What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence (or intimate partner violence) is a pattern of behavior used to establish and maintain power and control over an intimate partner. These are behaviors that physically harm, arouse fear, prevent a partner from doing what they wish or force them to behave in ways they do not want. Abuse includes the use of physical and sexual violence, threats and intimidation, emotional abuse, reproductive control, coercion, economic deprivation, stalking or surveillance, and exploitation. Many of these different forms of abuse can be going on at any one time.

Power and Control Wheel

The Power and Control Wheel, developed by the Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs (DAIP), depicts what many victims of domestic violence experience throughout an abusive relationship. (Based on focus groups conducted with heterosexual cisgender women – more information on LGBTQ intimate partner abuse here.)

  • Power and control form the center of the wheel, as this is what the abuser is ultimately attempting to achieve over their partner.
  • Eight tactics form the spokes of the wheel. These are typical forms of abuse that many victims experience.
  • Physical and sexual violence form the rim of the wheel, as these reinforce the other tactics and serve to keep the victim in the relationship.

The Power and Control Wheel is often used to validate victims’ experiences and show the many barriers victims face when attempting to leave an abusive relationship.

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