Criminalise Coercive Control in Australia

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Hannah Clarke was stalked and brutally murdered after she separated from her ex partner in February 2020. Her children Aaliyah aged 6, Laianah aged 4 and Trey aged 3 were in the car with her when they were set upon and doused in petrol by their father, Rowan Baxter. Baxter prevented anyone from helping get the children out of the car and they were all burned alive.

Baxter coercively controlled Hannah and she was scared of him. He would constantly call and check up on her, go through her phone and handbag, threaten to kill himself if she did not do what he demanded and he'd isolate and ignore her if he did not get his way. Hannah obtained an intervention order before she was killed. She tried to seek help and protect her children.

Before Hannah died at the scene of the car fire she walked towards first responders and told them what Baxter had done. Hannah and her children's murders must not be in vain. Her mother, Sue Clarke, says she wants her daughter remembered as a warrior who fought for her children until the end.

 

Preethi Reddy, a dentist from Sydney, had her whole life ahead of her. She was ambitious and loved travel, dance and meditation. She was looking forward to moving to Melbourne with her partner of five months.

Preethi went missing after attending a conference. It was uncharacteristic of her. But she told her sister Nithya that she had been having 'problems' with her ex, Harshwadhan Narde. He wouldn't accept that the relationship was over and that she had moved on. Narde would tell Preethi that she had ruined his life, and she felt that she needed to excuse his overbearing behaviours, placate his feelings and meet face-to-face to tell him of her plans to move to Melbourne with a new partner.

Preethi agreed to meet Harde on March 2 2019, at a restaurant and later at Narde's hotel room in Sydney. Harde stabbed and murdered Preethi and hid her body in a suitcase, which he left hidden in her car.

Nithya has spoken out about her sister's murder and said that on the Friday night before she was killed, Preethi messaged a friend while at the conference to say that "Harsh [was] just not himself".

Nithya said: "I think ethically Preethi felt the right thing to do was to meet face-to-face, [to tell him] it was over," Nithya says, believing that her sister felt doing so would diffuse lingering possessive behaviours.

"What I know now is that if there has even been the dynamic of non-physical coercive control and possessiveness in a relationship, then it can absolutely escalate."

Coercive control correlates significantly with femicide. How many more women and children must be murdered by controlling and entitled men before action is taken?

We must criminalise coercive control if we are to keep women and their children safe. Too many are being terrorised and killed. Help us create a legacy that shines a light on coercive control and protects women and children.

At least one woman is murdered every week at the hands of a man who is supposed to love and care for her. Thousands more live in fear, are isolated and entrapped by an abusive partner. Almost all victims tell me that the physical abuse is not the worst part. They say that the broken bones heal and the bruises fade but the psychological and emotional drip-drip-drip of the torturous and insidious behaviour of the abuser is the worst; living in constant fear, walking on egg shells, the threats, the torture, the domination, the rules that must be obeyed to exact obedience, the punishment if the rules are not followed, the micro regulation, the isolation, the manipulation, the gaslighting, the loss of self, agency and autonomy and the fact that the abuse is invisible to so many despite the abuser's omnipotence in every aspect of the victim's life.

We must make the non-physical abuse - coercive control - and the abuser visible. We must ensure the perpetrator is held accountable for their behaviour.

Help us. Please sign and share the petition and help us create pressure and momentum so that the government acts now and criminalises coercive control. This will save lives.

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