Creating A Safe Environment (C.A.S.E.)
Friday, November 24, 2017

Resource Manual


Language of the Field

Domestic violence and intimate partner violence are patterns of abusive behaviors—including physical, sexual, and psychological attacks as well as economic coercion—that adults and adolescents use against a spousal, intimate or dating partner. The frequency and severity of domestic violence can vary dramatically; however, the one constant component of domestic and intimate partner violence is one partner’s consistent efforts to maintain power and control over the other. When these patterns of behavior extend to interactions within platonic relationships or interactions with acquaintances or strangers the term gender-based violence typically applies. Gender-based violence is inclusive of domestic and intimate partner violence because the majority of reported cases involve female victims as do the reported instances of sexual assault, stalking, and harassment in the workplace and other public spaces. Bullying, cyberbullying, and physical assault also fall under the gender-based violence umbrella, despite greater gender balance among reported cases.

A Catalog of Abusive Tactics

Abuse is abuse. Violence is violence. The catalog of tactics used in domestic and intimate partner violence can be placed into six primary categories:

·      Physical abuse

·      Sexual abuse

·      Psychological abuse

·      Emotional abuse

·      Economic abuse

·      Identity abuse

The preceding categories are not mutually exclusive. The tactics listed in one category could fall into other categories or be used in conjunction with tactics listed in other categories. The following lists of tactics provide some examples of abusive tactics.

Physical abuse refers to the infliction or attempted infliction of physical injury. Examples include:

·      grabbing,

·      pinching,

·      shoving,

·      slapping,

·      hitting,

·      biting,

·      arm-twisting,

·      kicking,

·      punching,

·      hitting with blunt objects,

·      stabbing,

·      shooting

Withholding access to resources necessary to maintain health is also part of physical abuse. For example:

·      medication,

·      medical care,

·      wheelchair,

·      food or fluids,

·      sleep,

·      hygienic assistance

·      forcing alcohol or other drug use

Sexual Abuse refers to coercing or attempting to coerce any sexual contact without consent. Examples include:

·      marital rape,

·      acquaintance rape,

·      forced sex after physical beating,

·      attacks on the sexual parts of the body,

·      forced prostitution,

·      fondling,

·      sodomy,

·      forced sex with others, and

·      forced unsafe sexual practices

Sexual abuse can include attempts to undermine a partner's sexuality. Examples include:

·      treating him/her in a sexually derogatory manner,

·      criticizing sexual performance and desirability,

·      accusations of infidelity, and

·      withholding sex


Psychological abuse instills or attempts to instill fear. Examples include:

·      misuse of divine beings or spiritual beliefs, practices, teachings and traditions;

·      intimidation;

·      threatening physical harm to self, victim, and/or others;

·      threatening to harm and/or kidnap children;

·      menacing;

·      blackmail;

·      harassment;

·      destruction of pets and property;

·      mind games; stalking; and

·      asserting male superiority and attributing abusive behaviors to cultural norms or traditions

Isolating or attempting to isolate partner from friends, family, school, and/or work. Examples include:

·      withholding access to phone and/or transportation;

·      undermining victim's personal relationships;

·      harassing friends, family members, or colleagues;

·      constant "checking up” via electronic communication;

·      unauthorized surveillance of electronic devices;

·      requiring constant “check ins” via electronic communication;

·      constant accompaniment;

·      use of unfounded accusations; and

·      forced imprisonment

Emotional abuse refers to undermining or attempting to undermine partner’s sense of worth. Examples include:

·      constant criticism,

·      belittling victim's abilities and competency,

·      name-calling, insults, and put-downs,

·      silent treatment,

·      manipulating victim's feelings and emotions to induce guilt,

·      subverting a partner's relationship with the children,

·      repeatedly making and breaking promises

Economic abuse includes actions that make or attempt to make a partner financially dependent. Examples include:

·      maintaining total control over financial resources including victim's earned income or resources received through public assistance or social security,

·      withholding money and/or access to money,

·      forbidding attendance at school,

·      forbidding employment,

·      on-the-job harassment,

·      requiring accountability and justification for all money spent,

·      forced welfare fraud,

·      withholding information about family, and

·      running up bills for which the victim is responsible for payment

Identity abuse is an often overlooked category of abuse. It refers to the use of personal characteristics to demean, manipulate and control a partner. Examples include:

·      outing or threatening to out a partner’s sexual orientation or gender identity to such people as family, boss, or neighbors;

·      using a partner’s own homophobia to demean or cause fear;

·      asserting that the partner will never have another relationship because he/she is too ugly, too old, or too fat;

·      using racial epithets and negative stereotypes;

·      exploiting partner’s internalized racism;

·      ridiculing a partner’s physical challenges or exploiting them;

·      ridiculing a partner’s gender identity or expression

Some of the identity tactics overlap with other forms of abuse, particularly emotional abuse. This category is largely comprised of the social “isms”, including racism, sexism, ageism, able-ism, beauty-ism, as well as anti-LGBT prejudice.

