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Friday, July 29, 2011

Domestic Violence: Fearful Friday

Why does she put up with it?

I thought we'd take last week's wonder a bit further by spending some time thinking about some of the factors that can exist in a relationship where domestic violence is present.

In the 1980s, The Domestic Abuse Intervention Project in Duluth, Minnesota developed a model to help explain and characterise abusive relationships. This model is called the Power and Control Wheel. Spend some time getting a handle on it, and then we'll have a think about it together:

For me, the key aspect to understand is that the hub of the wheel and the centre of the relationship is power and control. Violence is at the periphery of the wheel, and the relationship. This isn't because it's not important. Of course, it painfully and tragically is. However, when we think about relationships where violence occurs, it's important to understand that it's the need for power and control that holds the relationship together.

Different relationships will draw out different expressions of that power and control. These are the spokes that run out from the centre. All these expression are forms of abuse. Here they are, taken from the wheel, since it may be easier to read in linear form:

Using intimidation: making her afraid by using looks, actions, gestures, smashing things, destroying her property, abusing pets, displaying weapons.

Using emotional abuse: putting her down, making her feel bad about herself, calling her names, making her think she's crazy, playing mind games, humiliating her, making her feel guilty.

Using isolation: controlling what she does, who she sees and talks to, what she reads, where she goes, limiting her outside involvement, using jealousy to justify actions.

Minimizing, denying, and blaming: making light of the abuse and not taking her concerns about it seriously, saying the abuse didn't happen, shifting responsibility for abusive behavior, saying she caused it.

Using children: making her feel guilty about the children, using the children to relay messages, using visitation to harass her, threatening to take children away.

Using male privilege: treating her like a servant, making all the big decisions, acting like the "master of the castle", being the one to define men's and women's roles.

Using economic abuse: preventing her from getting or keeping a job, making her ask for money, giving her an allowance, taking her money, not letting her know about or have access to family income.

Using coercion and threats: making and/or carrying out threats to hurt her, threatening to leave her, to commit suicide, to report her to welfare, making her drop charges, making her do illegal things.

Physical abuse is one part of a whole series of behaviors an abuser uses against his/her partner. Violence is never an isolated behavior. If the forms of control listed above are functioning to the level the abuser requires, then physical violence may be a very rare element. Physical violence may only be used if power and control seem to be slipping away.

When physical violence is occasional, it can make it even harder for abused women or men to identify what is going on in their relationship. They can find themselves trying to excuse and minimise the violence.

"But he only pushed me down the stairs. And it was last month."

"But he only spat at me. And it happened quite a while ago."

"But he twisted me arm, and it was really Ok the next day. And it was way back."

But, despite the "buts", it's really not OK. There can be plenty of abuse happening even though our bodies may not be broken or bruised.

Realising things are not OK is a beginning. Reaching out for support is also a beginning.

Phone: 13 11 14 (cost of local call from landline)

ReachOut Australia is a source of excellent support for women in abusive relationships.

If you're a blogger, please feel free to join me on Fearful Friday. You may have your own story to tell. Or you may want to draw on the content of my postings. Take my button from the side bar, and include a link back to my posting.
If we join forces and building community, we may help some women to begin strengthening themselves. 

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