Topic #1A: What is Abuse?
Family violence is a simple phrase, but it encompasses a horrifying list of abusive behaviors, both physical and psychological, inflicted by one family member on another…The list is endless. There is seemingly no end to the horrors some human beings can inflict on those whom this society calls their ‘loved ones.’
The American Medical News, January 6, 1992
Domestic violence is any repeated attempt to control an intimate partner using physical, emotional and/or sexual tactics.
In 1987 Ellen Pence, a long-time domestic violence advocate with the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project in Duluth, Minnesota, published a workbook entitled In Our Best Interest: A Process For Personal and Social Change (1987) (I’ve found this an excellent resource when conducting support groups for women). In this work Pence includes a diagram that has commonly come to be known as the Power and Control Wheel. This diagram is based on the feedback of hundreds of battered women and outlines the various controlling and abusive behaviors that perpetrators use to control their partners. The “Wheel” has become the signature diagram used to explain survivors’ experiences in abusive relationships. The tactics batterers use to control their partners are without limit. While some are certainly more dangerous than others, all forms of abuse have serious short and/or long-term consequences for the victim, and for those around them.
In reviewing the “Wheel” please note that the tactics within the spokes of the wheel actually work to support and reinforce the physical and sexual violence occurring in the relationship. In some abusive relationships, over time, the abusing partner may decrease the amount of physical violence and rely more and more on the non-physical tactics to control the survivor. This is not true for all abusive relationships, however.
Links for both the Power and Control Wheel and the companion Equality Wheel are posted below.
For the purposes of this discussion topic please complete the following:
1. Identify a movie, TV program or book in which one of the adult characters is being abused by an intimate partner.
2. Using the Power and Control Wheel as a guide, list the various abusive behaviors and tactics exhibited in the movie. Give examples.
3. Respond to the following questions:
a) What is the survivor’s reaction to the abuse?
b) Is the movie, show or book accurate in its portrayal of an abusive relationship?
c) What is inaccurate?
4. Once you have posted your comments please respond to at least 2 of your classmates’ post.
If you’re having problems coming up with some movies the list below may help:
Gaslight (an early Ingrid Bergman movie and probably the first movie to actually address emotional abuse)
What’s Love Got To Do With It? (Tina Turner’s life story)
Sleeping With The Enemy
The Burning Bed
The Color Purple
Fried Green Tomatoes
For Colored Girls
This Boy’s Life
Not Without My Daughter
You may also want to refer to Lifetime TV, Dateline, 20/20 or similar TV programs.
Power and Control Wheel /content/enforced/50634-013924-01-2152-OL4-7980/BEHS 453 Power & Control Wheel.pdf
Topic #2A: Emotional Abuse
Emotional abuse is widely misunderstood in our society. Yet, for many survivors, emotional abuse is often described as equally painful, if not more painful, than physical abuse. To be emotionally abused may raise several difficulties for the survivor trying to reach out for help. First, if a survivor tries to get help and has physical signs of abuse then s/he can show that to someone. The questions arises, however, how do you show someone that you’re being emotionally abused? The marks that emotional abuse leave scar someone’s heart and soul and that cannot not be physically shown to anyone.
Second, the fact that emotional abuse leaves no visible wounds frequently makes it difficult for survivors to get the help they need when they reach out to others. For many, unless there are obvious physical injuries, the disclosure of abuse raises the question “Are they really telling the truth?” Often, it may come down to “he said, she said.” Third, many people minimize the impact that emotional abuse has on survivors and discount this form of as abuse as “less dangerous” than physical or sexual abuse. The reality is that emotional abuse has serious short and long-term effects on survivors, including, but not limited to, lowered self-esteem and self-confidence, depression, and suicide.
Another important factor when addressing emotional abuse deals with the manner in which this type of abuse occurs within the abusive relationship. Many physically and sexually abusive relationships actually begin with emotional abuse and, over time and with no intervention, will escalate to include other forms of abuse. If you’re working with a survivor that is being physically and/or sexually abused, the chances are great that s/he is also being emotionally abused. The reverse is not true however. Some relationships begin with emotional abuse and will stay at that level for the duration of the relationship.
