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Criminal Law Consolidation (Domestic Abuse) Amendment Bill

On the 17th of October 2018, John introduced the Criminal Law Consolidation (Domestic Abuse) Amendment Bill into Parliament.

Please see his second reading speech below.

The Hon. J.A. DARLEY (17:22): It gives me great pleasure to introduce this bill which will create a new offence against controlling or coercive behaviour in a relationship. The bill is modelled on provisions in the UK's Serious Crime Act under the sections which deal with domestic abuse. I want to make it clear that, whilst I have introduced the bill into the parliament today, I intend to consult further on the bill and look forward to working collaboratively with the government. I do not imagine that I will be bringing this forward to a vote before the end of the year.

There has been a lot done in the last few years to raise the awareness of domestic violence and acceptable behaviour within a relationship. Work undertaken by organisations such as White Ribbon, the Zahra Foundation and Our Watch have taken this issue from behind closed doors to be out in the open. This is important work and a lot of progress has been made in educating the community and raising awareness.

However, much of the general community's understanding of domestic violence and domestic abuse only tells one side of the story. Undoubtedly, it is horrific if a relationship becomes violent, but in almost all circumstances the precursor to this physical abuse is mental, emotional and psychological abuse. These types of abuses often manifest in the form of put-downs, bullying, isolation, fear and gaslighting, amongst others. These behaviours are designed to lower the victim's self-esteem and increase their reliance upon the perpetrator.

The term gaslighting originated from the 1938 play Gaslight where the main male character would engaged in activities deliberately to confuse and manipulate his wife into questioning her reality. For example, the character would systematically dim the lights and when questioned about it by his wife would deny that there was anything different. Today the term is used to describe psychological manipulation where a person is made to question their memory, perception, sanity and reality. This is often done with the perpetrator persistently denying, misdirecting, contradicting and lying to try to confuse the victim.

To many victims of domestic violence it is the emotional and psychological scars which linger longest. The human body is very resilient and, with time, will heal bruises and broken bones; however, it is often only with a lot of hard work and with the assistance of psychologists and counsellors that nonphysical scars will heal. It often takes many years and, unfortunately, some do not recover from these wounds.

Even more unfortunate are the circumstances where people do not receive or seek out the support that they need because they have only suffered emotional and not physical abuse. This is often from a lack of understanding, not only in the community but also from victims themselves who do not understand what has happened or is happening to them.

This is why it is so important to introduce this bill, to start a conversation. I understand that these provisions by themselves will be difficult to successfully prosecute and I want to reiterate again that I will continue consultation. I am very open to amendments, but I think it is very important that this is introduced into parliament because I am hoping that it will start people thinking about other types of abuse that people suffer. I seek leave to conclude my remarks.