- Power and Control Wheels
- Effects on Children
- LGBTQI+ Resources
- Traumatic Brain Injuries
- Mental Health
Physical and sexual assaults, or threats to commit them, are the most apparent forms of domestic violence and are usually the actions that allow others to become aware of the problem. However, regular use of other abusive behaviors by the batterer, when reinforced by one or more acts of physical violence, make up a larger system of abuse. Although physical assaults may occur only once or occasionally, they instill threat of future violent attacks and allow the abuser to take control of the woman’s life and circumstances.
The Power & Control diagram is a particularly helpful tool in understanding the overall pattern of abusive and violent behaviors, which are used by a batterer to establish and maintain control over his partner. Very often, one or more violent incidents are accompanied by an array of these other types of abuse. They are less easily identified, yet firmly establish a pattern of intimidation and control in the relationship.
Power and Control Wheel Variations:
Common Traits of Batterers
Abused women are victims; they are NOT responsible for provoking – or correcting the behavior of their abusers.
Batterers are someone an individual knows and loves. Initially, the batterer may seem charming, attentive, and supportive. They present in a non-violent manner in the early stages of relationships. Their behavior changes over time to become more controlling, demeaning and demanding. Their abusive behavior is learned and socially reinforced.
Excessive Jealousy – Has jealous reactions to many things in your life, including casual, minor contacts with such people as store clerks or neighbors. Often very jealous of friends, family, children, and pets.
Verbal Abusiveness – Uses putdowns such as “You’re stupid” or “You’re not a good mother” to destroy your self-esteem. The abusive language may escalate into rage or physical attacks.
Controlling Behavior – Demands rigid accounts of your every move, and will often make follow-up calls to confirm your whereabouts. A batterer is unwilling to distinguish between caring and controlling behavior. Will text/call frequently and expect an immediate response.
Attempts to Isolate You – Tries to destroy your relationships with your family and friends so that you can be broken and “molded” into an ideal victim. Isolation keeps you from getting reality checks or support from others beside the batterer. Forces you to choose “them or me.”
Unwillingness to Control Anger – Has frequent violent outbursts such as ramming fists through walls; often gets into brawls, often with little warning. A batterer often throws things, kicks things, and goes into verbal rages.
Use of Violence – Uses force or intimidation to “win” arguments; destroys physical objects; may have a history of cruelty to children as well as animals; may use force during sex.
Alcohol and Drug Abuse – Abuses substances, but not all batterers are addicts or alcoholics. Drugs and alcohol may make a batterer more violent – but they do not explain the violence. Batterers continue to batter even after they quit using drugs and alcohol.
Rigid Gender Roles – Believes that women are possessions and that they should cater to and unquestioningly obey men. Often has uncompromising ideas about what women’s and men’s roles, rights, and “duties” are.
Witness Domestic Violence in Childhood – Of batterers who are currently battering, 73% grew up in an abusive household or witnessed domestic violence as a child. This does not excuse their behavior. It gives them responsibility to learn to do something different from what they learned.
Lack of Sensitivity – Unwilling to appreciate other people’s feelings. Batterers believe that people who think or feel differently than themselves are wrong. It is the batterer’s way – or no way! May use the survivors past behavior/experiences against them during a fight. Or bring up the survivors’ insecurities against them.
Insecurity and Low Self-Esteem – Has overwhelming feelings of inadequacy regarding several areas of their life. Batterers work hard to hide their feelings. As such, they often appear confident, charming, and in control.
Denial of Responsibility – Blames violent episodes on the victims. Common statements include, “They made me do it,” and “If you hadn’t done —–, I wouldn’t have had to be violent.” Batterers believe they should not have to face consequences for their behavior. They think there are acceptable excuses for the violence and give themselves permission to batter.
Lack of Communication – Refuses to take responsibility to share honest feelings and thoughts. Does not talk through conflicts to an equally negotiated resolution. Batterers often “pick” on the survivor but when the survivor attempts to “pick” on the batterer, they blow up and accuse the survivor of being disrespectful. Double standards.
Lack of Intimacy – Typically thinks that sex = intimacy. Often does not show affection without sex. Batterers usually do not communicate about what would be equally pleasurable during sex.
Dependency – Wants to be taken care of without asking for it directly or sharing. Batterers think it is others’ responsibility to make sure their needs are met and they are the victim if someone is not taking care of them.
