Power and Control

Power and Control – defining familial abuse:

Using Coercion and threats:

·         Making and/or carrying out threats to do something to hurt you.

·         Threatening to leave you, to commit suicide, to report you to social services

·         Making you drop charges/ withdraw support for prosecutions

·         Making you commit illegal acts


Using intimidation:

·         Making you afraid by using looks, actions, gestures

·         Smashing things

·         Destroying property

·         Abusing Pets

·         Displaying weapons


Using emotional abuse:

·         Putting you down

·         Making you feel bad about yourself

·         Calling you names

·         Making you think you’re crazy

·         Playing mind games

·         Humiliating you

·         Making you feel guilty


Using isolation:

·         Controlling what you do, who you see, who you talk, what you read, where you go

·         Limiting outside involvement

·         Using jealousy to justify actions


Minimising, denying and blaming:

·         Making light of the abuse and not taking concerns about it seriously

·         Saying the abuse did not happen

·         Shifting responsibility for the abusive behaviour onto you

·         Saying you caused it.


Using children:

·         Making you feel guilty about the children

·         Using the children to relay messages

·         Using visitation and access to children to harass you

·         Threatening to take the children away


Using male privilege:

·         Treating you like a servant

·         Making all the big decisions

·         Acting like the ‘master of the castle’

·         Being the one to define  a man’s and woman’s roles


Using economic abuse:

·         Preventing you from getting or keeping a job

·         Making you ask for money

·         Giving you an allowance

·         Taking your money/ keeping control of child allowance

·         Not letting you know about or have access to the family income


(Adapted Power and Control : The Duluth Model. Full model available at: http://www.theduluthmodel.org/training/wheels.html )


The Power and control behaviours may in turn occur in ‘cycles’ and explained in the below ‘cycle of violence’, where the abuser employs fairly typical behaviour and leads to their ‘victim’ remaining within the relationship:


·         Abuser starts to get angry 

·         There is a breakdown of communication 

·         Tension becomes too much 

·         Abuser may apologize for abuse 

·         Abuser may blame the victim for causing the abuse 

·         Abuser acts like the abuse never happened 

·         Promises made during 'making-up' may be met 

·         Abuser may give gifts to victim

Adapted from the original concept of:  Walker, Lenore. The Battered Woman. New York: Harper and Row, 1979.

The various stages may be fairly soon after an episode, or may take a year or more to complete. In any case, it is almost inevitable that the cycle will repeat.

The behaviour in these models describes how a partner or other family member may exercise domination over another and this behaviour is used to maintain their control while using physical and sexual violence. This is not normal behaviour, occasionally it may happen suddenly, but often may be unnoticeable acts explained away by the ‘circumstances’ of the moment.

Behaviour such as this is not love, it is the dominance of one person over another and is exercised to keep that control and maintain their own position within the family. If you can identify yourself as suffering from this behaviour, identify a friend or family member as suffering from this behaviour, or yourself as using this behaviour – it is time to seek help.

You should contact the police in the first instance, but if you are not ready, or have been provided this information by the police - there are professionals out there who will support, guide and help you to make those changes to lead to healthy relationships, or separations.

The exercise of power and control of one person over another can be difficult or impossible to give up. Restoring balance to a relationship or challenging behaviour almost always needs support and help and if there is just one message, it is this; you do not need to go it alone.