Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario

Nursing Best Practice Guidelines

Power and Control Wheel

The Power and Control Wheel is a visual depiction of the power and control dynamics.

The Power and Control Wheel, developed by the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project, (Duluth, MN) is a visual aide that demonstrates the dynamics of power and control in abusive relationships.

At the centre of the behaviour is the desire of the abuser to maintain power and control over the woman, and the relationship.

While each individual abuser will use different patterns of behaviour to maintain power and control, there tends to be many common traits of abusive behaviour. The spokes on the wheel illustrate these common traits and include: emotional abuse; economic abuse; sexual abuse; isolation; intimidation; using gender privilege; threats; and manipulating children or other people.

  1. USING EMOTIONAL ABUSE
    Putting her down or making her feel bad about herself, calling her names, making her think sheís crazy, mind games, humiliating her and making her feel guilty.
  2. USING ISOLATION
    Controlling what she does, who she sees and talks to, what she reads, where she goes, limiting her outside involvement, using jealousy to justify actions.
  3. USING INTIMIDATION
    Making her afraid by using looks, actions, gestures, loud voice, destroying her property, abusing pets, displaying weapons.
  4. USING CHILDREN
    Making her feel guilty about the children, using the children to give messages, using visitation to harass her, threatening to take the children away.
  5. MINIMIZING, DENYING & BLAMING
    abuse and not taking her concerns about it seriously, saying the abuse didn't happen, shifting responsibility to abuse behavior, saying she caused it.
  6. SEXUAL ABUSE
    Making her to do sexual things against her will, physically attacking the sexual parts of her body, treating her like a sex object.
  7. USING MALE PRIVILEGE
    Treating her like a servant. Making all the "big" decisions, acting like the "master of the castle," being the one to define men's and women's roles.
  8. USING ECONOMIC ABUSE
    Preventing her from getting or keeping a job, making her ask for money, giving her an allowance, taking her money, not letting her know about or have access to family income.
  9. USING COERCION & THREATS
    Making and/or carrying out threats to do something to hurt her, threatening to leave her, to commit suicide, to report her to welfare, making her drop charges, making her do illegal things.

The outer rim of the wheel depicts the overall threat or actual use of physical violence to coerce compliance, and to keep the abused woman under control.

Pyhsical abuse includes:

  • Pushing
  • Shoving
  • Hitting
  • Slapping
  • Choking
  • Pulling hair
  • Punching
  • Kicking
  • Grabbing
  • Using a weapon against her
  • Beating
  • Throwing her down
  • Twisting arms
  • Tripping
  • Biting

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