Wheels of Power and Control

Every relationship differs, but what is most common within all abusive relationships is the varying tactics used by abusers to gain and maintain power and control over the victim. It is important to note that domestic violence does not always manifest as physical abuse. Emotional and psychological abuse can often be just as extreme as physical violence. Lack of physical violence does not mean the abuser is any less dangerous to the victim, nor does it mean the victim is any less trapped by the abuse. The Wheels of Power and Control Wheel that follow provides an illustrative perspective on the considerable catalog of abusive and violent behaviors used by abusers to establish and maintain control over their partners both within and following a relationship.

©Duluth Wheel of Power and Control

When a victim is able to separate from or leave an abusive relationship, an abuser may modify their tactics to reclaim or exert control over their former partner. Without the proper legal interventions, abusers may be able to coerce or convince their abused partner to return to their home. The Post-Separation Wheel of Power and Control below details some of these tactics and how they can be utilized to regain control over an abused partner.

Underlying the behaviors in the Wheels of Power and Control is gender inequality and male privilege. The Wheel of Power and Control of Women in Patriarchal Society merges Biblical scripture with the behaviors outlined in the original Wheel of Power and Control.

The Wheel of Equality rewrites the Wheel of Power and Control in the context of nonviolence.


More recent efforts highlight scriptures that supports gender equality and casts women as created in God’s image and equal to men.

The diagram below illustrates the cycle of violence common to many abusive relationships. There are periods of time where things may be calmer, but those times are followed by a buildup of tension and abuse, which usually results in the abuser peaking with intensified abuse. The cycle of violence then often starts to repeat, commonly becoming more and more intense as time goes on. Each relationship is different; however, this template is typical of most abusive relationships. Some abusers may cycle rapidly, others over longer stretches of time. Regardless, abusers purposefully use numerous tactics of abuse to instill fear in the victim and maintain control over them.


Why do Victims Stay with their Abuser?

The many answers to this often asked question are complex. However, at the root of this complexity is the reality that leaving may not be a viable option in many situations. Crime statistics and research studies indicate that threats to leave or actual attempts to leave an abusive partner significantly increase the risk of homicide by 75%. Many victims stay with their abuser out of fear that an abuser may follow through on a threat to hurt or kill their children, relatives.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) cite these barriers to escaping a violent relationship:

·      The fear that the abuser’s actions will become more violent, and may become lethal if the victim attempts to leave.

·      Unsupportive friends and family.

·      Knowledge of the difficulties of single parenting and reduced financial circumstances.

·      The victim feeling that the relationship is a mix of good times, love, and hope along with the manipulation, intimidation and fear.

·      The victim’s lack of knowledge of or access to safety and support.

·      Fear of losing custody of any children if they leave or divorce their abuser or fear that the abuser will hurt, or even kill, their children.

·      Lack of the means to support themselves and/or their children financially or lack of access to cash, bank accounts, or assets.

·      Lack of having somewhere to go (i.e., no friends or family to help, no money for hotel, shelter programs are full or limited by length of stay).

·      Fear that homelessness may be their only option if they leave.

·      Religious or cultural beliefs and practices may not support divorce or may dictate outdated gender roles and keep the victim trapped in the relationship.

·      Belief that two parent households are better for children, despite abuse.

In their educational materials, the NCADV also cited the following societal barriers to escaping a violent relationship:

·      A victim’s fear of being charged with desertion, losing custody of children, or joint assets.

·      Anxiety about a decline in living standards for themselves and their children.

·      Greater concern for protecting the sanctity of marriage rather than the safety of an abused spouse.

·      Lack of support to victims by police officers and law enforcement who may treat violence as a "domestic dispute" or “mutual combat,” instead of a crime where one person is physically attacking another person. Often, victims of abuse are arrested and charged by law enforcement even if they are only defending themselves against the batterer.

