Assignment: What is Abuse?

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Assignment: What is Abuse?

Assignment: 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

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Assignment: What is Abuse?
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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  




Equality Wheel   


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