Power and control in abusive relationships
- 1 Background
- 2 Control development
- 3 Tactics
- 4 The abuser
- 5 Assessment
- 6 Correlation between abuse and health
- 7 Results
- 8 Treatment
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 Further reading
The power and control wheel was developed in 1982 by the Domestic Abuse Program in Minneapolis to explain the nature of abuse, to delineate the forms of abuse used to control another person, and to educate people with the goal of stopping violence. The model is used in many batterer intervention programs, and is known at the Duluth model. Power and control is generally present with violent physical and sexual abuse.
Often the abusers are initially attentive, charming and loving, gaining the trust of the individual that will ultimately become the victim, also known as the survivor. When there is a connection and a degree of trust, the abusers become unusually involved in their partner's feelings, thoughts and actions.
Next, they set petty rules and exhibit "pathological jealousy". A conditioning process begins with alternation of loving followed by abusive behavior. According to Counselling Survivors of Domestic Abuse, "These serve to confuse the survivor leading to potent conditioning processes that impact on the survivor's self-structure and cognitive schemas." The abuser projects responsibility for the abuse on to the victim, or survivor, and "the denigration and negative projections become incorporated into the survivor's self-image.
|Gain trust||Overinvolvement||Petty rules and jealousy||Manipulation, power and control||Traumatic bonding|
|The potential abuser is attentive, loving, charming||The abuser becomes overly involved in the daily life and use of time||Rules begin to be inserted to begin control of the relationship. Jealousy is considered by the abuser to be "an act of love"||The victim is blamed for the abuser's behavior and becomes coerced and manipulated||Ongoing cycles of abuse can lead to traumatic bonding|
Controlling abusers use multiple tactics to exert power and control over their partners. According to Jill Cory and Karen McAndless-Davis, authors of When Love Hurts: A Woman's Guide to Understanding Abuse in Relationships: Each of the tactics within the power and control wheel are used to "maintain power and control in the relationship. No matter what tactics your partner uses, the effect is to control and intimidate you or to make you feel that you do not have an equal voice in the relationship."
Coercion and threats
A tool for exerting control and power is the use of threats and coercion. The victim may be subject to threats that they will be left, hurt, or reported to welfare. The abuser may threaten that they will commit suicide. They may also coerce them to perform illegal actions or to drop charges that they may have against their abuser.
At its most effective, the abuser creates intimidation and fear through unpredictable and inconsistent behavior. Absolute control is sought one of four types of sadists: explosive, enforcing, tyrannical or spineless sadists. The victims are at risk of anxiety, dissociation, depression, shame, low self-esteem and suicidal ideation.
Abused individuals may be intimidated by the brandishing of weapons, destroying their property or other things, or using gestures or looks to create fear.
An effective means of ensuring control and power over another is to control their access to money. One method is to prevent the abuser from getting a job. Another is to control their access to money; This can be done by withholding information and access to family income, taking their money, requiring the person to ask for money, or giving them an allowance.
Emotional abuse include name-calling, playing mind games, putting the victim down, or humiliating the individual. The goals are to make the person feel bad about themselves, feel guilty or think that they are crazy.
A psychological control is the isolation of the victim, generally a woman, from the outside world. Isolation includes controlling a person's social activity: who they see, who they talk to, where they go and any other method to limit their access to others. It may also include limiting what material is read. It can include insisting on knowing where they are and requiring permission for medical care, The abuser exhibits hypersensitive and reactive jealousy.
Minimizing, denying and blaming
The abuser may deny the abuse occurred to attempt to place the responsibility for their behavior on the victim. Minimizing concerns or the degree of the abuse is another aspect of this control.
Using children and pets
Children may be used to exert control, by threatening to take the children or making them feel guilty about the children. It could include harassing them during visitation or using the children to relay messages. Another controlling tactic is abusing pets.
Using "male privilege" means that the abuser defines the men and women's roles in the relationship, makes the important decisions, treats the individual like a servant and acts like the "master of the castle".
Characteristics of an abuser, or someone who may become an abuser, include:
- Quick involvement in relationships
- Controlling behavior, which may begin by hyperattention to interaction with others, time use, and being late.
- Unrealistic expectations, expecting perfection.
- Jealousy, which they consider a sign of love
- Blame others for problems
- Blame others for feelings
- Cruelty to animals or children
- "Playful" use of force during sex
- Verbal abuse
- Rigid gender roles
- Sudden mood shifts, like "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"
- Past battering
- Threats of violence
- Destroying objects
- Any use of force during an argument
Control freaks are often perfectionists defending themselves against their own inner vulnerabilities in the belief that if they are not in total control they risk exposing themselves once more to childhood angst. Such persons manipulate and pressure others to change so as to avoid having to change themselves, and use power over others to escape an inner emptiness.
In terms of personality-type theory, control freaks are very much the Type A personality, driven by the need to dominate and control. An obsessive need to control others is also associated with antisocial personality disorder.
