Protection Against Coercive Abuse

What is coercive control?

Coercive control is a pattern of abusive behavior that is intended to control another individual by eroding their self-esteem, self-worth, and autonomy. It is extremely dangerous because of its insidious nature, the damage it causes and the fact that it is often a pre-cursor to physical violence.


Not only is coercive control dangerous but it is also difficult for many to detect making it difficult for victims to obtain support and protection. Often people wonder why the victim doesn’t just leave the situation or didn’t leave at the first sign of abuse. The problem is that coercive abuse is so covert and insidious that many victims don’t recognize they are being abused or they recognize it too late.

The analogy of a frog in boiling water illustrates how easy it is to become a victim of coercive abuse without even knowing it.

If you put a frog in a pot of boiling water,

it’s reflexes will kick in  and it will immediately jump out of the water.

BUT if you put it in water at a comfortable temperature then gradually turn the heat up,

the frog will remain in the water

until it boils to death.


Signs You May Be a Victim of Coercive Abuse

  1. You are in a constant state of stress.

  2. You feel like you are walking on eggshells.

  3. You feel like you can't do anything right.

  4. You are blamed for everything.

  5. You're never in control of anything in your life.

  6. You feel you are losing your mind & will never find a way out.

  7. You feel exhausted & chronically depressed.

  8. You are an 'emotional punching bag'.

  9. You always have to justify/defend your feelings, attitudes or behaviors.

  10. Your feelings and behaviors are used against you in a demeaning way

Types of Coercive Control


Financial Abuse

  • Withdrawing funds from joint bank accounts leaving you with no means to pay for food, clothing, or housing.

  • Preventing access to your financial documents.


Threats & Intimidation

  • Threatening physical violence against the you, your children, your family, friends, or pets.

  • Threatening to publicly humiliate you by posting sexually explicit images or personal data online.

  • Threatening self-harm unless you stay in the relationship.

  • Threatening to destroy your belongings, particularly ones of sentimental value.


Legal Abuse

  • Refusing to follow court orders.

  • Threating court applications.

  • Failing to cooperate with dispute resolution such as mediation.

  • Doing everything possible to increase your legal fees.


Coercive Abuse Involving the Children

  • Using the children as pawns to control your behavior.

  • Withdrawing love and attention from your children if they show you any interest.

  • Interfering with your communication with your children

  • Conveying to the children you are unsafe, or you don’t love them.

When engaging with a coercive abuser, it is helpful to disentangle which actions, feelings, and behaviors are each individual's personal responsibility. Things to remind yourself of:

I am NOT responsible for:
  • Fixing other people's lives

  • Making other people happy

  • Catering to other people's toxicity

  • Managing other people's triggers

  • Walking on eggshells

  • Being someone's 'emotional punching bag'

  • Telling others what they want to hear to keep the peace

I AM Responsible for:

  • Fixing my own life

  • Making sure I am happy

  • Being my own person

  • Managing my own triggers

  • Establishing & maintaining healthy boundaries

  • Being my own person

  • Speaking my mind or choosing not to engage


Coercive Control is now recognized in Canada's Divorce Act

Under the new Divorce Act, the definition of family violence now includes patterns of coercive or controlling behaviors & any behavior that makes a member of the family fear for their or someone else’s safety.


This change in the law is a critical step in protecting children.  Research indicates that children suffer even when they do not experience the abuse directly. Just knowing that one of their parents or siblings is being abused has devastating effects for the child. These effects can alter their brain development, social development, and physical and mental health. These effects are often long term.


The Courts must now consider the presence of family violence and the impact it has on children, when making decisions about parenting arrangements.



Contact Trish to discuss how to protect yourself and your children

from coercive abuse.

You're not alone

Book your consultation today