Power and Control - the Cycle of Intimate Partner Violence
It can be difficult to identify IPV because there is typically shame and cover up involved with this type of relationship situation. Some teens may not recognize, or want to admit, that they are in an unhealthy relationship. This can make it more challenging, but not impossible, to motivate them toward change.
Most of the time, violence in a relationship takes place when the couple is alone. A case manager or other helping professional may not see dramatic signs like black eyes and broken bones. How might you “know for sure?” Most important is to listen to your instincts. As a trained helping professional, you probably wouldn’t be worried without good reason. Here are some signs to look for that might mean a young person is in an abusive relationship and needs support.
Frequently, adolescent IPV is not an isolated event, but a pattern of abusive behaviors. This pattern is called the cycle of abuse. The cycle, or pattern, of abuse can be described as having specific stages.
In the happy/romantic stage, sometimes called the “honeymoon phase,” the relationship seems to be going well, and the partner is loving and attentive. This is followed by the tension-building stage, in which there is increasing conflict. The explosive stage is when the actual abuse takes place. After the violence, the abuser often asks for forgiveness and promises he or she will not do it again, moving the cycle back into the happy/romantic stage. Nothing a victim does will curtail the abuse. In order for the abuse to stop, the victim leaves the relationship or the abuser must take responsibility for his/her actions.
Power and Control Wheels
The Teen Power and Control Wheel is a model of the cycle of violence. The wheel shows that power and control are at the center of an abusive relationship. In other words, abuse is a pattern of one person trying to gain power and control over the other. One of the most common ways to control another person is by using violence, such as hitting or sexual assault. However, there are other ways of controlling a person that do not include physical violence and are not as easy to identify. Instead of using physical or sexual violence, perpetrators of abuse may use verbal, emotional, psychological, or financial tactics to control the other person. Some examples of the different tactics are listed in between the “spokes” of the wheel. These different forms of abuse do not occur in isolation from one another, but often overlap and work together to continue the cycle of violence.
The Teen Equality Wheel is a model of a healthy relationship, based on nonviolence, trust and respect. The wheel shows that equality, rather than power and control, is at the center of a healthy relationship. When relationships are built on equality, trust, communication, and respect, there is no room for violence and abuse. Just as in the power and control wheel, the “spokes” represent different elements to a healthy, equal relationship. The elements of a healthy relationship do not occur in isolation, but overlap and work together to continue a relationship of equality and mutuality.