Why criminalise coercive control? The complicity of the criminal law in punishing women through furthering the power of the state

Sandra Walklate, Kate Fitz-Gibbon

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12 Citations (Scopus)


Moves to criminalise coercive and controlling behaviours are hotly debated. In jurisdictions where the legal response to domestic violence has incorporated coercive control, the efficacy of such interventions has yet to be established. Within this debate, limited attention has been paid to the extent to which such moves challenge or endorse legal understandings of the 'responsible subject' (Lacey 2016). This article will consider the failure of both the law in theory and the law in practice to address this feature in the debates surrounding coercive control. We suggest that this failure may result in the reassertion of traditional conceptions of responsibility. Or, as Naffine (1990) might say, a reconsideration of the unintended impacts of the prevailing influence of the rational, entrepreneurial, heterosexual, white man of law. Consequently, any law intended to offer an avenue for understanding women's experiences of coercive control can reassert women as victims to be blamed for those same experiences and sustain the power of the patriarchal state in responding to such violence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Coercive control
  • Criminal law
  • Criminalisation
  • Intimate partner violence

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