Abuse is a complex issue. It can be hidden and hard to define – even for those who are experiencing it.

At Sagesse, we consider abuse to be the attempt, act or intent of someone within a relationship that is characterized by intimacy, dependency or trust to engage in purposeful controlling or coercive pattern of behaviour.

Coercive control

A large, often unrecognized component of abuse is coercive control. This is a pattern of behaviour used to regulate and dominate another person’s daily life. It can take many forms, including undermining your confidence and relationships with others, limiting your ability to access money and support, and monitoring your communication and location. Learn more about coercive control.

Patterns of Behaviour

It is this ongoing use of abusive tactics that form a pattern of behaviour.

Sagesse is moving beyond an abuse incident model. We don’t believe that abuse happens just in one individual moment of time. It is a pattern of behaviour. Multiple tactics are used by a partner to exert power, control or coercion over another.

That is our formal way of saying that abuse comes in many forms. It isn’t always physical or sexual abuse. It can show up in more subtle ways, such as limiting access to money or calling, texting, and stalking your partner at their place of work. When someone exerts control over someone else – whether it’s physically, sexually, financially, emotionally, spiritually, or in any other way – we consider it abuse.

These controlling tactics are designed to make someone dependent, isolated, and fearful. The behaviours:

  • isolate them from sources of support
  • exploit their resources and capacities for personal gain
  • deprive them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape
  • regulate their everyday behaviour
  • encourage fearfulness

These tactics are not isolated. A partner will rarely limit themselves to just controlling one’s finances, for example. Partners will use different tactics at different times, depending on what is most useful to exert power, control and coercion over another person. So, they may hide their partners car keys one day to control their ability to travel and then make them believe their friends think they’re crazy on a different day.

80% of people tell an informal support first.

How to respond to coercive control

Before calling Sagesse or the police, or accessing a shelter, people are most commonly talking 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.

We can help you recognize and respond to abuse with REAL Talk.

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. Chances are you are close to or know someone impacted by domestic abuse. Learn to break the cycle of domestic abuse with just a few words.