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Power and Control Wheel: The Vicious Circle of Abuse

I vividly recall when the ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ was released all over the cinemas. It came as no surprise that the fans watched it on repeat mode. The Peter Parker principle, ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ became the talk of the town. However, who knew the adage that was used so profusely, barely had someone to act upon? As I grew up, moved continents, and interacted with diverse communities, it, unfortunately, dawned on me that ‘with power comes abuse’ too.

The Sadistic Mindset

While our media is flooded with bitter tales of abuse, be it child abuse, sexual abuse, or domestic abuse, little has been done to alleviate the malice. Nevertheless, the sadistic mindset of the abuser and the patience of the victim always puzzled me. Besides power, what causes the remorseless human to be so ruthless? Moreover, what allows the victim to continue living in an abusive relationship? These questions made me stuck in a labyrinth. Recently, I was introduced to the power and control wheel. Power and Control wheel came across to me as an encyclopedia of a single word ‘abuse’.

What is a Power and control  Wheel?

The Power of Wheel is created by Ellen Pence, Michael Paymar and Coral McDonald after meeting extensively with battered women’s groups in Duluth and credited the women’s input as being the sole basis for the concept.

The power and control wheel, as evident from the diagram, is a visual tool. It helps us comprehend the psyche in addition to the behaviour of the abuser. The wheel gives insight into how the batterer manipulates and misuses power. They want to have absolute control over the vulnerable person, the victim of abuse.

The abusive partner will use all the tactics to make sure the victims stay in the relationship. 

What are the elements of the power and control wheel?

The outside of the wheel represents sexual and physical violence, while the inner wheel defines continuous behaviour over time. Let’s delve into the wheel structure:

The behaviour of the abuser is witnessed in the following forms, more often simultaneously :

  • Coercion and Threat: Threatening to leave the partner, welfare report and also making him/her do illegal things. For example, any possible way to hurt the partner.
  • Intimidating Partner: Abusing pets, displaying weapons, destroying partner’s property, or merely smashing things.
  • Abusing Emotionally: Putting the partner down so he/she feels bad and calling names. In addition to making the partner believe that he/she is crazy, humiliating.
  • Using Isolation: Controlling partner’s every move and restricting independent and outside involvement.
  • Minimizing, Blaming, and Denying: Not taking partner’s concerns seriously. Also, denying that any abuse happened at all and blaming the partner that caused the abusive behaviour. 
  • Using Children: One of the vilest forms of abuse is to use of innocent children. Making sure the partner feels guilty about the children, using children to convey messages, and threatening to take away the children.
  • Using Male Privilege: Treating the partner as if she is a servant and defining men’s and women’s roles. Independently making all the decisions.
  • Using Economic Abuse: The abuser here makes sure the partner stoops to the level where he/she asks for money, takes the money away, gives a limited allowance, and not allowing to get or keep the job.

Enough is enough!

It is crucial that everyone should be educated about the power and control wheel. Even if one can’t sense any threat. The reason is, by learning about the power and control mechanism,  we can identify the victims and counsel them accordingly. Start young by teaching your children. If you are currently being abused, it will help you identify the core problem and lead to bringing an end to the suffering. 

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