Why do people use abusive behaviors? The answer to this question evades most of us in the general public – even those that use or experience them – and is often replaced by a number of myths that have been perpetuated for decades. Unfortunately, these myths ultimately provide excuses to justify or rationalize relationship violence and help mask the ultimate goal of this behavior – power and control.
“Power and control impacts violence a lot in almost every case,” said Sue Campbell, a treatment provider serving Cheyenne Wells and Wray who is working with Stand Up Colorado to help people who are using abusive behaviors change.
Power and control is the ability of a person to limit another person’s capacity to change the circumstances of their life by limiting their options. Although physical and sexual assault are the behaviors people typically associate with an abusive relationship, they are merely among the many tools to reinforce a larger pattern of abuse that includes coercion and threats, intimidation, emotional abuse, isolation, minimization and blame-shifting, using children, using privilege and financial abuse.
“All relationship violence incidences have power and control as the common denominator. Where there is relationship violence, there is power and control issues – always,” said Dave Garrison, another provider who also provides services to Stand Up Colorado through Ask Dave.
This system of abuse is illustrated by the Power and Control Wheel. This diagram provides a useful visual representation of the pattern of some abusive behaviors – both physical and non-physical – that reinforce the power and control in the center of the wheel. The non-physical actions inside the wheel are subtle, continuous and supported either by the overt, physical actions in the outer ring or the threat – implied or explicit – of violence or further abuse.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Equality Wheel models the behaviors that make up a healthy relationship. Nonviolence reinforces healthy behaviors including negotiation and fairness, non-threatening behavior, respect, trust and support, honesty and accountability, responsible parenting, shared responsibility and economic partnership. These actions all feed into the component at the heart of the wheel – equality.
“There are positive and negatives to every situation and you can’t have one without the other,” Garrison said. “True love is about seeing, acknowledging and embracing both the positives and negatives in your partner EQUALLY and not wanting to change a thing.”
By gaining an understanding of what drives relationship violence, we can come together and create a future without it. If you or someone you know is using or experiencing abusive behaviors, it is OK to ask for help. Visit our Get Help page or reach out to the trained, Colorado-based professionals through the Stand Up Colorado Helpline (855-978-2638).