Criminalizing Coercive Control webinar

Criminalizing Coercive Control: Analysis, Updates and Reflections on Legislating Coercive Control in Canada.

Criminalizing Coercive Control webinar

Analysis, Updates and Reflections on Legislating Coercive Control in Canada.

This webinar invites discussion and input on potential impacts of the pending legislative changes and options for post-legislative policies and practices.


Criminalization of victim-survivors and the ongoing misidentification of women as perpetrators


Gender-based violence is endemic – systemic responses versus incident-centred responses


Reflecting on victim-survivor, anti-violence, gender justice and other community-based interventions and insights


The trouble with evidencing coercive control and proving intent


Coercive control in the context of other areas of the legal system (family, child protection, immigration)


Options to invest in systemic responses outside of the criminal legal system

Date: July 17, 2024
Time: 9am – 11am PST | 12pm–2pm EST
Location: online via Zoom, details will be sent via email after registration.

Invited Panelists

Pamela Cross

Pamela Cross

Canadian feminist lawyer and women’s advocate

Emilie Coyle Executive Director Canadian Association of Elizabeth Societies

Emilie Coyle

Executive Director
Canadian Association of Elizabeth Societies

Agnes Huang

Agnes Huang

Family Lawyer

Deepa Mattoo

Deepa Mattoo

Barrister and Solicitor
Executive Director, Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic


Summer Rain

Manager, Justice Centre at BWSS


Angela Marie MacDougall

Angela Marie MacDougall

Executive Director
Battered Women’s Support Services

Criminalizing Coercive Control

Analysis, Updates and Reflections on Legislating Coercive Control in Canada.

This webinar invites discussion and input on potential impacts of the pending legislative changes and options for post-legislative policies and practices.

The Justice Centre Impact Report 2023-2024

In April 2023, we proudly opened the Justice Centre at BWSS, an expansion of our former Legal Services and Advocacy Program. This community-based legal advocacy clinic is dedicated to providing trauma-informed, multilingual, and culturally responsive legal services to diverse women who have experienced gender-based violence in BC.

The Justice Centre represents a significant evolution in our efforts, and the support of the community has been instrumental in its development. Our funding model is diverse, incorporating contributions from The Law Foundation of BC, the Federal Ministry of Justice, the social enterprise operated by BWSS – My Sister’s Closet, Strategic Interventions, and the generosity of individual donors.

From 2023 to 2024, BWSS has supported 2,159 victims and survivors. As we release our 2023-2024 Justice Centre Impact Report, we are excited to highlight the new services introduced and the profound impact our supportive community had in the work. The donations of our supporters have enabled us to support survivors, foster a safer and more just community, and provide critical legal support and education. This report underscores the enhanced services, training programs, and our focus on racial justice and current issues that the Justice Centre has championed.

Together, we are striving for justice, support, and empowerment for all women affected by gender-based violence. We invite you to learn more about your impact through the Justice Centre and continue this journey with us.

The Aspirations of Fathers: A Call to End Domestic Violence This Father’s Day

The Aspirations of Fathers: A Call to End Domestic Violence This Father’s Day


What is a Father?

Father – fa·ther /ˈfäTHər/ (noun) – a male parent, a man in relation to his child or children.

A father is often seen as a pillar of strength, a beacon of wisdom, and a source of unconditional love. But beyond these traditional roles, what does it truly mean to be a father? This Father’s Day, we reflect on the profound responsibilities fathers hold in breaking the cycle of abuse and fostering a safe, loving environment for today and the future generations.


The Role of a Father in Ending Domestic Violence

A father is more than just a biological connection. He is a mentor, a guide, and a protector. He shapes the lives of his children not just by providing for their physical needs, but by nurturing their hearts and minds. However, it is crucial to recognize that for fathers or father figures who use violence against mothers, they create a legacy of harm for children that can continue for generations.  The association between witnessing intimate partner violence and later perpetration has been found in 39 studies including: 

(Roberts AL et al. Intimate partner violence: Childhood witness to adult perpetrator. Epidemiology, 2010.):


63% of boys who witness their mothers being abused by their fathers grow up to be abusive. 