Self-Centered – Believe that the only things that are important are the things that pertain to them. They think everything should happen the way they want and they have the right to push as hard as necessary to get things their way. Batterers do not respect boundaries or other people’s opinions, thoughts, or feelings. They act as if they are the “Center of the Universe.”
Effects on Children Who Witness Domestic Violence
The experience of witnessing domestic violence can have serious and long lasting effects on children, regardless of whether the children have been directly abused by a parent. The following is a summary of some of the effects that can result when a child witnesses violence between her/his parents.
Children will sometimes attempt to intervene, putting them at risk for physical harm. In one study, 63% of boys, ages 11-20, who committed homicide, murdered the man who was abusing their mother (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence). Children often feel guilty that they were not able to prevent the violence and sometimes feel they were somehow to blame for the violence.
Depression, impaired trust, and low self-esteem are common in children who witness domestic violence.
Witnessing violence in the home often leads to behavior problems in children; typically children will develop aggressive or submissive behaviors. Children may identify with the role of the victim or the abuser.
Effects may include emotional problems in children such as anxiety disorders, phobias, learning problems, delayed social development and developmental delays.
Because of the emotional and behavioral effects of domestic violence, children may also develop academic or behavioral problems at school, drug or alcohol abuse, or delinquent behavior.
Research points to a strong tendency for the cycle of violence to continue to the next generation. Children from violent homes are at higher risk of getting involved in violent relationships as teens or adults. One researcher found, for example, that men who had witnessed domestic violence were three times as likely to abuse their own spouses. Sons of the most violent families have a rate of spouse abuse one thousand times greater than sons from nonviolent homes (Straus, 1980).
The Children’s Program at Artemis provides counseling and advocacy for children and teens who witnessed violence in their hoe.
Children’s Response to Domestic Violence by Age
Under 2 years
- Respond to loud stimuli with increased fear (crying)
- Developmental delays (slower to walk, crawl, talk, etc.)
2 – 5 years
- Regressive behavior (lose toileting skills, baby talk, more clingy, revert to use of bottle)
- Somatic problems
- Hyper vigilance
- Repetitive play, acting out domestic violence
- Increased sibling violence
- Cruelty to animals
- Developmental delays (slower to learn ABC’s, read, etc.)
- Decreased playfulness and spontaneity
- Feel responsible for violence (believe if they behaved better, it would not occur)
- Increased dependency on primary caretaker
6 – 12 years
- Increased problems at school (misbehavior, grades drop)
- Increased acting out, getting into trouble (may see lying, stealing, truancy, setting fires)
- Often viewed by others as having attentional problems or learning disabilities
- May withdraw and become reclusive rather than acting out
- May take on role of “family hero” or caretaker
- Increases anger directed at victim of violence (it is unsafe to direct anger at the perpetrator) batterer leaves anger escalates
- Develop inflated sense of responsibility
- Learn to disrespect the victim of violence because perpetrator models that behavior
- Confuse love and violence (learn that people hit those they love)
- Develop emotional problem such as depression
12 – 18 years
- Aggressive behavior (violence to control others and solve problems)
- Severe behavior and emotional problems (running away, theft, depression, anxiety)
- Develop rigid sex roles – usually stereotypical
- Increased incidence of dating violence
- Self-destructive behavior (eating disorders, drug and alcohol)
- Increase risk for early marriages and/or teen pregnancy (often as an escape from parents)
- Increase risk for suicide and homicide
- Develop poor boundary systems (either too rigid or too weak)
- Develop distrust for most authority figures (or all adults)
For more information, call Artemis Center for Alternatives to Domestic Violence
(937) 461-HELP (4357)
Artemis is a United Way Agency
Beyond the LGBTQI+ Wheel: Tactics of Abuse Isolation and Outing
When people are first coming out, they are very vulnerable to abuse – they may be losing friends and family or may be alienated from their cultural, ethnic, religious familial community and institutions. The isolation that most LGBTQI+ people face as a result of homophobia is useful to a batterer who is trying to isolate their partner. Threatening to “out” a person (which could mean losing children, ostracism, job loss, etc) is a powerful tool of control.
A batterer may use their own vulnerabilities to obligate or coerce their partner into staying, caring for them, and/or prioritizing batterer’s needs. Using vulnerabilities often results in survivors being exploited (resources, time attention) and undermines survivors’ attempts to negotiate boundaries or prioritize self.
