“This is a critical issue,” said chief executive Sharon O’Halloran. “Five women have been murdered in Ireland since March.
The Government has expressed reservations about legislating for coercive control as a particular offence in the Domestic Violence Bill currently before the Oireachtas.
Coercive control — a pattern of sustained emotional and psychological abuse of a partner — has been recognised in British legislation since 2015.
A study found that intimidating controlling behaviour was present in 92% of domestic violence killings in Britain.
“This research shows that deaths can be prevented if we can identify and understand coercive control from the outset,” said Ms O’Halloran.
Safe Ireland hosted a conference on coercive control in Dublin yesterday, and the office of Justice Minister Charles Flanagan was asked to attend.
At a committee stage debate on the Domestic Violence Bill in the Senate last week, the minister of state at the Department of Justice, David Stanton, indicated that it might be difficult to prosecute for coercive control.
However, Ms O’Halloran said coercive control existed in all domestic violence.
“The evidence is there — we just have to understand how to gather it,” said Ms O’Halloran.
“We accept that a bruise is evidence of domestic violence and a woman can go to court and get a barring order but what about all the years she has been held hostage in her own home.”
Lat year, 155 defendants were prosecuted for coercive control in Britain, including the first ‘pure’ charge of coercive control where there were no accompanying physical assault charges.
US academic Evan Stark who developed the term “coercive control”, said it was only a question of time before coercive control became a crime in Ireland.
“It will be a crime because women are not going to allow the deprivation of their rights and liberties to go without redress. It is just a question of when,” said Prof Stark.
“For every 100 women in Ireland that report domestic abuse, only three are resulting in police action.
“Making coercive control a crime will give police the tools to hold some of these chronic offenders accountable.”
Prof Stark said anybody could be coercively controlled — it was widespread in society.
“There is coercive control in same-sex relationships; men can be coercively controlled by women,” he said. “But the vast majority of cases involve women being controlled by men.”