Confronting Violence: Improving Women’s Lives

The exhibition, from the National Library of Medicine, tells the story of nurses who changed the medical profession and dramatically improved services to victims of domestic violence in the late 20th century.

The Power and Control Wheel

The Power and Control Wheel for Domestic Violence

At the center of the power and control wheel is the purpose of all violent tactics in the relationship, which is the intention of one party to exercise and establish power and control over another.

A person who uses violence believes he or she has a right to control their partner and may use some of the tactics found in the power and control wheel by:

  • telling them what to do and expecting obedience
  • using force to maintain power and control over partners
  • feeling their partners have no right to challenge their desire for power and control
  • feeling justified in making the person subjected to domestic and family violence comply
  • blaming the abuse on the partner and not  accepting responsibility for wrongful acts.

Warning Signs

Why Abused Women Stay

Why Abused Women Stay Infographic

Why don't they just leave?

When a victim leaves, they are taking control and threatening the abusive partner’s power, which could cause the abusive partner to retaliate in very destructive ways.

Aside from this danger, there are many reasons why people stay in abusive relationships. Here are just a few of the common ones:

  • Fear: A person may be afraid of what will happen if they decide to leave the relationship.
  • Believing Abuse is Normal: A person may not know what a healthy relationship looks like, perhaps from growing up in an environment where abuse was common, and they may not recognize that their relationship is unhealthy.
  • Fear of Being Outed: If someone is in an LGBTQ relationship and has not yet come out to everyone, their partner may threaten to reveal this secret.
  • Embarrassment or Shame: It’s often difficult for someone to admit that they’ve been abused. They may feel they’ve done something wrong by becoming involved with an abusive partner. They may also worry that their friends and family will judge them.
  • Low Self-Esteem: When an abusive partner constantly puts someone down and blames them for the abuse, it can be easy for the victim to believe those statements and think that the abuse is their fault.
  • Love: So often, the victim feels love for their abusive partner. They may have children with them and want to maintain their family. Abusive people can often be charming, especially at the beginning of a relationship, and the victim may hope that their partner will go back to being that person. They may only want the violence to stop, not for the relationship to end entirely.
  • Cultural/Religious Reasons: Traditional gender roles supported by someone’s culture or religion may influence them to stay rather than end the relationship for fear of bringing shame upon their family.
  • Language Barriers/Immigration Status: If a person is undocumented, they may fear that reporting the abuse will affect their immigration status. Also, if their first language isn’t English, it can be difficult to express the depth of their situation to others.
  • Lack of Money/Resources: Financial abuse is common, and a victim may be financially dependent on their abusive partner. Without money, access to resources or even a place to go, it can seem impossible for them to leave the relationship. This feeling of helplessness can be especially strong if the person lives with their abusive partner.
  • Disability: When someone is physically dependent on their abusive partner, they can feel that their well-being is connected to the relationship. This dependency could heavily influence their decision to stay in an abusive relationship.

- From the National Domestic Violence Hotline:

Violence and Solutions

Violence and Solutions, From the PBS Series: A Path Appears

Violence and Solutions Video

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Documentary examines domestic violence in through two organizations in Atlanta -- a shelter and a program for abusers-- and an organization in Kenya.

Running Time: 87 mins, Year: 2014, Filmmakers:Nicholas Kristof, Sheryl WeDunn

Inside Domestic Violence

Power and Control: Domestic Violence in America

This multi-level narrative also examines the deepest causes of domestic violence and the solutions that have evolved to stop it, celebrating the battered women's movement activists who demanded revolutionary change in the 1980s, and examining alternative approaches now being advocated.

Power and Control Domestic Violence in America Video

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Kim, a Duluth, MN mother of three, is at the center of this compelling and authoritative exploration of gender violence in America. As Kim and her fragile daughters take up residence in a domestic violence shelter, we follow the harrowing struggles in a single-parenting survivor's quest to find work, housing and peace of mind.

We also meet Kim's husband, Josh, himself a survivor of abuse. His attempts to explain his actions are troubling -- shocking in the context of the story's final twists.

Running Time: 65 mins, Year: 2010, Filmmakers: Peter Cohn

Forms of Abuse

Forms of Violence icon chart

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse occurs in some form in all abusive relationships.  It is a very effective tactic used by abusive partners to obtain power and control and it can cause extreme damage to the victim’s self esteem.  Commonly, emotional abuse makes the victim feel like they are responsible for the abuse and to feel crazy, worthless and hopeless.  It is so damaging that many survivors of domestic violence report that they would have rather “be hit” than endure the ongoing psychic damage of emotional abuse.

Emotional abuse can include: constant put downs or criticisms, name calling, “crazy making”, acting superior, minimizing the abuse or blaming you for their behavior, threatening and making you feel fearful, isolating you from family and friends, excessive jealously, accusing you of having affairs, and watching where you go and who you talk to.

Financial Abuse

This form of abuse is one of the least commonly known but one of the most powerful tactic of entrapping a victims in the relationship.  It is so powerful that many victims of abuse describe it as the main reason that they stayed in an abusive relationship or went back to one.

Some forms of financial abuse include: giving you an allowance, not letting you have your own money, hiding family assets, running up debt, interfering with your job, and ruining your credit.

Psychological Abuse

Psychological abuse is common, yet difficult to spot.  It can be just as devastating as physical abuse. Signs and symptoms may start small at first as the abuser "tests the waters" to see what the other person will accept, but before long the psychological abuse builds into something that can be frightening and threatening.

Psychological abuse can include: name calling, yelling or swearing, insults, threats, imitating or mocking, ignoring, isolation or exclusion.

Sexual Abuse

Some form of sexual abuse is common in abusive relationships but it is often the least discussed.  It can be subtle or overt.  The impact on the victim is commonly feelings of shame and humiliation.

Sexual abuse may include: physically forcing sex, making you feel fearful about saying no to sex, forcing sex with other partners, forcing you to participate in demeaning or degrading sexual acts, violence or name calling during sex, and denying contraception or protection from sexually transmitted diseases.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse is a powerful way that an abusive person gets and keeps their partner under control and it instills an environment of constant fear.  It may include: hitting, punching, kicking, slapping, strangling, smothering, using or threatening to use weapons, shoving, interrupting your sleep, throwing things, destroying property, hurting or killing pets, and denying medical treatment.