Power & Control in Intimate Partner Violence

Duluth Power & Control Wheel https://www.theduluthmodel.org/wheels/

In a previously blog I had mentioned intimate partner violence being synonymous with domestic violence. Intimate partner violence is gaining momentum as the meaning of domestic violence and is being used more frequently. With intimate partner violence there is an element of control that is present. The power and control element separates intimate partner violence from family violence.

Outer Wheel

One of the first things you will notice about the wheel is the thick, black outer rim of the wheel. everything that falls inside the circle relates to physical and sexual violence. Physical and sexual abuse includes the use of intimidation, emotional abuse, isolation, minimizing the abuse, denying the abuse happened, blaming the victim, using children against the victim, using male privilege, Using economic abuse, and the use of coercion and threats.

Inner Wheel

The inner wheel represents everything in the middle. Power and control over the victim is achieved as a whole through each piece of the pie in the center. All the pieces in the center are interconnected and interchangeable. Next I will discuss each pie piece to make up the hole separately.

Using Intimidation

Intimidation takes many different forms. Forms of intimidation could include making the victim afraid by using their looks, actions or gestures to cause fear and gain control. An abuser may break and/or smash things. These items can including meaningful items to the victim. Abusers can destroy the victims property such as clothes, their vehicle, pictures, sentimental items, etc.. Abusers may abuse the victim’s pets to intimidate them. Abusers often will display weapons that cause fear and intense anxiety in their victims.

Intimidation tactics used against me was destruction of property. Destruction of wedding photos was a big thing with my husband. With my 17 year abuser, it was the looks, the MEAN looks I would get. I knew there was something wrong when I saw a certain look, it was just different than just a dirty look. It was evil. I knew once I got that evil look I was going to get it. If I saw that look, I would start getting things together to go somewhere with the kids. It was time to run while I could, IF I could.

Using Emotional Abuse

There are many ways to cause emotional abuse of the victim. In my situation, I felt like the emotional abuse was the absolute worst of any physical abuse. Bones heal, bruises go away, but emotional scarring, that last’s for years, and in many cases, never goes away. The use of emotional abuse includes putting the victim down, making the victim feel bad about themselves, a big one is calling the victim names (such as slut, bitch, whore, worthless, a piece of shit, etc.), making the victim think they are crazy, playing mind games with the victim, humiliating the victim, and making her feel guilty, guilty that the victim caused the abuse.

The emotional abuse for me was absolutely devastating. I had my confidence and self esteem ripped away. I was called so many names. I was told no other man would ever want me because I had three kids with three different men. I was called a slut and a whore every incident of abuse. I was beaten down mentally. My abuser had reinforced beliefs I was already feeling about myself. I always thought of myself as a nobody. He did nothing to make me think otherwise. I never felt anything worthy of him, he never made me feel worthy, until he had abused me, apologized, and bought me something new. A ring, a new outfit, a new dress, or would give me money to buy me something. But that was a tactic of control. Its a part of the phases of abuse, the phases I will cover in a future blog post. The repeated emotional abuse led me down a very sad pathway. The constant putting me down and never feeling good enough because I wasn’t a good cook, or I wore too much make-up (which I did not, and still do not till this day), there was always something his mother did better than I did.


Isolation is a HUGE part of gaining power and control over a victim. The abuser controls everything a victim does in the aspect of where they go, what they do, who they see, what the read, limiting their outside involvement, and acting jealous to justify their actions.

“For me, it was always what took you so fucking long?” I remember going to the grocery store, about ten minutes away, and taking over an hour to do my shopping. I came back and I was bitched at. Told me it should not have taken over an hour to go ten minutes up the road. In my mind I knew it was ridiculous, but I apologized anyway. I was isolated from my friends. I had very few female friends due to something that happened when I was 11. I was not allowed to have male friends. I was told it is inappropriate for a female to have male friends when she is in a relationship. Slowly but surely, I ended friendships because it was just too much dealing with my abuser and making excuses for him. If I didn’t end the friendship, they did because he was too much and they couldn’t handle being around me after I was abused. Some of those friendships I never regained, sadly.

When I had a job he did everything I could to get me out of that job. He did not want anyone finding out about our “happy home life” not being so damn happy. He tried to get me to drop out of school, acting incredibly jealous over me having to do group projects with males. He tried so hard to discourage me from school, but I was learning and gaining my strength my leave the entire time….