70% of spousal violence cases with child witnesses, the violence was directed at their mothers. 

 Men who witness intimate partner violence in childhood are more likely to commit such acts in adulthood.

 These figures highlight the critical role fathers play in either perpetuating or ending the cycle of violence. This Father’s Day, we call on all fathers to reflect on their roles and take concrete steps to foster non-violence.

Reflecting on the Fullest Aspiration of Fathers

Today, on Father’s Day, let’s reflect on the highest aspirations of fatherhood. What do we aspire to be as fathers committed to ending domestic violence? Here are some vital roles that fathers must embrace:

Fathers as Safety. A father should be a sanctuary for his children, a place where they feel safe and protected. This means creating an environment free from fear and violence, where love and respect are the foundation of every interaction.

Fathers as Trust. Trust is the cornerstone of any relationship. As fathers, it’s imperative to build and maintain trust with our children. This involves being honest, reliable, and consistent in our words and actions.

Fathers as Accountability. Accountability means taking responsibility for one’s actions and their impact on others. Fathers must hold themselves accountable for their behavior, setting an example for their children to follow. This includes recognizing and addressing any abusive tendencies and seeking help when necessary. 

Fathers as Commitment. Being a father is a lifelong commitment. It means being present, engaged, and dedicated to the well-being and development of one’s children, no matter the circumstances. It also means committing to a personal journey of growth and change to prevent and stop violence. 

Father Is More Than Just a Noun

Father – fa·ther /ˈfäTHər/ (verb) – Men in action to stop violence against women and children.

Fatherhood is not just a noun; it’s a verb. It requires action, especially in the fight against violence. This Father’s Day, we urge all fathers to take a stand against domestic violence. By committing to this cause, we can break the cycle of abuse and build a better, safer world for our children.

I’ve witnessed in my life and through my work, the immediate and long-term impact violence has on people’s lives. I pledge because the Father’s Day pledge is about knowing that men are indeed messengers and change agents needed to transform the culture of violence that exists in our communities.”

Quentin Walcott, CONNECT NYC

Take the Pledge to End Violence

This Father’s Day, take the pledge to end violence. Pledge to be a father and raise future fathers who embodies safety, trust, accountability, and commitment. Pledge to be a person who stands against violence in all its forms.


Join Ending Violence

Join our mailing list to stay updated on the effort  to end violence and learn more about how to take action.


Donate to End Violence

Your support is crucial. Donate today to help us continue our work in ending domestic, intimate partner and sexualized violence.


Learn More

Learn more about gender-based violence. Explore resources on how men can take action to end violence for Father’s Day and everyday (see resources below).

Let’s commemorate Father’s Day by recognizing the role fathers have in ending domestic violence in our communities to help ensure a future where mothers are safe and all children can grow up in a world free from violence and witnessing love and respect.

Toxic Relationships vs. Abusive Relationships

Breaking Free From Partner Abuse

Toxic Relationships vs. Abusive Relationships

You Have Rights

Breaking free from an abusive partner starts with knowing that you don’t deserve abuse and that you have rights. Abuse in any form is unacceptable, and it’s crucial to recognize that everyone has fundamental rights that should never be compromised.

You have the right to safety, respect, and dignity. You have the right to make your own choices and to be treated as an equal. Today, we share a comprehensive list of these essential rights to remind you that you are entitled to live without fear and oppression. Understanding and asserting these rights is the first step toward breaking free from an abusive situation.

All victims/survivors have the right to safety, respect, and dignity.



No one deserves to:

  1. Be pushed, shoved, pounded, slapped, bruised, kicked or strangled.
  2. Be verbally attacked or accused.
  3. Have possessions damaged.
  4. Be interfered with in comings and goings.
  5. Be ridiculed, put down, made fun of, or belittled – alone or in front of others.
  6. Be followed, harassed or spied on.
  7. Be emotionally starved.
  8. Be isolated.
  9. Be threatened with death if you leave

You have the right to:

  1. Be treated with respect.
  2. Be heard.
  3. Say “NO”.
  4. Come and go as you please.
  5. Have a support system.
  6. Have friends and be social.
  7. Have privacy and space of your own.
  8. Maintain a separate identity.

