For far too long we have considered domestic violence as an anger management issue. Someone loses their temper and flies off the handle. That is only the tip of the iceberg. The driving force behind domestic/intimate partner violence is the fear of losing power and/or control over the victim. It is rare that domestic violence begins with a physical blow, gunshot or knife wound. Most often it is seeded with emotional and verbal abuse. That’s where it starts. The perpetrator has to “build” their power and control, convince the victim they are inferior, useless or helpless, and simply must allow the abuser the place they are seeking to have in the victim’s life. Gradually they set roots down and the victim is in their clutches.

 Some of the actions that will follow are shouting and screaming abusive language to the victim, or perhaps grabbing an arm, a handful of hair or backing them into a corner and refusing to allow them to move. There may be tracking with the GPS on a cell phone or checking the odometer for mileage. It’s only 15 miles from home to the store and back. You ran into an accident scene and had to take a detour, making your trip a total of 22. The abuser demands you explain just where you have been. You are not allowed to wear makeup or must dress in a certain manner. In my case, I was forbidden to work outside the home. In hindsight, I realize I was a prisoner in my own house.

 There may be financial control over you. Grocery money and gas money are doled out to you in specific amounts. You may need a pair of pantyhose to wear to work or church, but dare not ask for the extra cash to purchase them. So, you cut back on the food bill to make room in the budget to buy some L’eggs, or lip gloss, or deodorant . . .

 Yes, power and control are truly the cores that establish domestic/intimate partner violence. The earlier into the relationship you recognize the red flags waving in our face, the sooner you realize the path you are on is paved with power and control, the more likely you are to know the importance of establishing a safety plan. Prepare yourself and your children, if you have any. Develop a safety code to share with a family member, friend or coworker. Be sure they know that if you ever “drop” that code word in conversation, it is a signal you are in trouble and need help—fast. It is for urgent situations. But, in the meantime, get that safety plan ready and have your things packed and stored in a safe, secret location that will not raise suspicion in the abuser.

A temper tantrum is one thing, and only a part of the picture of domestic violence. Know the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1−800−799−SAFE(7233) and the Florida Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-500-1119. Study the Power & Control Wheel. And remember—disrespect and abuse are not love!

Power and Control Wheel

Carolyn is an advocate for sexual/domestic violence and assault awareness, also focusing on child sexual abuse. She is a Victim Support & Empowerment Coach, working with victims and survivors of molestation, sexual assault, domestic violence or spousal abuse, bringing information and awareness to organizations seeking to properly help and support victims. Hear various interviews at the Broadcasts page of her website:

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