Shire Matters with Mark Speakman: When you walk inside your home, do you feel safe?

When walk inside your home, do you feel safe? When you argue with your partner, do you feel safe? When you tuck your children into bed, do you wonder if they feel safe?

On average, one woman every nine days, and one man every 29 days, in Australia is killed by a current or former partner.

Now consider this: between March 2008 and June 2016 there were 150 intimate partner homicides in NSW. Of these, 135 were classified by the Domestic Violence Death Review Team as occurring in a domestic violence (DV) context, with 112 cases the subject of in-depth review. Here's the clincher: in 111 of those 112 cases reviewed, the relationship between the DV victim and the DV perpetrator was characterised by coercive and controlling behaviours.

Coercive control involves repeated patterns of abusive behaviour, which can include physical, sexual, psychological, emotional or financial abuse, the cumulative effect of which is to rob victim-survivors of their autonomy.

Physically violent behaviour, in a domestic relationship and otherwise, is criminal in NSW. Non-physical abuse, with the exception of stalking and intimidation, is largely not captured by NSW criminal law.

Coercive control is more sinister than the vault in which purely physical violence has been locked for centuries. It makes victims question their sanity. It's cunning. It's smart. That's why we must be smarter.

I've asked Parliament to establish a multi-partisan inquiry into whether, and if so how, NSW should criminalise coercive control. We've issued a comprehensive discussion paper to help the inquiry's work, but we must be careful about possible reform.

Robust research and consultation is crucial. A new offence may not be the best, or only, way to improve our response to non-physical domestic abuse.

Before you oppose any such reform, ask yourself - when you walk inside your home, do you feel safe?

If your answer is yes, then consider yourself part of the fortunate majority - because there are thousands desperately searching for that same sense of safety.