All The Reasons

Breaking free from an abusive partner is a complex and deeply personal journey. Many survivors are held back by the powerful internal and external oppressive narratives that provide reasons to stay with an abusive partner.

It may feel like there are reasons to stay, but there are stronger reasons to leave. Only a survivor knows when it is safe to leave. Even then, it is still a risk; survivors know better than anyone how to calculate their risk, and support is essential.

These oppressive narratives can be overwhelming and perpetuate a cycle of entrapment. Acknowledging that these narratives are not truths but distortions imposed by society, family, and the abusive partner is a way to take back the power that’s been stolen.

All victims/survivors have the right to safety, respect, and dignity.



Reasons to stay:

  1. “The unknown is worse than the known.”
  2. “I can’t make it on my own financially.”
  3. “I’m afraid of being lonely.”
  4. “I’d have to go to work, and I might fail.”

You may be telling yourself things that make you stay:

  1. “He can’t live without me.”
  2. “The children need a father.”
  3. “He’ll kill me if I go.”
  4. “I can’t make it alone.”
  5. “I have no education, no skills.”
  6. “It’s going to get better.”
  7. “No one believes me.”
  8. “I’ll lose my kids.”
  9. “I can’t give up my dream of a good marriage.”
  10. “My mother says to stay.”

Reasons to leave:

  1. Safely from bodily harm for yourself and your children.
  2. More self-respect, self-confidence, and a sense of identity.
  3. Gaining control over your own life.
  4. Increased peace and tranquility.
  5. Sense of independence.

Care For Yourself

Breaking free from an abusive relationship can be one of the hardest things a person does. But even after your ex is out of your life, sometimes the emotional and mental effects from experiencing abuse can linger on.

Leaving can be dangerous: Many people experiencing intimate partner violence realistically fear that their abusive partners’ actions will become more violent and even lethal if they attempt to leave. The abusive partner may have threatened to kill them or hurt their child, family member or pet if they leave.

What about the kids? Many survivors are not sure that leaving would be the best for their children (especially if the children are not being abused directly.) Concerns may include: Will my partner win custody of the children? How will I support my kids without my partner’s income? I want my children to have two parents.

You may experience feelings of depression, guilt, anger, loss and even the effects of trauma.

Being in an abusive relationship, or leaving and getting back together more than once – which is very common – can hurt your self-esteem, make you doubt yourself and derail your progress. If you’re feeling bad, you may even question your decision to leave in the first place. The important thing to remember is that you did leave and that took a lot of strength. Now it is time to channel your courage into healing and establishing a confident and healthy you.

All victims/survivors have the right to safety, respect, and dignity.


Things to remember:

  1. You did not cause the violence.
  2. You cannot keep it from happening again.
  3. Your word/actions do not influence his.
  4. Alcohol does not cause violence – it is the excuse he uses to be violent.
  5. Because he is sorry afterward doesn’t excuse what he did.
  6. You are not one of his possessions to be used as he sees fit.
  7. He is not “king of his castle”. If the king is abusive, he needs to be dethroned.
  8. Whatever he does in the privacy of his home is not okay. What is done in the privacy of the home must be agreeable with both people. Otherwise it’s time to “go public”.
  9. You don’t deserve to be beaten.
  10. You are not to blame for the violence. Look else where for a place to blame.
  11. You cannot control his violence. You are powerless to control it. You are free to manage your own life.

Ways to take care of yourself:

  1. Remove yourself from the cause of the harm.
  2. Find a safe environment.
  3. Develop a support system.
  4. Stay healthy.
  5. Practice self-care.
  6. Regain your sense of humor.