Sadistic personality disorder
Individuals with sadistic personality disorder derive pleasure from the distress caused by their aggressive, demeaning and cruel behavior towards others. Sadistic people have poor ability to control their reactions and become enraged by minor disturbances, with some sadists more abusive than others. They use a wide range of behaviors to control others, ranging from hostile glances to severe physical violence. Within the spectrum are cutting remarks, threats, humiliation, coercion, inappropriate control over others, restrictive of others' autonomy, hostile behavior and physical and sexual violence. Often the purpose of their behavior is to control and intimidate others.
At the affective level, the sadist shares many of the critical features of the psychopath: they lack remorse for their controlling and exploitative behavior, they do not experience shame or guilt, and they are unable to empathize with their victims. They are cold hearted.
— Adrian Raine and José Sanmartin, authors of Violence and Psychopathy
The sadistic individual are likely rigid in their beliefs, intolerant of other races or other "out-groups", authoritarian, and malevolent. They may seek positions in which they are able to exert power over others, such as a judge, army sergeant or psychiatrist who misuse their positions of power to control or brutalize others. For instance, a psychiatrist may institutionalize a patient by misusing mental health legislation.
Conflict tactics scale
The Conflict Tactics Scale (CTS) is a tool used to access the connection between conflicts in the relationship, violence, and the forms of abuse. It has been used widely in the United States and other countries. An adapted version has been used by the World Health Organization multi-country study on women's health and domestic violence against women.
Correlation between abuse and health
Physical trauma, psychological trauma and stress, and fear and control lead to the risk of adverse health problems. Substance abuse and mental health problems, which may arise due to the chronic stress, can increase health risks. The injuries, illnesses or disorders could directly lead to an individual's disability or death.
According to Chrissie Sanderson, author of Counselling Survivors of Domestic Abuse, Psychological abuse was found to be as likely to result in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as physcial abuse; In 2000, the World Health Organization (WHO) found that one-third of the survivors of psychological abuse had depression, anxiety, eating disorders, sexual dysfunction and PTSD.
|Physical trauma||Psychological trauma and stress||Fear and control|
muscluoskeletal, soft tissue,
genital trauma, other
|Lack of sexual and reproductive control|
|Difficulty seeking health care|
|→||Mental health problems
PTSD, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, suicidality
alcohol, drugs, tobacco
|Sexual and reproductive health
unwanted pregnancy, abortion, HIV or other STIs, gynaecological problems
|Maternal and perinatal health
low birth weight, prematurity, pregnancy loss
cardiovascular disease, hypertension
chronic pain, chronic pelvic pain, irritable bowel syndrome
|Disability or death (homocide, suicide, other)|
Prolonged stress from abuse can result in structural changes to prefrontal cortex, amygdala and hippocampus. It also compromises the immune, neural and neuroendocrine systems. These changes can result in chronic illness, medical conditions, mental disorders and somatoform disorders.
Medical conditions that may develop from prolonged include gastrointestinal disease, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, insulin-dependent diabetes and chronic pain. Pregnant women and their babies are at risk for premature birth and infants with low birth weights due to physiological changes from stress.
Further complicating prevention and treatment, violent abusers often control their partner's medical care access, prescribed medication use and reproductive decisions.
After people have been subject to intimate partner violence for an extended period of time they may become subject to learned helplessness. Initially they may take action to try to control during abusive experiences, but when their efforts are not successful they learn they have little control in the relationship. They lose the ability to predict the outcome of their actions, have little or no control over their situation, and believe that they do not have the ability to leave "seemingly inescapable" violent relationships. Their reactions have been compared to the learned helplessness that studied dogs experience that have been harnessed and given electrical shocks for a period of time. The dogs learn that they cannot control the situation and don't escape when their harnesses have been removed and they continue to be given electrical shocks.
Learned helplessness may be an important coping mechanism to mitigate the fear of being seriously hurt if they left, due to their religious beliefs, or inability to financially support themselves.
Individuals who are subject to learned helplessness may develop other psychological disorders.
Major depressive disorder
Victims of abuse may be subject to major depressive disorder, often co-morbid with post-traumatic stress disorder and may develop after acquiring learned helplessness.
|Symptoms||Battered person syndrome||Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)|
|The person fears for their life|
|Is fearful for more than 4 weeks|
|Performance at work or other important daily life activities is affected|
|Manipulated through threats of violence, unwanted sex, degradation, isolation and more|
|Dislike their bodies and experience somatic health issues, such as fibromyalgia or asthma|
|Sexual intimacy issues|
Post-traumatic stress disorder
Like major depressive disorder, victims who acquire post-traumatic stress disorder do so after having been a victim of learned helplessness.
Battered person syndrome
Battered person syndrome, originally called battered women syndrome, was defined by Lenore E. Walker in 1984 to describe women who had been abused by their male or female intimate partner, including psychological, sexual and physical abuse. Further, the abuser used ruthless coercion, power and control over the victim.
