Coercive Control

The Invisible Bruise: Recognizing Coercive Control

When we think of domestic abuse, or see it depicted in movies or shows, what usually comes to mind are harsh words that lead to bruises and broken bones.

Now, a new web series by writer, producer and director Melanee Murray-Hunt aims to raise our awareness of a serious and pervasive form of abuse: coercive control.

Like an invisible cage, coercive and controlling tactics are used to deprive a person of their freedom and sense of self, even if no one else can see the prison bars.

“Coercive control can take many forms, and each experience is different, so it can be very hard to recognize,” says Carrie McManus, Director of Innovation and Programs, Sagesse. “From the outside, individual acts of coercive control can seem small or low level, but over time, these acts instill fear.”

Sagesse worked with Murray-Hunt to help amplify the conversation about coercive control through the development of her web series, The Invisible Bruise. Captured as a series of Zoom meetings, she explores the use of coercive control tactics and how they impact all facets of life.

The series was produced in partnership with Sagesse and the Artist as Changemaker Cohort at the Trico Changemakers Studio, with the support of Calgary Arts Development.

If you want to learn more about how to recognize and talk about domestic abuse, go to 

Read more

Canadian Party Leaders: It’s Time to Talk About Domestic Abuse

Domestic and sexual abuse prevention should be centre stage on the campaign trail

Federal Election Policy Recommendations

The COVID-19 pandemic has put domestic and sexual abuse in the headlines, as rates surged as much as 30 percent in our country and around the globe.

But while this ‘shadow pandemic’ has added urgency to prevention and intervention efforts, there’s been little evidence of it on the federal campaign trail.

Conservative Party of Canada Leader Erin O’Toole garnered some attention when he proposed new animal welfare measures, including adding animal cruelty as an aggravating factor in domestic violence prosecutions and support for pet owners fleeing abusive situations.

This announcement touches on the larger issue of coercive and controlling behaviours, which should feature prominently in all party platforms.

Definition of coercive control

Relationships where coercive and controlling behaviours are used have more frequent and severe violence, including lethal violence, that is less likely to stop.

Criminalizing coercive control would empower police and our justice system to prevent the escalation of violence. This was recognized in the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights’ 2021 report, The Shadow Pandemic: Stopping Coercive and Controlling Behaviour in Intimate Relationships. Advancing the Committee’s recommendations is key to violence prevention.

Action on coercive control is one measure that should feature in an abuse prevention plan that must include prevention, prosecution, and protection.

Read more

Sign a Petition Calling on the Minister of Justice to Take Action on Coercive Control

Alongside the devastating toll of the COVID-19 pandemic, a shadow pandemic is taking place in Canada, with rates of intimate partner violence rising by up to 30 percent.

This includes coercive control, a pattern of behaviour used to regulate and dominate another person’s daily life, stripping away their freedom and sense of self. These acts are dangerous, often leading to escalating violence – including lethal violence.

In a recent report, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights recommended Canada criminalize coercive control, giving the police and justice system a powerful tool to intervene in domestic violence cases, and victims the opportunity to be heard and protected.

Now, Committee member and Member of Parliament Randall Garrison has sponsored a parliamentary e-petition calling on the Minister of Justice to implement the Committee’s recommendations.

Read more

Another Step Closer to the Criminalization of Coercive Control

Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights Tables Recommendations

Canada is another step closer to criminalizing coercive control with the tabling of a unanimous report by the tabling of a unanimous report by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. The Committee and experts agree that the criminalization of coercive control is a critical step to addressing domestic violence. We encourage the government to act on the report’s recommendations and use it as a roadmap for adding coercive control to the criminal code. The report makes five recommendations:

Read more

Coercive Control: This Changes Everything

Coercive control is subtle but harmful

When is exerting control part of the give-and-take of a relationship, and when is it abuse? Is wanting your partner to let you know where they are at all times, or insisting on a strict budget, domestic violence?

If it is a pattern of behaviour used to regulate and dominate another person’s daily life, it may be. It’s called coercive control, and it is a common and harmful form of abuse.

“Coercive control seeks to strip away a person’s freedom and their sense of self,” says Andrea Silverstone, CEO, Sagesse Domestic Violence Prevention Society.

Read more