Questions to ask yourself:

  1. What do I gain by staying in a violent home?
  2. What do my children gain by staying in a violent home?
  3. What do I lose by leaving?
  4. What do my children lose by leaving?
  5. What do I have to gain by leaving?
  6. What do my children have to gain by leaving?
  7. Who can I talk to about my problem?
  8. What are my bottom line expectations for the future?
  9. What am I will to live without for the rest of my life?
  10. What price am I paying for “peace”?
    • Is it too high?
    • How long have I been paying it?
    • Are my children paying a price?
    • Is it too high?
    • How will it affect them five years from now?
  11. Without change, what will I be like five years from now?
  12. What do I want?
  13. How can I get it?
  14. What am I willing to do to get it?

Conclusion & Safety Planning

Remember, you are not alone. Support is available, and there are people and resources ready to help you reclaim your life and your rights.  

Through this process safety, remembrance and mourning and reconnection, Support groups and organizations can be very helpful.  

Getting involved in support groups, joining organizations, and connecting with other survivors can offer you comfort and support during this time. 

Planning for safety is one way you can take back your power in abusive relationships. Although you can’t control an intimate partner’s use of violence, you can evaluate and define options and opportunities for your liberation and safety. Learn more about Personalized Safety Plan tools:

Together, we can work towards a world where everyone lives free from violence. 


You are not alone.

If you or someone you love is in need of support, please contact the Battered Women Support Services Crisis Line:

Call toll-free: 1-855-687-1868
Metro Vancouver: 604-687-1867

Systemic Mistrust and the Continued Inadequacy of the Legal and Policing Systems


This week, on June 6, 2024, Curtis Sagmoen is due to appear in Kamloops Law Courts, charged with two counts of possession of a firearm contrary to an order.

Curtis Sagmoen, of Vernon BC, has an extensive history of violence against sex workers and Indigenous women and girls – the case raises the familiar questions about systemic racism and sexism in police investigations that have been asked so many times before.

Below is a timeline of Sagmoen’s prolific violence against women, as well as the continued inadequacy of the justice and policing systems.


2013: Sagmoen assaults a woman with a hammer in Maple Ridge

May 2017: Traci Genereaux vanishes from the Syilx territory in Vernon BC.

July 19, 2017: Sagmoen uses a homemade spike belt to damage the tires of a woman’s vehicle.

August 10, 2017: Sagmoen assaults a woman using an all-terrain vehicle (ATV).

  • The victim, a sex worker whose identity is protected by a publication ban, was attacked by Sagmoen. The victim had gone to Sagmoen’s property to provide her services however, when he failed to pay, she attempted to leave the property.
  • With her back turned, Sagmoen hit the victim with his ATV causing her to flip over the vehicle.
  • The victim suffered a broken tail bone, concussion, and multiple other injuries, including long-term emotional trauma.

August 27, 2017: Sagmoen threatens a woman at gun point.

  • Sagmoen had contacted the victim, a sex worker, and told her to meet him at a location south of Salmon Arm BC.
  • The victim had been instructed by Sagmoen to drive down a rural road to an address. At trial, the Court heard how Sagmoen then ambushed the victim, pointing a firearm through the driver’s side window of the victim’s car.
  • Attempting to drive away, the victim crashed her car and was forced to flee on foot.
  • The police investigation found a shotgun slug lodged in the victim’s front driver side tire, as well as multiple shotgun shells in Sagmoen’s truck.

October 20, 2017: Sagmoen is arrested and charged with 7 offences in relation to the August 27, 2017 incident:

  • Reckless discharge of a firearm s.244.2
  • Uttering threats s.264.1
  • Using a firearm in the commission of an offence s.85
  • Having his face masked with intent to commit an offence s.351(2)
  • Pointing a firearm s.87
  • Possession of a weapon for dangerous purpose s.88
  • Careless use of a firearm s.86

October 21, 2017: Vernon RCMP Southeast District Major Crimes Unit begins searching the Sagmoen family farm.

  • RCMP Corporal Dan Moskaluk says that he cannot confirm why officers had a search warrant for the property, except that it was in relation to a criminal investigation.
  • The basis for the search warrant remains unclear.
  • The investigation found human remains.

November 1, 2017: RCMP confirms that human remains found on Sagmoen’s farm are those of Traci Genereaux.

  • The death is considered suspicious by police, however Sagmoen is not named a suspect – no charges have been made in relation to the teenager’s death.
  • Police have not released any cause of death.