Minimizing, Denying & Blaming

Oh boy, this is a big one. Abusers will tend to make light of the abuse or even deny it ever happened. They make light of the abuse even in cases where the victim is seriously injured. They deny it happened even if the victim has visible signs of the abuse such as broken bones or bruises. They will often blame the victim for their actions. It was your fault because you did…I wouldn’t have hit you if you didn’t…you shouldn’t make me so angry…if you would just do as your told I wouldn’t have…so on and so on.

I went through a moment of severe abuse when I was holding our one year old daughter. I ended up being thrown onto the kitchen floor, with my daughter. I remember being in so much pain and just laying there, hurting and terrified. After throwing us to the floor, he sat on the sofa. He stared at me with that look, that fucking terrifying evil look, I did not expect what would happen next. He got off the sofa and walked over to the kitchen floor where I was laying (my daughter was able to walk away somehow) and kicked me in the face as hard as he could. Intense pain shot through my head. Blood poured all over me and all over the floor. I got up, dripping blood. At that moment when I stood up I saw a sheriff’s deputy car racing up the driveway, I knew I was going to be safe. I didn’t know know at that moment my oldest son saw what was transpiring and dialed 911, but I was safe. He told the deputy I had an eye tooth and if I didn’t have my mouth wouldn’t have busted open when he kicked me. But the reality was HE KICKED ME. My face did not ask to be kicked. He minimized the damage to my face by blaming my teeth structure. And I will leave the rest of that story for later….

Using Children

Abusers often gain control when they use the victims children against them. They will often use children to relay messages to the victim. They will all too often threaten to take their children away. They will also use visitation time to harass the victim when child exchanges occur.

In my experience, I was told he would take my daughter away. He said she would grow up wanting to live with him if I left and he would make sure of it. He would buy her copious amounts of toys when she was growing up. She always had the newest Poly Pocket set, all the newest Barbie and Bratz movies. It was like he was trying to buy her love all along so if I ever left she would not want to live with me. All the time making sure everything he bought her she KNEW it came from him. This also ties into economic abuse.

Using Male Privilege

Male privilege in this case refers to treating the victim like a servant, the abuser making all of the decisions in the house, and being the one to define the gender roles.

For me, I wasn’t allowed to work because it is a woman’s job to cook all the meals, clean the house, do the laundry, go grocery shopping, get the kids to school, etc.. I rarely got to make any decisions. I could make suggestions, but ultimately he made the final call. I was able to make most of the decisions when it came to my boys, but very rarely my daughter. There was never any equality in the home. He would cook and clean from time to time if I was working, for the little I worked, or when I was in school (another story for another blog as he tried to get me to drop out). I think the “work” around the house he did was just his way of telling people I had to clean because “Valora” wouldn’t do it. She didn’t cook dinner last night so I had to kind of thing.

Using Economic Abuse

Using economic abuse is the perfect way to gain power and control over a victim. Economic abuse includes not allowing the victim to work, not giving the victim money or giving them a small allowance, taking the victim’s money, and hiding family income from the victim.

The entire 17 years I was with my main abuser, I worked all of about 6 months. He would hold money over the top of my head so to speak. There was a time when he was working and he refused to give me money for diapers, I had NO choice but to steal it from his wallet. I mean he had $800 and ALL I asked for was $20 for diapers. I took the money. He never noticed the money was gone. He would also hold a vehicle over my head. My car was broke down and our daughter was very sick. She was crying and had a fever. He refused to allow me to take her to urgent care or the ER so I had to walk with her and my two sons. I got about 3 miles down the road and a woman picked us up and dropped us off at the ER. A very kind woman. Another time he refused to allow me to use the car to walk to the store to buy things my children needed, including once again, diapers. It was summer here in Florida. I took off walking to Walmart with all three kids in tow, which was about I don’t remember 7 miles round trip? No one picked us up that day.

Using Coercion & Threats

Using coercion and threats is exactly what it sounds like. Coercion and threats include threatening to do harm to the victim, threatening to leave the victim, threatening to report the victim to welfare, making a victim drop charges, making the victim do illegal things (such as using drugs or stealing), and threatening to commit suicide if the victim leaves. Maybe even threatening a family pet.

For me I was always being threatened when he was drunk. He was always going to beat my ass. “I’m going to beat your fucking ass.” “You deserve to get your ass beat.” And the threat was almost always followed up with an action, such as a push, punch, slap, kick. However he could hit me. “I’m gonna fuck you up.” To this day I cannot tolerate the smell of beer. It is a trigger for me. My ex-husband threatened to kill himself if I left. I NEVER felt safe in my own home.


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