Domestic Violence Explained

Domestic violence is about power and control. Domestic violence is NEVER the victim's fault! Use of violence in an intimate relationship is always a choice.

Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive, controlling behaviors. Abusive people attempt to have power over and control of another person. Domestic violence is not just hitting, slapping, or killing. It can also be verbal, sexual, financial, spiritual, and psychological. Victims are often isolated by their abusive partners, and not allowed to visit with friends, family, or neighbors (Arizona Department of Health Services).

The Cycle of Abuse

If you're in an abusive situation, you may recognize this pattern:

  • Your abuser threatens violence.
  • Your abuser strikes.
  • Your abuser apologizes, promises to change and offers gifts.
  • The cycle repeats itself.

The violence may become more frequent and severe over time or may be related to situations such as financial difficulties or substance abuse.  

It’s About Power and Control

This wheel represents a snapshot of what a violent relationship looks like. While it doesn't cover every survivor's experience, it does portray the most common tactics abusers use against their partners.

The center, or hub, of the wheel is "Power and Control." This is at the very heart of this wheel because power and control are the reasons abusers choose to use violence and other tactics against their partners. They want complete power over and control of their partners.

In order to get that power and control, most abusers start out very slyly using the various tactics - or spokes - of the wheel, but usually increase their use of them over time. These include anger/emotional abuse, using social status, intimidation, minimize/deny/blame, threats, sexual coercion, isolation/exclusion and peer pressure.

The outer rim of the wheel is physical violence as violent acts or the threat of violent acts are what abusers use to get and keep their power and control over their partners.

Print the Power and Control Wheel

It Is Still Abuse If . . .

  1. The incidents of physical abuse seem minor when compared to those you have read about, seen on television or heard other women talk about. There isn’t a “better” or “worse” form of physical abuse; you can be severely injured as a result of being pushed, for example.
  2. The incidents of physical abuse have only occurred one or two times in the relationship. Studies indicate that if your spouse/partner has injured you once, it is likely he/she will continue to physically assault you.
  3. The physical assaults stopped when you became passive and gave up your right to express yourself as you desire, to move about freely and see others, and to make decisions. It is not a victory if you have to give up your rights as a person and a partner in exchange for not being assaulted!
  4. There has not been any physical violence. Many women are emotionally and verbally assaulted. This can be as equally frightening and is often more confusing to try to understand.
  5. Sexual abuse is a form of physical abuse. Any situation in which you are forced to participate in unwanted, unsafe, or degrading sexual activity is sexual abuse. Forced sex, even by a spouse or intimate partner with whom you also have consensual sex, is an act of aggression and violence. Furthermore, people whose partners abuse them physically and sexually are at a higher risk of being seriously injured or killed.

Source:Breaking the Silence: a Handbook for Victims of Violence in Nebraska(PDF)