Understanding Power, Control, and Abuse

Posted by on Jun 10, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

The Power and Control WheelDomestic abuse is not all cuts and bruises. in order to end abuse in our families, or in our community, it is important to be aware of the entire range of behavior that could constitute abuse.

To do this, Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs, in Duluth, created the Power and Control Wheel, a diagram that helps both victims and abusers identify all the behaviors that they have either experienced or utilized in their relationships.  The wheel is separated into eight distinct categories:

Intimidation is the act of making someone fearful or making someone feel inferior.  In an unhealthy relationship, intimidation can be seen throughout a wide variety of actions and behaviors.  Some of these include: pointed looks, body language, destruction of property, abusing pets, threats/implication of a threat, and displaying weapons.

Emotional abuse is one of the most common forms of abuse and is characterized by frequent verbal attacks or put downs.  These behaviors can include: name calling, insulting the victim, making the victim feel crazy or playing mind games, humiliating the victim, and making the victim feel guilty.

Isolation in domestic violence is the act of cutting the victim off from the rest of the world, especially his or her potential support system.  Behaviors include: controlling who the victim sees or interacts with, controlling what the victim does or where they go, limiting what the victim can read or watch on TV,  attempting to ruin or distance relationships with friends or family, and using jealousy as a means to justify their abuse.

Minimizing, denying, and blaming are all words that explain the abusers reasoning for the abuse.  Perpetrators of domestic abuse often minimize the abuse by making light of the situation or blowing off the victim when they want to discuss it.  Perpetrators of domestic abuse also frequently deny that the abuse occurred at all.  Finally, perpetrators of domestic abuse shift responsibility for the abusive behavior onto the victim by saying that their actions forced their hand. They can use these tactics to both rationalize their own behavior as well as manipulate and control their partner by making them feel guilty, too sensitive, and/or crazy.

Using children is another way for attackers to manipulate their victims.  Perpetrators of domestic abuse use their children to make their partner feel guilty about leaving or wanting to leave. They can use their children to relay messages to their victim. Or perpetrators of domestic abuse can force their victims to stay by threatening to take away their children.

Economic abuse is making one partner financially dependent on the other.  Victims who are unable to support themselves, and possibly their children, are less likely to leave their partners.  Perpetrators of domestic abuse can prevent their partners from getting jobs, make their partners ask for money, give their partners an allowance, take their partner’s money, spend their partners money before they get a chance to save or work towards any type of financial goals, or withhold information or access to family income.

Male privilege is the social practice of men receiving benefits or advantages based solely on their gender.  Whether consciously or not, male perpetrators use this logic to justify their abusive and domineering actions over their female partner.  Examples of male privilege in perpetrators are treating the woman as a servant, and defining the “proper roles” for both men and women.

Coercion and threats are commonly used.  Perpetrators of domestic abuse can threaten violence or physical harm, threaten to leave the victim, or threaten to commit suicide if the victim was to leave them.

These types of behaviors, in isolation, appear negligible. Yet, abusive relationships are marked by a repeated use of these behaviors, reinforcing one another and increasing asserting power and control over the victim. By identifying these various signs sooner we may be able to break the cycle and save more victims from an unnecessarily tragic fate.

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