November 2018: Sagmoen’s bail application denied, he remained in custody until trial.

December 2018: Sagmoen receives absolute discharge in relation to mischief charges.

  • Sagmoen had originally been charged with mischief under $5000 in relation to the spike belt incident on July 19, 2017.
  • Following a joint submission from Crown counsel and defence lawyers, a judge agreed to discharge Sagmoen’s record.
  • Despite Sagmoen’s guilty plea of mischief to property, no conviction will be entered onto his record.

February 2019: Sagmoen is convicted of assaulting a woman in Maple Ridge in 2013.

  • Sagmoen entered a guilty plea in Port Coquitlam Provincial Court for the lesser offence of assault, having originally been charged with assault causing bodily harm.
  • Sagmoen was sentenced to 30 days in jail, time he had already served, and 24 months of probation.

December 2019: Sagmoen is found guilty of offences related to the August 27, 2017 incident.

  • A BC Supreme Court Judge found Sagmoen guilty of wearing a mask with intent to commit an indictable offence, and the use of a firearm in an indictable offence.
  • The Judge held there was not enough evidence to find Sagmoen guilty of knowingly threatening to cause death or bodily harm.
  • Sagmoen was sentenced to 2 years less a day in jail to allow for probation.
  • Having already been in custody for two years and two months without a sentence by the time this sentence was handed down, Sagmoen had already served his time for these offences.
  • Sagmoen was also sentenced to 36 months of probation with conditions, including no contact with sex workers; a ban on internet use for escort sites; a ban on ownership, and relinquishment, of his firearms to RCMP.

February 2020: Sagmoen is convicted of assault causing bodily harm in relation to the August 10, 2017 incident.

June 2020: Sagmoen is sentenced to 5 months in jail and 3 years of probation following the February conviction.

  • The probation includes a ten-year firearm ban, a no contact with sex workers order, and limitation on Sagmoen’s use of the internet and phone.

October 21, 2020: Vernon North Okanagan RCMP asks all sex workers not to respond to requests for services in the Salmon River Road area.

  • RCMP released a photograph of Sagmoen, along with the warning which was made “in the interest of safety.”
  • RCMP said it made the release “to inform persons who are protected by the court-ordered condition, so that they can take steps to protect themselves.”

April 11, 2022: RCMP renew the warning to sex workers.

April 26, 2022: Sagmoen breached his probation order by possessing drugs, using a mobile communication device, and communicating with a sex worker. Sagmoen was arrested and released from custody on April 27.

April 28, 2022: Sagmoen was stopped by an officer in Vernon. A search revealed another, probation order defying, mobile phone. Sagmoen was arrested again and held in custody until May 2022 when he was released on bail.

June 27, 2023: Sagmoen pleads guilty to breaching four of the probation conditions imposed on him following the August 10, 2017 assault.

December 13, 2023: Sagmoen was sentenced to 60 days in custody following conviction for two breaches of his probation order.

  • Provincial court Judge Hewson stated the issue with sentencing was about balancing “rehabilitation with the principles of deterrence and denunciation.”

April 10, 2024: the court granted Sagmoen’s application to vary certain terms of his probation order. The changes allow Sagmoen to contact various professionals and for his probation officer to give permission for him to deal with certain legal proceedings.

  • However, access to this information through Court Services Online is limited due to an outstanding publication ban ordered on May 4, 2022.

April 18, 2024: following an incident in Kamloops, Sagmoen is charged with two counts of possessing a firearm or ammunition contrary to an order.

  • Sagmoen is not being held in custody.
  • Sagmoen’s next court appearance for this matter is scheduled for June 6, 2024.

Systemic Mistrust

When sentencing Sagmoen in December 2019, Justice Beames labelled Sagmoen’s offences as “very serious. They are unprovoked, premeditated, almost inexplicable – the ambush of a sex trade worker.” She is certainly not wrong. However, acknowledging the severity of the crimes therefore begs the question: why is the justice system so determined to be lenient in its punishment of prolific violence against women?

