This post deals with domestic violence and might be triggering for some readers.
There has been a recent push to criminalise coercive control within Australia, but not everyone is on board. It’s not that we don’t agree that coercive control needs to be addressed, or that it’s not impactful. Because it is. It’s just that this campaign puts the cart before the horse.
Not everyone agrees that a new law can create or push for the reforms that are needed. Or that entire systems such as courts and police can be turned around as quickly as some would have us believe. Systems that were designed and laws that were written by powerful white men, that in turn have (both currently and historically) reinforced the invulnerable positions of those same powerful white men in relation to gender-based crimes.
The current criminalisation campaign poses a morally based proposition that coercive control is conduct worthy of public condemnation (a position no one disagrees with), however it places it almost exclusively within a criminal justice context. This is what is at issue.
Watch: Women and violence - the hidden numbers. Post continues below.
It is this context that has survivors of domestic and family violence (especially those from marginalised communities and with complex mental health) deeply concerned. We’ve been on the receiving end of these white, able, male dominated systems and know all too well how they have failed us. We fear how easily these laws could be abused.
For me, this is where gender, disability and the stigma that surrounds us collide. It is where disabled voices are dismissed, and complex mental health is used against us. It’s not just what’s expressed within community attitudes, it’s also embedded within the very structures that have harmed us.
The same structures we’re now told to place our trust in yet again. And honestly, I just can’t. Because it's women like me who don’t fit the impossible mould society dictates who will be the collateral damage if they get this wrong.
To be fair, no victim-survivor I have ever met actually does fit the image of the perfect passive victim that’s needed to attract the sympathy and ‘protection’ of these patriarchal structures.