PowerControlWheel-3It's actually called a Power & Control Wheel but when a domestic violence victim first lays eyes on it, all she sees is a dissection of her life.  Most likely she doesn't even know the person who gave her this diagram since it was probably given to her as a handout in the first meeting of a DV healing group or during an intake by a DV service provider.  What she DOES know is that someone just handed her the story of her relationship with her husband or boyfriend on a piece of paper.

The reactions to the wheel vary as the victim reads through the tactics that describe the ways domestic violence is manifested.  For many, eyes will widen and she'll look up saying "OMG, this is me!  This is what happened to me!" 
Others will go through the pie pieces with a fine-tooth comb looking for a way to "opt out" of this nightmare.  They carefully search for the evidence they need to prove that they're not REALLY a victim of domestic violence and "Ah ha!  There it is!  This wheel doesn't apply to me because he was never sexually abusive!  See I told you there was a mistake!"

For others lips will tremble, hands will begin to shake and tears will begin to well up as they realize the life they were living was a lie - and a lie that they themselves bought into.  Worse is when they also realize that it was a lie they feel they made their children believe in as well.  (That's when their whole bodies begin to shake and the sniffles turn into sobs.)

Others read through the sections feeling increasingly naked, vulnerable and exposed.  Once they're done, they quickly fold the paper up and shove it embarrassingly away in their purse or put it in a back pocket.  There - "out of sight, out of mind" - back to the business of regaining composure. 

And then there are some who will become mad - but NOT at who you think.  They're not initially angry at their spouse, boyfriend or father of their children, they're angry at themselves for "allowing" the situation to get as far as it did.  Picking up where their abusers left off, they'll call themselves stupid, dumb, ignorant and blind, wondering out loud how they could've been so foolish to "let themselves" get into this kind of a situation in the first place.

My first reactions seeing the Power & Control Wheel were a flood of questions: "Why didn't I see this in high school?  How come I'm just seeing this NOW?  Giving this to victims after they've already lived it is a TAD bit late, doncha think?"

The Power & Control Wheel was co-created by social activist, Ellen Pence, and her partners, Michael Paymar and Coral McDonald in the early 1980's as an educational tool to explain domestic violence in a more visual way.  The invisible heart of power and control is at the center of the wheel and is at the core of every abusive relationship; without it, all the other abusive tactics cannot "take hold".  

The 8 sections of the wheel describe the tactics abuser's use to maintain their power and control over their victims:

Coercion & Threats; Intimidation; Emotional Abuse; Isolation; Minimizing, Denying & Blaming; Using Children; Economic Abuse and Male Privilege. 

These tactics are not "equally weighted" nor does the absence of a tactic exclude someone as a DV victim, ie: if the relationship was abusive but the couple didn't have any children (so "Using Children" was never a tactic) no "Using Children" doesn't = no DV.

The original Power & Control Wheel, that contains examples of each tactic can be seen at its birthplace http://theduluthmodel.org/wheelgallery.php 

As the P&C Wheel's practicality and usefulness became one of the most basic tools of Domestic Violence awareness and education, the next generation of wheels followed: The Equality Wheel - the opposite of the P&C Wheel; The Abuse of Children Wheel and its opposite, The Nurturing Children Wheel - and those not created by Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs to illustrate and explain abusiveness among other populations like teens and immigrants.

To hear the expert story behind the Power & Control Wheel from Ellen Pence herself, go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9dZOgr78eE 

As a sad footnote, Ellen was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer in 2010 so please pray that the comfort and freedom from pain that Ellen brought to so many will be visited upon her in the precious remaining time we have with her.

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