·      Dissuasion by police of the victim filing charges. Some dismiss or downplay the abuse, side with the abuser, or do not take the victim’s account of the abuse seriously.

·      Reluctance by prosecutors to prosecute cases. Some may convince the abuser to plead to a lesser charge and this often further endangers victims. Additionally, judges rarely impose the maximum sentence upon convicted abusers. Probation or a fine is much more common.

·      Despite the issuing of a restraining order, there is little to prevent a released abuser from returning and repeating abuse.

·      Despite greater public awareness and the increased availability of housing for victims fleeing violent partners, there are not enough shelters to keep victims safe.

·      Some religious and cultural practices that stress that divorce is forbidden (e.g., Malachi 2:13-16).

·      The socialization of some made to believe they are responsible for making their relationship work. Failure to maintain the relationship equals failure as a person.

·      Isolation from friends and families, either by the jealous and possessive abuser, or because they feel "ashamed" of the abuse and try to hide signs of it from the outside world. The isolation contributes to a sense that there is nowhere to turn.

·      The rationalization of the victim that their abuser's behavior is caused by stress, alcohol, problems at work, unemployment, or other factors.

·      Societal factors that teach women to believe their identities and feelings of self-worth are contingent upon getting and keeping a man.

·      Inconsistency of abuse. During non-violent phases, the abuser may fulfill the victim's dream of romantic love. The victim may also rationalize that the abuser is basically good until something bad happens and they have to "let off steam."

Notable Characteristics of Abusers

There is no universal profile of an abuser. Perpetrators of domestic violence can be young or old, male or female, professional or unskilled, educated or illiterate, rich or poor, religious or secular, or of any race or ethnicity. Abusers run the gamut of psychological “diagnoses,” ranging from perfectly normal to psychotic. However, abusers tend to:

·      Objectify their partners (i.e., treat them as a category or object, not as a full human being).

·      Feel entitled to get their needs met without regard to the needs or feelings of their partners.

·      Use power (be it physical, emotional, political, economic or spiritual) to make sure their agenda is accomplished.

·      Feel that coercion is an effective and acceptable way to get their needs met; have the opportunity to be abusive without being held fully accountable.

·      Behave abusively with a particular victim.

Consciously or unconsciously, most batterers assume a sense of privilege, which is used to gain and maintain power, or the “upper hand” in the relationship. They tend to believe their behavior is completely justified and necessary to fulfill their role in the relationship as the one who is in charge, in control, is the provider and is “king of the castle.” They feel they have attained or have been endowed with privilege to behave the way they do, and do not believe what they are doing is wrong in any way. They believe the role of their partner is to do what she is told, and to further and support the batterer’s agenda and needs. Examples of privilege used as justification by batterers include: being male; being physically stronger; being heterosexual, or alternatively being a more experienced gay or lesbian; being white; being a U.S. citizen or being documented (if an immigrant); being the wage earner, or earning more money if both are employed; being more highly educated; being able-bodied; and being more religious or observant, among others.

In addition, the following characteristics are often seen in abusers:

·      Often, abusers will not clearly acknowledge that their behavior is abusive or even hurtful, even if they have been arrested and convicted of a violent crime. For example, an abuser may tend to focus on what “she said” that “made him” act in a way that he considers to be justified and not at all wrong. It often takes years for abusers to move through a process of healing within themselves.

·      Following a discrete abusive incident, some perpetrators may be truly sorry for their actions. Some batterers are horrified that they have hit their wives or girlfriends, are overcome with remorse, and genuinely want to change. They may apologize profusely and shower their partners with gifts and extra attention. Unfortunately, without professional help from a certified batterer intervention program, the cycle of violence usually begins anew, often with more dangerous consequences in future assaults.

·      Abuse is likely to continue and to progressively escalate if abusers do not address their violent behavior. Voluntary or court-appointed professional help is almost always necessary for a perpetrator to change his behavior. Certified batterer intervention programs take between one and two years to complete.

·      Some abusers blame their violent acts on external factors such as their partner’s behavior or provocation, being drunk, coping with a medical or psychological illness, or simply having a bad day. Experts in batterer intervention are quick to remind clients that they themselves must take responsibility for their own behavior. There is no excuse for domestic violence.

·      Finally, some abusers use the oppression of their race or culture as an excuse for abusive behavior. Cultural and racial issues may cloud or confuse abusive actions; however, the use of violence against another person, pet, or property is never acceptable.

