigate. Professional legal advice can help you understand your rights and the options available to you. At Daykin Family Law, our expert team is ready to guide you through these challenging times. Contact us today to find out how we can help. 

Remember, it’s important to take steps that are safe for your situation. Each circumstance is unique, and what works for one person might not work for another. You don’t have to face this alone, and help is available.

Domestic or family violence can be an extremely distressing and challenging issue for anyone to deal with. Everyone deserves to feel safe and protected in their own home, around their loved ones and in their lives. Unfortunately, domestic or family violence is all too common, and its impact can be far-reaching, affecting not only the victim but also their family and community. 

In Queensland, a protection order is one way to protect yourself or someone close to you from domestic or family violence. In this article, we will explore what a protection order is, who can apply for one, and how to apply for one. We will also discuss the grounds for obtaining a protection order, how long it lasts, and whether it can be cancelled after filing. Our aim is to provide you with accurate and helpful information so that you can make informed decisions and take steps to protect yourself and your loved ones.

With a compassionate and pragmatic approach, Daykin Family Law’s domestic violence lawyers can help you navigate the often daunting legal landscape and ensure the best course of action is taken for you. Contact us today to find out how we can help you.

What is a protection order?

A protection order is an order of the Court essentially designed to protect a person or persons from domestic or family violence. Domestic or family violence is broadly defined in the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012 (Qld) as behaviour that causes physical, sexual, emotional or psychological harm or abuse, including economic abuse or coercive behaviour.

A protection order can prohibit the person against whom it is made from committing further acts of violence, approaching or contacting the protected person, or entering specified premises, as just some examples. It can also require the person to attend counselling, not possess firearms or weapons, or pay compensation for damage or loss caused by their behaviour.

Breaching or ‘breaking’ a protection order can be a criminal offence and can result in serious consequences, including fines and imprisonment.

Who can apply for a protection order?

Any person who is experiencing domestic or family violence, or who fears such violence, can apply for a protection order. This includes

  • The aggrieved (person who requires protection)
  • A person authorised by the aggrieved
  • A police officer
  • A legal guardian 
  • A party to a child

Grounds for obtaining a protection order in Queensland

A court may make a protection order against a person for the benefit of another person if the court is satisfied that:

  1. A relevant relationship exists between the aggrieved (person who the order would protect) and the respondent (the person who the order would be made against).  This means an intimate personal relationship, a family relationship or an informal care relationship;
  2. The respondent has committed domestic violence against the aggrieved;
  3. The protection order is necessary or desirable to protect the aggrieved from domestic violence.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of the types of behaviour which may give rise to an application for a protection order:

  • Physical abuse, such as hitting, pushing, or restraining a person.
  • Sexual abuse, including any unwanted sexual contact or behaviour.
  • Emotional or psychological abuse, such as belittling, humiliation, or verbal abuse.
  • Economic abuse, such as controlling a person’s finances or withholding money.
  • Coercive and controlling behaviour, such as limiting a person’s social or personal activities, controlling their movements or communication, or isolating them from their support network.
  • Stalking or harassment, such as persistent or unwanted contact, surveillance, or following a person.
  • Damaging or threatening to damage a person’s property or possessions.
  • Threatening or intimidating behaviour, such as making threats or displaying violent behaviour.
  • Forcing or attempting to force a person to do something against their will, such as taking drugs, committing a crime, or engaging in sexual activity.

It is important to note that even if the behaviour does not fit squarely into one of these categories, it may still be considered domestic or family violence and may be grounds for obtaining a protection order.

How to apply for a protection order

The Queensland Government’s website has some detailed information about Applying for a Domestic Violence Order.  Our trained and experienced family lawyers can assist you at every step of applying for a protection order, from drafting the application, filing it with the Magistrates Court and attending Court on your behalf.

If you are in a dangerous situation and need urgent help, please dial 000. Alternatively, you can also seek housing in a women’s refuge by dialling 1800 811 811.

How long does a protection order last?

A protection order can last for up to five years. However, depending on the case, the court may make an order for a shorter or longer period or until further order.

Can you cancel a protection order?

A person against whom a protection order has been made can apply to the court to alter or cancel or revoke the order. This is known as an application to vary the protection order. It is possible to ask the court to change any domestic violence order, even if the original application was made by a police officer.

If the court agrees to the changes requested, it will issue a varied order, otherwise, the current domestic violence order will remain in place. Some of the changes that can be made to current orders include adding or removing conditions, adding or removing named people, and extending or reducing the time the order is in force. Ultimately, whether the protection order can be revoked or varied depends on the specific circumstances of the case and the court’s decision.

We are here to help

At Daykin Family Law, we understand that experiencing domestic or family violence can be a daunting and distressing situation. We believe that everyone deserves to feel safe and supported, and we are here to help. Our team of experienced domestic violence lawyers has extensive knowledge and experience in representing both aggrieved parties and respondents in Protection Order matters and Court proceedings. 

We can provide you with clear guidance and determined advocacy to help you navigate this complex area of law and ensure the best outcome for you and your loved ones. If you or someone you know needs help with domestic violence issues, please do not hesitate to contact us. We are here to support and assist you every step of the way.

