Our Definitions

Common Understanding

In 2020, IMPACT engaged in a research process to create a common understanding of our definition of domestic and sexual violence. 

Our journey to a common understanding is still underway. Right now, we agree that:

  • An issue as complex as domestic and sexual violence is a component of large-scale social change.
  • The presence of domestic and sexual violence in our society is problematic.
  • The issue of domestic and sexual violence is extremely complex.
  • The optimal pathway to achieving our vision of ending domestic and sexual violence is through collaboration and partnerships across community stakeholders, systems and government. 
  • Research shows that structured cross sector coalitions are much more effective.
  • We have agreed we need to eradicate domestic and sexual violence. Our mandate is to figure out the best vehicle to do this. 

Common Definitions

At IMPACT, we define common terms to unite us in the work to eradicate domestic and sexual violence. These working definitions have been shaped by academic works (Aida Davis), and legal definitions (governments of Alberta and Canada) and expand on them in order to support IMPACT’s mission and advocacy work. We are actively working to evolve these definitions to better express the impact of systemic discrimination and violence on persons, families, and communities. 


Domestic and sexual violence have far reaching and long-term impacts on those using and experiencing violence and on families, communities and society. Domestic violence is a broad term that includes intimate partner violence; family violence; sexual violence and exploitation; child and elder abuse and neglect; and witnessing the abuse of others. Sexual violence is a broad term that includes sexual harassment, sexual exploitation, sexual abuse and sexual assault.


Domestic violence is the act, attempt or intent of one person in an intimate, dependent, or trusting relationship to control or coerce another. This purposeful pattern of behaviour occurs over time and includes:

  • Controlling behaviours: a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday lives.
  • Coercive behaviours: a continuing act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten.


Any sexualized act or attempted act, unwanted sexual comment or advance, or act to sexually traffic, exploit, or coerce a person by another person. This can occur in any setting, including home and work, in any relationship, or between acquaintances and strangers.