Public attitudes towards coercive control: Evidence from a nationally representative population survey

Public attitudes towards coercive control: Evidence from a nationally representative population survey
Author/editor: Strange, C, Bartels, L, Boxall, H, Fitz-Gibbon, K & Biddle, N
Year published: 2023


Coercive control as a factor associated with intimate partner homicide has prompted significant efforts in Australia to improve understanding of the behaviour, to prevent it, and to respond to it. The criminalisation of coercive control has occurred at the state level, and several jurisdictions have begun to introduce legislation making coercive control a standalone offence. However, these efforts have proceeded without robust information about public awareness and knowledge of what constitutes coercive and controlling behaviours or the level of support for their criminalisation.

To address this gap, we analysed survey data collected through the ANU poll from a nationally representative sample of 3,510 people. We found that just over half of Australians say they know what the term coercive control means, but over 90% consider various forms of coercive controlling behaviour unacceptable, and 83% support criminalisation. However, we also found that attitudes and knowledge of coercive control vary significantly across the community, as does support for criminalisation. The relationship context within which abusive behaviours occur also influenced attitudes towards coercive control – including respondents’ ability to identify it as abusive and condemn it.

These findings demonstrate the need for targeted campaigns to increase awareness of coercive control within the Australian community. Increasing community awareness of coercive control is particularly important among young people, men and those from non-English speaking backgrounds (including migrants), who were less aware of and concerned about coercive and controlling behaviours than other cohorts of the Australian population.

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