What Causes Domestic Violence?

The short answer to this often asked question is, “no one really knows.” Research over time and around the world has shown us that domestic violence has existed for thousands of years, and has been documented in nearly every national, religious and cultural group worldwide. From a secular perspective, some researchers view domestic violence in terms of evolutionary biology, with aggressive and controlling behavior explained as the evolutionary remnants of a distorted yet effective means of survival in a world replete with threats. Others see a biological tendency for males of many species to act aggressively in a bid to exert dominance over a group, or over selected females, for competitive or reproductive advantage. Some conclude, fatalistically, that domestic violence has been “wired” into the human behavioral repertoire; therefore, nothing of substance can be done to address it or prevent it.

Regardless of how factual or politically correct the theories and explanations are, they no longer apply in twenty-first century U.S. civil society. As an intelligent and technically advancing species, we have the capacity to override base survival and dominance impulses and to communicate laws, regulations and non-violent methods of addressing conflict worldwide, often within seconds. Although laws are finally changing both in the U.S. and worldwide, some cultural traditions and customs have been evolving more slowly. We have come a long way in just a few decades, but we still have a long road ahead before we can achieve true respect and non-violence in relationships.

Domestic violence is learned, purposeful behavior and is a manifestation of the abuser’s need to achieve and maintain power and control over the victim. Abusive behavior is learned through:

·      Observation;

·      Experience;

·      Our failure to hold batterers accountable for their actions.

Abusive behavior is also learned in:

·      Culture and in society;

·      The family;

·      Communities including schools and peer groups;

·      Faith, religious, and spiritual institutions; and

Domestic violence is not caused by:

·      Illness

·      Genetics or biology

·      Alcohol and drugs

·      Out-of-control behavior

·      Anger

·      Stress

·      The victim’s behavior or actions

·      Problems in the relationship;

·      Children

·      Pets

·      Satan, other demons or evil influences.

Quite simply, there is no plausible or justifiable reason for domestic and intimate partner violence.

How Prevalent is Domestic Violence?

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) reviewed multiple studies and crime statistics from federal agencies and reported that:

·      On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men.

·      1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of [some form of] physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime.

·      1 in 5 women and 1 in 7 men have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

·      1 in 7 women and 1 in 18 men have been stalked by an intimate partner during their lifetime to the point in which they felt very fearful or believed that they or someone close to them would be harmed or killed.

·      On a typical day, there are more than 20,000 phone calls placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide.

·      In domestic violence homicides, women are six times more likely to be killed when there is a gun in the house.

·      Intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime.

·      Women between the ages of 18-24 are most commonly abused by an intimate partner.

What are the Collateral Impacts of Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence impacts all areas of a victim’s life. The physical, psychological, and spiritual wellbeing of victims, their children and other relatives can be impacted by domestic violence. A review of U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics and related empirical studies determined that

·      A study of intimate partner homicides found that 20% of victims were not the intimate partners themselves, but family members, friends, neighbors, persons who intervened, law enforcement responders, or bystanders.

·      1 in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year, and 90% of these children are eyewitnesses to this violence.

·      Victims of intimate partner violence lose a total of 8.0 million days of paid work each year.

·      The cost of intimate partner violence exceeds $8.3 billion per year.

·      Between 21-60% of victims of intimate partner violence lose their jobs due to reasons stemming from the abuse.

·      Between 2003 and 2008, 142 women were murdered in their workplace by their abuser which accounts for 78% of women killed in the workplace during this timeframe.

·      Women abused by their intimate partners are more vulnerable to contracting HIV or other STI’s due to forced intercourse or prolonged exposure to stress.

·      Studies suggest that there is a relationship between intimate partner violence and depression and suicidal behavior.

·      Physical, mental, and sexual and reproductive health effects have been linked with intimate partner violence including:

o   Adolescent pregnancy,

o   Unintended pregnancy in general,

o   Miscarriage,

o   Stillbirth,

o   Intrauterine hemorrhage,

o   Nutritional deficiency,

o   Abdominal pain and other gastrointestinal problems,

o   Neurological disorders,

o   Chronic pain,

o   Disability,

o   Anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),

o   Non-communicable diseases such as hypertension, cancer and cardiovascular disease.

o   Victims of domestic violence are also at higher risk for developing addictions to alcohol, tobacco, or drugs.


Previous Page