Due to the engrained nature of the disorders, successful treatment plans include psychological, physiological and biological clinical care.
- Child abuse
- Cycle of abuse
- Domestic violence
- Elder abuse
- Intergenerational cycle of abuse
- Intimate partner violence
- Management of domestic violence
- Prosecution of gender-targeted crimes
- Violence Wheel. Domestic Abuse Violence Project (aka Duluth Model). Retrieved April 18, 2014.
- Dr. Joan McClennen PhD. Social Work and Family Violence: Theories, Assessment, and Intervention. Springer Publishing Company; 8 February 2010. ISBN 978-0-8261-1133-3. p. 147.
- Global and regional estimates of violence against women: prevalence and health effects of intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence. World Health Organization. 2013. ISBN 978-92-4-156462-5. p. 7.
- Chrissie Sanderson. Counselling Survivors of Domestic Abuse. Jessica Kingsley Publishers; 15 June 2008. ISBN 978-1-84642-811-1. p. 83.
- Chrissie Sanderson. Counselling Survivors of Domestic Abuse. Jessica Kingsley Publishers; 15 June 2008. ISBN 978-1-84642-811-1. p. 84.
- Dr. Joan McClennen PhD. Social Work and Family Violence: Theories, Assessment, and Intervention. Springer Publishing Company; 8 February 2010. ISBN 978-0-8261-1133-3. p. 148.
- Jill Cory; Karen McAndless-Davis. When Love Hurts: A Woman's Guide to Understanding Abuse in Relationships. WomanKind Press; 1 January 2000. ISBN 978-0-9686016-0-0. p. 30.
- Dr. Joan McClennen PhD. Social Work and Family Violence: Theories, Assessment, and Intervention. Springer Publishing Company; 8 February 2010. ISBN 978-0-8261-1133-3. p. 149.
- Power and Control. Duluth Model. Retrieved April 19, 2014.
- Chrissie Sanderson. Counselling Survivors of Domestic Abuse. Jessica Kingsley Publishers; 15 June 2008. ISBN 978-1-84642-811-1. p. 84.
- Chrissie Sanderson. Counselling Survivors of Domestic Abuse. Jessica Kingsley Publishers; 15 June 2008. ISBN 978-1-84642-811-1. p. 25.
- What is Domestic Abuse.] European White Ribbon Campaign. Retrieved April 19, 2014.
- Kristin Glaser, in The Radical Therapist (Penguin 1974) p. 246
- Michelle N. Lafrance, Women and Depression (2009) p. 89
- Art Horn, Face It (2004) p. 53
- Robin Skynner/John Cleese, Families and how to survive them (London 1994) p. 208
- Robert Bly and Marion Woodman, The Maiden King (Dorset 1999) p. 141
- Andrew Holmes/Dan Wilson, Pains in the Office (2004) p. 56
- Martha Stout, The Sociopath Next Door (2005) p. 47
- Adrian Raine; José Sanmartin. Violence and Psychopathy. Springer; 31 December 2001. ISBN 978-0-306-46669-4. p. 126–128.
- Global and regional estimates of violence against women: prevalence and health effects of intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence. World Health Organization. 2013. ISBN 978-92-4-156462-5. p. 9
- Global and regional estimates of violence against women: prevalence and health effects of intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence. World Health Organization. 2013. ISBN 978-92-4-156462-5. p. 8
- Dr. Joan McClennen PhD. Social Work and Family Violence: Theories, Assessment, and Intervention. Springer Publishing Company; 8 February 2010. ISBN 978-0-8261-1133-3. p. 150.
- Dr. Joan McClennen PhD. Social Work and Family Violence: Theories, Assessment, and Intervention. Springer Publishing Company; 8 February 2010. ISBN 978-0-8261-1133-3. p. 151.
- Anne Cossins. Masculinities, Sexualities, and Child Sexual Abuse. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers; 2000. ISBN 90-411-1355-X.
- Global and regional estimates of violence against women: prevalence and health effects of intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence. World Health Organization. 2013. ISBN 978-92-4-156462-5.
- Handbook on effective police responses to violence against women. Criminal Justice Handbook Series. World Health Organization.
- Christiane Sanderson. Counselling Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse. Jessica Kingsley Publishers; 2006. ISBN 978-1-84310-335-6.
- Chrissie Sanderson. Counselling Survivors of Domestic Abuse. Jessica Kingsley Publishers; 15 June 2008. ISBN 978-1-84642-811-1. p. 73–84.
- Shonna L. Trinch. Latinas' Narratives of Domestic Abuse: Discrepant Versions of Violence. John Benjamins Publishing; 2003. ISBN 1-58811-415-5. p. 121.
- Elizabeth Vera. The Oxford Handbook of Prevention in Counseling Psychology. Oxford University Press; 18 October 2012. ISBN 978-0-19-539642-3.