Sagmoen continues to show blatant disregard for the probation orders imposed upon him. When sentencing Sagmoen for multiple counts of violating probation orders in April 2022, Provincial court Judge Hewson conducted a balancing act worth considering here. Hewson considered factors such as the assistance Sagmoen provides his parents and brother – all of whom suffer from health challenges, as well as the fact Sagmoen has undertaken counselling and treatment for addiction. On the other hand, Hewson addressed the importance of an effective judicial system by respect for its orders and the public protection they purportedly offer. Ultimately, Hewson sentenced Sagmoen to 30 days for each of the three April 26 infractions, and 45 days for the April 28 offence. Following release, Sagmoen would be under another two-year probation order.

However, once again Sagmoen violated these probation orders and is currently facing new charges relating to breaches of probation orders. The Court’s idealistic use of probation orders is not working, Sagmoen is a repeat offender and the people who remain in danger are women. Furthermore, the RCMP’s repeated releases warning sex workers to stay away from Sagmoen indicate the lack of faith law enforcement has in the probation no-contact orders Sagmoen is subject to. There appears to be a level of suspicion that Sagmoen will continue to breach his orders, a suspicion strong enough to warrant multiple warnings to the public. The onus seems to have been placed on sex workers to take the necessary steps to protect themselves. In a move that has undertones of victim blaming, the RCMP warnings raise familiar concerns about how the police treats sex workers, and in particular sex workers who are the victims of violence.

Furthermore, Traci Genereaux is just one of five women who went missing from the Salmon River Valley and nearby towns between 2016 and 2017 – within a mere 18-month period. Whilst the ex-partner of one of these women, Ashley Simpson, was eventually convicted of her murder – no answers nor justice have been provided for the families of Deanna Wertz, Caitlin Potts, Nicole Bell and Traci Genereaux.

The RCMP’s repeated failures in investigating the disappearances of women and girls, in particular Indigenous women and girls, are not a new phenomenon. Instead, the slow and secretive investigations into missing and murdered women and girls, is an ongoing symptom of systemic racism and sexism in the police.

Sagmoen’s case bares some striking resemblance to that of notorious BC serial killer Robert Pickton. Picking up most of his victims from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, with most of his victims operating as sex workers and a disproportionate number of his victims being Indigenous, Pickton was convicted of six counts of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison in 2007. However, the total number of his victims is likely much higher since the remains or DNA of 33 women were found on his farm.

In the aftermath of notorious serial killer Robert Pickton, the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry was ordered. Titled Forsaken: The Report of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, the Commission which was led by Wally Oppal exposed systemic failings in both the Vancouver Police Department and the RCMP: “I have found that the missing and murdered women were forsaken twice: once by society at large and again by the police.” Additionally, the Report called for prevention of violence against Indigenous women and girls to be made a priority since the Report found “Aboriginal women experience higher levels of violence in terms of both incidence and severity and are disproportionately represented in the number of missing and murdered women across Canada.”

This month marks five years since the Prime Minister was presented with the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. In Canada, Indigenous women are twelve times more likely to be murdered or missing than non-Indigenous women – the risk only increases where Indigenous women are also sex-workers. Despite the Report concluding that the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls crisis amounts to genocide, we are still awaiting meaningful systemic change. There is a deep-rooted mistrust in the police by Indigenous sex workers, with studies attributing this to intergenerational trauma and ongoing colonialization.

Despite these reports and undeniable statistics, the case of Curtis Sagmoen leaves many questions of accountability and responsibility unanswered: will we ever see systemic change in action? With the lenient sentencing and inadequate investigations evidenced by the Sagmoen case, is it any wonder there is profound mistrust in the justice system among Indigenous women and sex workers?

Previous blogs about Curtis Sagmoen and the effort to hold him accountable while highlight systemic failures:

Advocacy and Accountability: The Effort for Justice

She was a “known Surrey prostitute with an extensive criminal record”

Rallies Calling for Justice

Bodily Autonomy: Empowering Choices Without Fear

Toxic Relationships vs. Abusive Relationships

Bodily Autonomy: Empowering Choices Without Fear

Bodily autonomy is a basic human right that forms the foundation of personal freedom and self-determination. It is the power and agency to make choices about one’s own body and future without the threat of violence or coercion.

