Jess Hill’s recent fantastic 3-part documentary series on SBS called ‘See what you made me do’ has shone a light on something that our family lawyers have noticed has been on the increase over the past few years. In fact, coercive and controlling behaviour is becoming so prevalent in relationships that governments across the world are doing their best to define, identify and criminalise such behaviour, but it’s a difficult task.
We frequently come across the following behaviours in our files:
- The installation of tracking devices on phones, cars and other items such as children’s toys and nappy bags,
- The extreme control over family finances including all assets being held in the name of only one spouse and the restriction on access to bank accounts or any money matters,
- The installation of cameras within the family home, including in the timber headboard of a bed, in an airconditioning vent and in a child’s room,
- The extreme control over the movements of a spouse, including installing software on a phone to listen to all conversations, demanding that certain friendships be stopped and insisting on little contact with a person’s family of origin.
Whilst these might all seem far fetched to many people, these are real life examples of what we come across every single week.
How do we deal with coercive and controlling behaviour?
The SBS documentary followed a security company skilled in scanning phones and other devices along with searching family homes and cars for tracking devices. What they found was startling. Locally, there are companies that do this work and we would certainly recommend that you engage an IT expert if you think your devices are being tracked. If you’ve recently separated from someone you think is stalking you, consider buying entirely new devices.
Give very serious thought to getting the police involved so that the person may be charged and an AVO put in place. In the past, this type of behaviour was hard to prove and even harder to prosecute but recent publicity about coercive control has assisted greatly in shining a light on this menacing behaviour that is quite terrifying to victims.