Victims of abuse do not walk around with a sign on their head saying, “I’m a victim of abuse.” It’s quite often difficult to recognize because the abuser tends to save his coercion for the home but will maintain an even demeanor in public. Abuse most often, not always, happens gradually over time. With exceptions, of course, physical abuse averages approximately three times a year. It’s the emotional abuse and manipulation that are more prevalent and statistics show that the majority of victims are women and children.
The Power and Control Wheel is a good basic description of abuse. It was originally devised by the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project in Duluth, MN and revised by Catholic Social Services of Washtenaw County, Michigan (Alternatives to Domestic Aggression). It has also been adapted by LACASA’s Comprehensive Services Center in Livingston County, Michigan. Victims often will find themselves on and off The Power and Control Wheel. The goal, of course, is to get off of it for good.
It is based on eight major categories of Power and Control, here is a synopsis:
Using Privilege: The abuser makes all the rules and priorities and treats the victim as inferior.
Using Emotional Abuse: Using humiliation, name calling, guilt; providing gifts and promises after an abusive incident.
Minimizing, Denying, Blaming; Countering what is said, “I’m not lying, you are.” Playing the victim role. Using excuses for the abuse, such as alcohol or drugs.
Using Children: Using children to manipulate you or relay inappropriate messages; encouraging the children to verbally or physically abuse you; using visitation to harass; threatening to take the children away; emotional, sexual or physical abuse of the children.
Using Isolation: Sabotaging the victim’s relationships with friends, family and coworkers; using jealousy to justify actions; controlling the victim’s access to medical care, transportation and/or phone; convincing the victim that no one will help them because of age, race, income or sexual orientation.
Using Intimidation: Instilling fear in their victims through measures such as gestures, actions and “the look.” Giving the silent treatment, destroying property, displaying weapons, yelling, stalking, door slamming, driving recklessly; using racism or homophobia to keep the victim silent about the abuse.
Using Economic Abuse: Concealing or denying information about finances; using personal or family assets without the others permission; preventing the victim from educational opportunities or getting or keeping a job; making the victim ask or even beg for money.
Using Coercion and Threats: Making and/or carrying out threats to hurt the victim, a loved one or a pet. Threatening suicide or threatening to leave. Coercing the victim into doing illegal things. Threatening to reveal things about the victim to family, friends and coworkers, such as: immigration status, economic status, sexual orientation, or lies.
Abuse causes deep, emotional scars and unfortunately many suffer in silence. Businesses and community leaders can get involved by supporting their local abuse prevention center to not only help raise funds but awareness as well. Churches can help by simply listening to victims and not minimizing or disrespecting their concerns. They can also lead by example and not tolerate abuse but instead address the abuser. Church leaders need to keep in mind that abusers will lie and often manipulate church leaders and fellow parishioners into believing that they are the victim.
By Tina RD