This article addresses the topic of domestic and family violence.  If you or a loved one is in danger or at any risk of domestic or family violence, or if you are concerned for your personal safety, we urge you to contact 000 and ask for the police immediately.    

Unfortunately, family violence can be prevalent in many matters that come before the Family Law Courts.  The Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia take family violence very seriously.  Domestic and family violence is an issue that has an impact on all members of a family, including of course on children, and can impact on the wider community.  Many find it difficult however to know for sure exactly what behaviour constitutes family violence, or just knowing what steps to take to protect yourself and your loved ones can be difficult.

Read on to find out more about domestic and family violence and what types of orders you can obtain from the Magistrates Court to protect yourself moving forward.

What is domestic and family violence?

Domestic and family violence (DFV) does not always involve physical violence.  DFV is often recognised as an ongoing pattern of behaviour by a person in a relationship which is aimed at controlling another person, and this control can come in various forms.

Some examples of DFV are:

  1. Stalking and surveillance – this may include following you, frequently dropping by your home or workplace to “check-up” on you, and lingering outside your home or workplace;
  2. Physical abuse – physical violence is actual physical contact or threat of physical contact, such as hitting, punching and pushing. This may also include behaviour such as destroying property or punching walls even if there is no injury inflicted on your body as a result;
  3. Psychological & emotional abuse – this includes behaviour aimed at undermining your feelings of self-worth, such as constant criticism and belittling. It may also include manipulative techniques to control you, such as the use of blackmail;
  4. Sexual abuse – this relates to any unwanted or forced sexual activity, such as forcing or coercing you to engage in sexual behaviour or deliberately causing pain during sexual intercourse;
  5. Financial abuse – this may include be behaviour such as controlling your spending, withholding your pay, restricting access to joint bank accounts, and preventing you from working or furthering your education.

The above is, of course, just some examples of DFV and is not intended on being an exhaustive list.  An assessment of your individual circumstances and your family dynamics would be necessary to ascertain whether particular behaviour might constitute DFV.

What is a Domestic Violence Order?

If you or any of your family members are experiencing DFV, you might consider reporting the incident(s) to the police as soon as practicable.  Also, an application to the Magistrates Court of Queensland for a Domestic Violence Order (DVO) can be made.

A DVO is a Protection Order made by the court to stop threats or acts of domestic violence.

The DVO names the aggrieved person(s), that is, those who are experiencing the domestic violence.  It also names the person who is perpetrating the violence as the respondent.

The purpose of a DVO is to keep the aggrieved safe by restraining the respondent from committing further acts of family violence.  The DVO may also include a wide range of other conditions imposed on the respondent, such as prohibiting them from:

  1. approaching you or coming within a certain distance from your home or workplace;
  2. approaching your relatives or friends;
  3. going to a child’s school or day care centre; and
  4. contacting you in any way (including by phone or on social media).

Who can apply for a DVO?

In Queensland, to be eligible to apply for a DVO, the alleged violence must have occurred when the parties were:

  1. in an intimate personal relationship; or
  2. in a family relationship; or
  3. in an informal unpaid care relationship.

Importantly, you do not need to apply for the DVO by yourself.  The police can apply to the court for a DVO on your behalf.  In addition, a lawyer, friend, family member or any other trusted person can also apply for you.  Regardless of who applies, the Court will make an order with the conditions it considers appropriate, and the police will enforce the order accordingly.

Types of Domestic Violence Orders

The court may make the following DVOs in your matter:

  1. Temporary Protection Order; or
  2. Protection Order.

If you are in need of urgent protection, you can request a Temporary Protection Order (TPO) to be considered by the court when you file your application.  TPOs are made by the court to protect those in immediate danger until the court is able to consider whether to make a final protection order at the final hearing.

During a final hearing, the court will assess all of the evidence based on the circumstances of the alleged offending, hear any cross-examination of parties and then make a final determination of the application.  If the court considers that the circumstances warrant there being a DVO, the court may impose a Protection Order.  A Protection Order is generally made for the minimum period of 5 years, although the period may be shorter if the court is satisfied that it is appropriate to do so.  In any event, the period of the order may be extended if the circumstances of the case permit.

Seek legal advice

Domestic and family violence is a serious matter and taking steps to apply for a Domestic Violence Order may seem daunting but in some cases is necessary to protect safety.  Being on the other side of an application for a Protection Order can also be difficult to navigate without the benefit of legal advice.  Keep in mind that the application itself and any subsequent orders are legal documents and there may be consequences for making false statements or for any non-compliance with orders.

If you have concerns for your safety and/or are considering applying for a domestic violence order, contact us today to arrange an urgent appointment with Shannon Daykin, an Accredited Family Law Specialist, to discuss your circumstances and needs.  Shannon was named as one of Brisbane’s Leading Family & Divorce Lawyers (Recommended) and Leading Parenting & Children’s Matters Lawyers (Leading) 2021, Brisbane, in the prestigious Doyle’s Family Law Guide, and named on the List in previous years.  We offer a reduced fixed fee initial consultation, which can be conducted in person, by phone or by video conference.

We give you expert legal advice on the most appropriate and cost-effective course of action for you and your family.  Contact us on (07) 3852 5490 to make an appointment with a domestic violence lawyer for a fixed fee initial consultation today.


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