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Understanding technology-facilitated coercive control

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These factsheets provide further information about coercive control and its impacts.

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What is coercive control?

Coercive control is when someone uses patterns of abusive behaviour against another person. Over time this creates fear and takes away the person’s freedom and independence. This dynamic almost always underpins family and domestic violence.

Coercive control can be used against anyone, but is mostly used by men against women.

Coercive control can happen in intimate partner relationships, even after they’ve ended. It can also happen in family relationships.

Nobody has the right to control you, hurt you or make you live in fear.

What is technology-facilitated coercive control?

People who use coercive control might use digital technology as part of their abusive behaviour. We call this technology-facilitated coercive control, or tech-facilitated coercive control.

Recognising the signs

Coercive control can be hard to spot because the abuse can be subtle and targeted. People experiencing coercive control may not realise they are being abused.

Tech-facilitated coercive control can also be hard to spot because technology is such a big part of our everyday lives.

Coercive control can involve a range of different behaviours, including physical and non-physical abuse.

Some of the signs of tech-facilitated coercive control include someone:

  • Making repeated abusive, threatening or unwanted messages or calls
  • Tracking where you are
  • Checking who you talk to online or over the phone
  • Creating fake social media accounts and/or making hurtful or false posts about you
  • Controlling or taking over internet accounts or locking you out of them – such as wifi, email, social media and banking
  • Making, sharing, or threatening to share intimate images or videos of you without your permission
  • Using cameras or recording devices to spy on you.

You might notice:

  • Someone unexpectedly knowing where you are or what you’re doing
  • Unusual activity in your emails or messages, such as messages being read, sent or deleted but not by you
  • Notifications that someone has been trying to log into your account or that your password has changed.

Case study

Matt and Elena are married and have a daughter, Daisy. Matt was always controlling, however things got worse when Daisy was born.

Matt dislikes Elena’s friends and family, and has made it uncomfortable when they are around by being so rude that she rarely sees them anymore. He often checks Elena’s phone and social media to see if she has been in contact with her friends and gets angry if she has, saying that they are a ‘bad influence’.

Matt has begun to monitor Elena’s activities more closely. He has insisted Elena shares all of her passwords with him, but doesn’t share his passwords with her. Matt has also put a GPS tracking app on her phone that she doesn’t know about.

Elena recently took Daisy to a friend’s birthday lunch when Matt was supposed to be at work. Matt found out where she was through the GPS tracker. He showed up unexpectedly at the restaurant and demanded she return home, embarrassing her in front of her friends.

When they got home, Matt told Elena that if she ever went out without telling him like that again, he would share naked photos of her online. Elena feels lonely, trapped and scared, but feels she should stay and try to make the relationship work because of Daisy.

What can I do?

Everyone deserves to live free from family and domestic violence and elder abuse. If you think you or someone you know might be experiencing coercive control, contacting a confidential support service for advice is a good first step.

In an emergency, call 000.

For support contact:

1800 737 732 (available 24/7)

eSafety Commissioner 
You can report the most serious online abuse and harmful content to eSafety. The eSafety website also has detailed information on tech-facilitated coercive control and on how to create an online safety plan.

Men’s Referral Service
1800 943 539

For more information about coercive control and the National Principles to Address Coercive Control in Family and Domestic Violence on the Attorney-General's Department website.