This concept is not just a matter of personal liberty; it is integral to the fabric of a just and equitable society.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the significance of bodily autonomy, its implications for various aspects of life, and why protecting this right is essential for everyone.


Understanding Bodily Autonomy

Bodily autonomy means having the ultimate control over decisions that affect one’s body and future. This includes choices related to health, sexuality, reproduction, and personal identity. It is about respecting each individual’s right to govern their own body without external pressure or interference.

The principle of bodily autonomy is rooted in the idea of consent and the belief that every person should have the freedom to make informed decisions about their own life. This autonomy extends beyond mere physical health; it encompasses mental, emotional, and social well-being, highlighting the interconnected nature of personal agency and overall quality of life.


The Importance of Bodily Autonomy


Health and Reproductive Rights:

  • Access to safe and legal abortion, contraception, and comprehensive sex education are critical components of bodily autonomy. These rights allow individuals to make informed choices about their reproductive health and family planning.
  • Autonomy in healthcare decisions ensures that individuals can consent to or refuse medical treatments based on their own values and beliefs.

Gender and Sexuality:

  • Bodily autonomy supports the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals to express their identities and make choices about their bodies without fear of discrimination or violence.
  • It also encompasses the right to consensual sexual relationships and the ability to refuse unwanted sexual advances.

Protection from Violence and Coercion:

  • Bodily autonomy is a safeguard against various forms of violence, including domestic abuse, sexual assault, and human trafficking. When individuals are empowered to make decisions about their own bodies, they are better equipped to protect themselves from coercion and exploitation.
  • Legal frameworks and social norms must support and protect individuals from any form of coercion or violence that infringes upon their autonomy.

Economic and Social Implications:

  • Ensuring bodily autonomy can have profound economic and social benefits. When individuals have control over their reproductive choices, they can pursue education and career opportunities, leading to greater economic independence and societal contributions.
  • Social policies that support bodily autonomy contribute to gender equality and help dismantle systemic barriers that disproportionately affect women and marginalized groups.

Challenges to Bodily Autonomy

Despite its fundamental importance, bodily autonomy is frequently challenged by social, cultural, and legal barriers. In many parts of the world, restrictive laws, cultural norms, and lack of access to essential services undermine this right. Some of the key challenges include:

  • Restrictive Laws: Legislation that limits access to abortion, contraception, and gender-affirming healthcare directly impedes bodily autonomy.
  • Cultural Norms and Stigma: Societal attitudes and stigma around issues like sexual health, reproductive rights, and gender identity can pressure individuals into making choices against their will.
  • Violence and Coercion: High rates of domestic violence, sexual assault, and coercive control continue to threaten bodily autonomy, especially among women and marginalized communities.​

Moving Forward: Advocating for Bodily Autonomy

To protect and promote bodily autonomy, it is crucial to advocate for policies and cultural changes that respect and empower individual choices. Here are some steps we can take:

Legal Reforms:

Advocate for laws that protect and expand access to reproductive healthcare, support gender-affirming treatments, and safeguard against all forms of violence and coercion.

Education and Awareness:

Promote comprehensive sex education that empowers individuals with knowledge about their bodies, consent, and their rights.

Support Services:

Ensure access to supportive services such as healthcare, legal assistance, and counseling for those affected by violence and coercion.

Cultural Change:

Work towards changing societal attitudes that stigmatize certain choices or identities, fostering a culture of respect and acceptance for all individuals.


Bodily autonomy is an essential aspect of human dignity and freedom. It empowers individuals to make choices about their bodies and futures without fear of violence or coercion. By advocating for legal reforms, raising awareness, and promoting cultural change, we can protect this fundamental right and build a society where everyone can thrive. Respecting bodily autonomy is not only a matter of personal liberty but also a cornerstone of a fair and equitable world.

You are not alone.

If you or someone you love is in need of support, please contact the Battered Women Support Services Crisis Line:

Call toll-free: 1-855-687-1868
Metro Vancouver: 604-687-1867