In many states, LGBTQI+ people are not allowed to be the legal parent of their children. Even in states where LGBTQI+ parents’ rights are protected, not all individuals have access to the systems to assert their legal rights. For a non-biological parent, the threat of having no contact with their children makes leaving an abuse relationship a complex to impossible choice.
Using Small Communities
Using friends or family and the small number or open and affirming community spaces to monitor a survivor and gather information, or to ostracize or threaten to ostracize the survivor. Please note: safety planning cannot reply on the survivor never being in a community space with the batterer. Communities are too small for this. We must do harm reduction planning or the survivors may “drop out” of the community to avoid the batterer and risk further isolation.
Leveraging Institutional Violence / Isolation
Law enforcement historically have used violence against LGBTQI+ people. LGBTQI+ people also experience discrimination and oppression based on race, class, national origin, gender, and gender identity. Many LGBTQI+ people, and particularly transgender people, have experienced discrimination within the medical system. These things are used by batterers to increase control.
Alcohol and Drug Abuse
LGBTQI+ people have historically been forced to make community in “illegal” and marginalized spaces such as bars. LGBTQI+ folks have higher rates of alcohol and drug use and abuse than in mainstream communities. Batterers leverage the ongoing consequences of ways that LGBTQI+ peoples’ lives have been historically criminalized as well as the realities of current drug use (and drug criminalization) when setting up/maintaining a system of power and control.
“Beyond the Wheel” Bullet Points. This handout was developed by Connie Burk (2005), updated by Kristen Tucker (2009) for The NW Network of Bisexual, Trans, Lesbian and Gay Survivors of Abuse. P.O. Box 20398 Seattle, WA 98102.
Traumatic Brain Injuries can be a result of domestic abuse. The CARE Card below was developed by Ohio Domestic Violence Network and can help you identify red flags and danger signs if you suspect you may have a head injury.
Artemis Center’s Advocates are trained to assist victims who have suffered a traumatic brain injury. If you are in need of help, please reach out to an advocate on our hotline at 937-461-HELP.
How Abuse Might Affect Your Mental Health
Safety and Well-Being Tipsheet Series
Experiencing abuse can affect how we feel and how we respond to other people and the world around us. Our responses to abuse help us to survive and cope with the abuse and its traumatic effects, but these same responses can sometimes create obstacles to our safety, well-being, and life goals. Understanding how abuse has affected us can help us to access safety, heal from the traumatic effects of abuse, and support others to do the same.
If someone is abusing you, you might…
- Feel scared, hurt, sad, confused, angry, embarrassed, or hopeless
- Feel numb or like you can’t feel anything at all
- Feel flooded or overwhelmed with fear, anxiety, or panic
- Feel like you are losing your mind
- Want to run away from or avoid something because it makes you feel scared or reminds you of past abuse
- Use alcohol or other drugs as a way of surviving and coping with the abuse and its traumatic effects
- Feel like you are spacing out when someone is talking to you
- Feel like it’s hard to make decisions or get things done
- Notice that the abuse makes your mental health symptoms worse
- Feel tired all the time
- Find it difficult just to get out of bed in the morning
- Feel like you don’t want to live anymore – 24/7 SUICIDE & CRISIS HOTLINE: 988
You are not alone. Many people have feelings like these when they are being abused or after leaving an abusive relationship.
Your abuser may blame you for feeling or acting these ways by…
- Telling you that you are “crazy”
- Telling you that you are stupid, lazy, or a bad parent
- Telling you that no one will believe what you say
- Telling you that you are the one with the problem
The abuse is not your fault. You deserve to be treated with kindness and respect.
Your abuser may also try to prevent you from feeling well by…
- Depriving you of sleep and other basic needs
- Controlling when or how you receive mental health treatment
- Speaking for you or preventing you from talking to doctors or mental health professionals
- Controlling your prescription medications (e.g., by giving you too much or too little)
- Forcing or coercing you to use alcohol or other drugs, controlling your access to alcohol or other drugs, or interfering with substance abuse treatment
You have a right to control your own mental health treatment and medications
Your partner may try to use information about your mental health to convince friends, family, the police, prosecutors, or judges that…
- You are lying
- You are “crazy”
- You are a bad parent
- You should not have custody of the children
- You were “out of control” and needed to be “restrained”
You deserve to be listened to and believed.
(Safety and Well-Being Tipsheet Series is from the National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma & Mental Health)