The last important point I’d like to make deals with the manner in which survivors deal with emotional abuse. Since so many people in our society don’t have a clear understanding of the complexities of emotional abuse it is frequently difficult for survivors to actually name what they are experiencing as emotional abuse. While survivors may know that their feelings have been hurt, or that they don’t like what is being said (or not said) to them, it is rare to find a survivor who clearly states “I’m being emotionally abused.” Don’t get me wrong here. Some survivors are able to do this, but in over 25 years I haven’t worked with or witnessed many that have. As so many physically abusive relationships begin with emotional abuse, the survivor may not even realize they are being abused until the abuse escalates into physical and/or sexual abuse.
For the purposes of this discussion topic, please complete the following:
1. Interview 3 people about emotional abuse. This is a confidential interview so please do not identify the people you interview by name, address, or personal relationship with you. You will need to do the following:
- Identify the person’s age and gender (this is basic demographic data that may help us better understand the responses)
- Ask the following questions:
1. How do you define domestic violence?
2. How do you define emotional abuse?
3. Please give some examples of emotional abuse.
4. Do you think emotional abuse is as damaging as physical abuse? Why or why not?
NOTE: Do NOT ask the respondents if they have experienced abuse. Asking this question requires some very special “set up” that we are not going to be doing for this assignment.
3. Once you have completed your interviews please post the results in this conference.
4. Also post an analysis about the respondents’ answers. Postings that do not include an analysis of the responses will lose points. Consider at least some of the following when writing your analysis:
- The analysis should be more than whether or not you agree with the respondents.
- Do all of the respondents have the same or similar definitions?
- Does it appear that the respondents are focusing only on intimate partners or are they including all family members in their discussions?
- Are the respondents thorough in their definitions of domestic violence or are they leaving anything out?
- Are the definitions/responses inclusive of all types of relationships or just marital ones?
Topic #3A: Barriers & Help Seeking
One of the most common questions the general public asks about intimate partner violence (ipv) is “Why does she stay?” Several important factors need to be mentioned in this regard. First, women do leave abusive relationships. In fact, they leave and return multiple times. (Be wary of any resource that quotes an exact or average number of times that survivors leave. The reality is that we really don’t know, other than it appears to be multiple times for many women.)
Second, when someone asks “Why doesn’t she leave?” they are making the very dangerous mistake of assuming that to leave a violent relationship will cause the violence to cease. According to the American Psychological Association Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family (1996), “Many people still believe that the problem of battering can be solved by separation, but the risk of serious or lethal violence may actually increase after separation” (39).
The greatest risk for serious injury or death from violence is at the point of separation or at the time when the decision to separate is made. Data from a U.S. Department of Justice national Crime Victimization Survey indicates that among women who were victims of violent assault by an intimate partner, women reported that the offender was an ex-spouse almost half as many times as they reported that the offender was a spouse” (American Psychological Association Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family, 1996, p. 39). The reality is that for a large number of survivors to leave a violent relationship does not make things better, rather, it makes things worse. Please see the attached handout, Examples of the Types of Violence Occuring At Separation (linked below).
A third factor to be considered in this discussion involves the very nature of the question “Why does she stay?” Very rarely do people ask, “Why does he batter?, or “Why doesn’t he leave?” Many grassroots activists and feminists believe that to ask “Why does she stay?” is actually victim blaming and fails to hold the abuser accountable for his behavior.
In Module 1, Lawrence Green and his colleagues identified three types of factors that can affect the help-seeking process by either encouraging or discouraging action:
- Predisposing factors – attitudes, perceptions, or beliefs that either facilitate or hinder personal motivation to act
- Enabling factors–factors that either help by their presence or hinder by their absence like the ability to obtain necessary assistance (limited facilities, inadequate personnel, lack of funds)
- Reinforcing factors – characteristics of services or attitudes of caregivers that assist in decision-making like the feedback or attention received.
Linked below is the handout Barriers to Leaving which outlines numerous factors or “barriers” that should be considered when examining the difficulties in leaving an abusive relationship. This list of barriers can be combined with Green’s et. al. work to help explain the challenges that survivors face in their help-seeking process.
For this purposes of this discussion topic please complete the following:
1. Take a look at the Lisa Steinberg/Hedda Nussbaum Case Study listed in Module 1 along with the linked handouts to this conference topic.
2. Respond to the following questions:
a) Explain the issues affecting the help-seeking behavior of Hedda Nussbaum, including issues in the victim and offender response system that inhibited appropriate intervention
b) Do you think the question “Why does she stay is victim blaming? Why or why not?
3. Please support your response with resources (including in-text citations).