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Abuse is more than physical

Despite years of strategic planning by Australian governments, family and domestic abuse continues to have a devastating impact on regional, rural and remote communities.

The Dubbo-based Western NSW Community Legal Centre has called for urgent action to adequately support victim-survivors by taking a more expansive view of the term “abuse”.

In a submission to the federal inquiry into family, domestic and sexual violence, the centre and its domestic violence unit - Western Women’s Legal Support – focused on three issues central to the experiences of victim-survivors in Western NSW.

Solicitor Hannah Robinson said: “Our insights are based on the lived experiences of the women we service and the deep knowledge and understanding of our staff who advocate for the rights of these women on a daily basis.”

The submission includes 12 recommendations and looks at the prevalence of family and domestic abuse in regional, rural and remote areas as well as ways to improve the response by police. The centre also called for a “shift in approach” when responding to non-physical abuse by introducing a “coercive control” offence.

Ms Robinson added: “Through its work, our domestic violence unit has come to recognise the multitude of ways in which perpetrators of family and domestic abuse seek to exert power and control, including shaming, isolating, stalking and threatening. For many victims, the long-term impacts of controlling, nonviolent behaviour are significantly worse than the impact of any physical violence.”

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