Domestic abuse is more than physical and sexual abuse. It can be simple things that make you feel unsafe, like constantly calling, texting to find out your location and undermining your relationships with friends and family.

These tactics are all forms of coercive control – a pattern of behaviour used to regulate and dominate another person’s daily life.

Coercive control is like a

Jenga tower

It is all the ways in which a person may be made to feel unsteady. Coercive control taps away at a person’s sense of self and their support system to isolate and trap them.

Coercive control is like an


It is often unseen from the surface.

Coercive control is like

living in an invisible cage

It traps a person inside a cage of coercion and control. It keeps a person isolated and alone.

What could coercive control look like?

Coercive control can take many forms. The tactics can change from relationship to relationship and day-to-day. Texting a partner to ask where they are could be a normal part of coordinating schedules, or it could be part of an ongoing effort to monitor a partner’s location. A pattern of behaviour used to regulate and dominate another person’s daily life is coercive control. Here are some examples of what coercive control could look like:


  • Tracking how much and where another person spends their money
  • Hiding important financial documents


  • Monitoring someone’s social media interactions
  • Using technology to monitor activity and location without consent
  • Stealing passwords

Immigration Status

  • Hiding someone’s documents
  • Threatening to have someone deported, whether it is actually possible or not
  • Lying about a person’s rights in Canada


  • Threatening to take their partner off their healthcare if they leave


  • Threatening to publicly share any private information, such as drug use, sex work, criminal record, lack of immigration status, or sexual orientation

These are just a few of the potential tactics used in coercive control. The examples are limitless. Any pattern of behaviour that is intended to control or instil fear in another person’s daily life can be considered coercive control.

80% of people tell an informal support first.

How to respond to coercive control

Before going to Sagesse, calling the police, or accessing a shelter, most people talk to their friends, family, neighbours, doctors, lawyers, teachers, and colleagues. People they trust and already have a relationship with.

Coercive control is subtle. It’s about recognizing a pattern of behaviors that doesn’t seem right, people acting different than usual, or afraid or fearful. Recognizing abuse is about checking in on our assumptions about people and their relationships, and being willing to engage when something feels off.


1 in 3 Albertans will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime. REAL Talk is a guide to help us understand and talk openly about domestic abuse. Learn to break the cycle of domestic abuse with just a few words.

Read our Coercive Control Blogs