Understanding Online Coercive Control in the Context of Intimate Partner Violence

Understanding Online Coercive Control in the Context of Intimate Partner Violence

Safety Resource Blog Week Five


Nowadays, many survivors’ journeys to seeking safety from an abusive relationship start with technology.

Technology is a powerful ally. Whether it’s for research, accessing resources, creating safety plans, finding support groups, or reaching out for help, the internet and technology stand as lifelines for many survivors.

However, technology also has a dark side, presenting risks for victims of violence. In the hands of abusers, this powerful ally can transform into a weapon capable of inflicting harm on their partners. This malicious use includes surveillance, tracking devices or software, threatening messages, restricting access to technology, manipulation of smart home tools, and a range of other insidious tactics.

In this digital era, the very tools that offer support to survivors also harbour potential threats, highlighting the complex balance in harnessing technology for empowerment while safeguarding against its malicious misuse.


What is Online Coercive Control?

Online coercive control refers to a form of abusive behaviour in which one person uses technology to control, manipulate, or threaten another person.

This behaviour can occur within any form of relationship, whether it’s with an intimate partner, within a family dynamic, or even among friends. It can be carried out using any technological devices, social media, and other online platforms to monitor, harass, and exert power and control over the victim. In the context of intimate partnerships, this type of abuse is often referred to as Technology-Based Intimate Partner Violence (TB-IPV).

It’s important to remember that online abuse takes on various forms, ranging from hurtful actions like spreading embarrassing or cruel content about someone, to impersonation, doxing, stalking, and electronic surveillance. Additionally, it includes the unauthorized use of someone’s photos and the issuance of violent threats.

The demonstration of online abuse is diverse and includes a spectrum of harmful behaviours that can deeply negatively impact victims. Learn more about online abuse, the tactics, and internet safety here.

Let’s continue to delve deeper into the complex web of online coercive control, exploring its manifestations, impact, and strategies for both awareness and protection.


Here are some ways that online coercive control appears in an intimate partner relationship:


Surveillance and Monitoring:

Abusers use tracking devices, spyware, or monitoring software to invade the privacy of their victims, creating a constant atmosphere of surveillance.


Threatening Messages:

Abusers use messaging platforms to deliver threat and intimidation.


Restriction of Access:

Victims may find themselves cut off from technology, as abusers use control tactics to limit access to communication and information.


Smart Home Tools:

The smart home technology provides another avenue for control, as abusers manipulate devices to survey and harass their partners within the confines of their own homes.


Financial Control:

Abuse can extend to financial aspects, such as controlling the victim’s access to online banking, monitoring their spending, or using technology to restrict their financial independence.


Revenge Porn:

Sharing intimate or explicit images without consent, commonly known as revenge porn, is another form of abuse aimed at humiliating and controlling the victim.


Identity Theft:

Abusers may use digital methods to impersonate the victim, create fake accounts, or manipulate their online presence, leading to reputational damage and further control.

Did you know?

The Metro Vancouver transit cards, also known as Compass Cards, pose a risk to women in abusive relationships.

Registering a Compass Card allows for tracking, which can compromise the safety of women in abusive situations. Click here to learn more on how to keep yourself and loved ones safe from compass cards.

What’s the Impact on Survivors?

The outcome of online abuse goes far beyond the online world, affecting the emotional, psychological, and physical well-being of victims.

This can lead to stress, anxiety, and a heightened risk of depression for those trapped in this form of abuse.

Beyond the immediate emotional toll, victims often deal with the loss of their self-esteem. The isolation from support networks further adds to the difficulties faced by survivors, creating an environment where seeking assistance becomes increasingly difficult.


Here are some ways to stay safe:


Secure your devices: Change your passwords, Enable two-factor authenticator.


Check your social media settings: Adjust your privacy settings, Limit the personal information you share and be mindful of accepting unfamiliar people.


Educate yourself: Stay informed about common tactics, spyware apps and tracking devices.


Seeking Professional Support: Consult with cybersecurity experts and speak to a professional to address any emotional impacts.


Legal Protections: Familiarize yourself with laws and regulations related to online abuse in your jurisdiction.Top of Form

Did you know?

In Canada, a new bill is being introduced: Bill C-332, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (controlling or coercive conduct).

This bill is being brought forward by NDP MP Laurel Collins, who stated, “Criminalizing coercive control means giving victims and survivors additional tools to leave abusive situations.

We have a responsibility to give these victims more control, more autonomy, and more power to escape dangerous situations, hopefully, to prevent the all-too-common escalation to violence.”

Remember, staying safe from online coercive control involves a combination of technological vigilance, education, and seeking support.

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