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Dynamics of Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive behavior used by one person in order to maintain power and control in a relationship. Batterers repeatedly subject their victims to physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, and financial tactics of control in order to force them to do something batterers want them to do without regard to the victims' rights or well-being.






The Power and Control Wheel depicted here was developed by the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project in Duluth, MN, to show the physical, sexual, emotional, and financial tactics that batterers use to control their victims.

Power and control are at the hub of the wheel because they are at the center of violent relationships. Batterers do not batter because they are drunk, high, stressed out, or angry. They batter because they want to maintain power and control over their victims, and they will use any means they can to do so.

Each of the spokes of the wheel represents a category of abusive tactics, ranging from emotional abuse to economic abuse to use of children. These are the tactics of control, and although every violent relationship is different, they share many of these tactics in common. As someone concerned about this issue, you can familiarize yourself with these tactics and learn to recognize that when they are present in a relationship they may indicate violence.

The rim of the wheel represents physical and sexual violence. The threat or reality of physical and sexual violence holds the violent and abusive relationship in place because it is the ultimate tactic of control. Although some abusive relationships do not include the reality of physical and sexual violence, the threat is always there for the victim, and the fear that goes along with that threat can be a powerful motivator for the victim to stay in the relationship.

The Equality Wheel depicts the opposite of the power and control wheel. At the hub of this wheel is equality and the spokes of the wheel represents a healthy relationship shared by both partners. At the rim of the wheel there is no threat or reality of violence.  

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