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The Power and Control Wheel

Updated: Oct 27, 2022

Take a deep breath. In through the nose and out through the mouth. Can you feel your body relax? Do you feel peace inside of you? Ahhhh. Your abuser is gone. You were able to take the final steps and end the relationship. There is no more yelling, no more fear, and you can be you and breathe. Your new life is about to begin! You have planned for this, and it is finally happening. You are going to be abuse free!

Then you hear your notifications go off. It is him. He is texting you to say that, he is sorry, that he misses you, and he asks if you two could talk? You read the text but are determined, that you will not answer it, so you set your phone aside and look at the movie lineup on tv. You are free to watch whatever you want. You do not have to watch something he wants to keep him happy. You are free. As you watch your movie, you hear your phone go off again, but you are determined to ignore it.

The movie is over, and it is late. You have to work in the morning, but your tones go off. This time you look at your texts, and it is him, again. He texted to say good night and, he tells you how much he misses you. He asks you again if you can talk, but you don't respond. You are NOT going back. Not this time. Not EVER.

The next day you arrive at work, and as you walk to your desk, you notice a huge bouquet, on your desk. Nervously you read the card. It is from him. It simply says, "I love you." You smile as your co-workers walk past and gush over the flowers. Your cell goes off again. This time he asks if you like the flowers he sent. You wonder if you should respond. Would it not be rude to not say thank you? You decide that you will at least say thank you for the flowers, so you text him back. Before you know it, he is responding and asking you how you are?

Could you get together?

What are you doing for lunch?

Then he sends you a picture of you two, last summer on the beach. You remember the day, it was a hot summer day, and you stayed on the beach till late in the evening, swimming, tanning, and then watching the stars in the open sky. You remember how happy you were, and you start to wonder if you had made a mistake. He asks you again if you two could meet up. Perhaps supper at your favorite place? You hesitate for a moment but think that one supper would not hurt. Maybe you had overreacted by leaving. Maybe, it wasn't that bad. You agree to meet him for supper.

Does any of this sound familiar? If it does, please know that you are not alone. So many who have been in an abusive relationship go back. Not once or twice, but on average, a survivor will return seven times before they solidly end the relationship. You might wonder why that is? Let me explain; an abuser is not always an abuser. Rarely are they abusive at the beginning of the relationship? If they were, would you have continued to date them? I doubt it. In the beginning, abusers are often charming, putting all their attention on you, doting on you, and you can't believe you have met such a great catch. You tell your friends how wonderful he is and how no one has ever treated you better. You think he might be the one!

As time passes, his nice guy mask starts to slip. He is tense and terse. He rarely tells you how pretty you are anymore and when you want to talk, he waves you away. Do you start to wonder what you did wrong? Why has he changed? You put it down to him having a bad day. He has told you that work has been stressful. That must be it. Right? Wrong. As time passes, it appears that nothing makes him happy. He is starting to yell and throw things at you. You think that if you love him more, things will get better. You make his favorite meals. You cancel your plans with your friends so you can be there for them. You watch what he wants on TV. You notice that he is a bit happier, for now. As the days, weeks and months pass he becomes tenser no matter how you try to please him. This leads to an abusive incident where he hurts you in some way; verbally, emotionally, sexually, and/or physically. You say that you have had enough, and you leave. It doesn't take long and you are showered with gifts and promises of change. You find yourself wondering once again if you should go back.

This is the abuse cycle.

1 in 3 women, and 1 in 5 men, will be abused by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Every 2 days, in Canada, a woman is killed by her partner. Victims of domestic abuse are more prone to having Post Traumatic Stress Disorder along with other mental and emotional health challenges.

The abuse cycle is one of the most difficult cycles to break. On average, it takes a woman leaving, 7 times before she ends the relationship for good.

Why is it so hard to walk away from someone who continually hurts you?

Power and Control

An abusive relationship is based on power and control. One person in the relationship is gaining power and control over the other using fear and intimidation. The Power and Control Wheel (see pic) is a tool utilized in the domestic violence/interpersonal violence field to understand the tactics abusers use to gain power and control over their victims. The wheel is instrumental to our understanding of how abusers operate. There are eight sections to the wheel;

  1. Using intimidation

  2. Using emotional abuse

  3. Using isolation

  4. Minimizing, denying, and blaming

  5. Using children

  6. Using male privilege

  7. Using economic abuse

  8. Using coercion and threats

The 8 sections. are circled by physical and sexual violence. Each section is one way an abuser can gain power and control over their victim.

Using intimidation

The abuser makes their victim afraid by using looks, actions, and gestures. He/she smashes things, destroys their victim's property, abuses pets and displays weapons are all ways an abuser can intimidate their victim.

Using emotional abuse

Emotional abuse is when someone puts you down, makes you feel bad about yourself, calls you names, makes you think you are crazy, plays mind games, humiliates you, and makes you feel guilty.

Using isolation

An abuser isolates their victim by controlling what they do, who they see and talk to, what they read and where they go. The abuser will limit their victims outside involvement and will use jealousy to justify their actions.

Minimizing, denying, and blaming

An abuser will make light of the abuse and not take their victim's concerns seriously. They will say that the abuse did not happen and shift responsibility for the abusive behavior, often blaming their victim.

Using children

The abuser will make their partner feel guilty about the children. Will use the children to relay messages or spy on the victim. The abuser will use visitation as a way to harass the victim and will threaten to take the children away.

Using male privilege

He will treat her like a servant, make all of the big decisions, act like the "king of the castle" and will be the one to define male and female roles in the relationship.

Using economic abuse

An abuser will economically abuse their victim by preventing them from getting or keeping a job, making them ask for money, giving them an allowance, taking their money, creating debt in their victim's name, and not letting them know about or have access to family income.

Using coercion or threats

An abuser will make threats or act out threats to their victim, threaten to leave her or commit suicide, report her to social services, make her drop legal charges, and make her do illegal things.

There is never any excuse for domestic abuse. None. But all too often, women and men fall victim to it. No one wants to believe their partner is truly violent, so they look past the first slap, keeping the cycle going.

By being observant, and strong, and creating a support system you can break the cycle of violence, no longer be on the power and control wheel, and live your best life.

If you need support breaking leaving an abusive relationship visit the HotPeachPages for a local hotline number or message me for support.


Janet Rhodes BA, CCTP, NLPP, RC.t


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