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How to Recognize Systemic Domestic Violence?

With the aim to implement systemic domestic violence prevention measures and prevent serious physical and psychological consequences of the experienced violence, it is important to identify the features of systemic violence as early as possible and take respective actions. In other words, it is important that social workers are able to recognise power and control strategies used by the perpetrator to intimidate and control the victim and manipulate the system.

The perpetrators wishing to control the situation and make the victims submit use different power and domination tactics that intimidate, control and supress the will of the partner. The experts of the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project call these tactics the Power and Control Wheel [1], escape from which is possible only with the external help.

With the aim to control the victim, the perpetrator:

Resorts to force, intimidation (says that he/she will do something, leave, commit a suicide, tell the services, forces to drop the charges or do illegal things);

Threatens (intimidating looks, actions, gestures, breaking things, damaging the property of a victim, abusing pets, demonstrating weapons);

Uses emotional violence (humiliates, reinforces low self-esteem, makes the partner think that she/he behaves inadequately, humiliates, makes feel guilty);

Isolates (controls what she/ he is doing, who he/ she is meeting, to whom she/ he is talking, what he/ she is reading, where the partner is going, limits external contacts, the perpetrator explains his/ her actions by jealousy);

Denies, downplays the committed crime, shifts the blame on the victim (mitigates the scale of violence, does not care that she/ he is concerned, denies former violence, shifts the responsibility, claims that violence was provoked);

Manipulates children (makes feeling guilty for children, uses children to pass on the messages or to stalk the victim, threatens to take the children away);

Abuses male privileges (treats women as servants, makes decisions on his own, behaves as if he is the “ruler of the castle”, distributes male and female roles on his own);

Uses economic violence (prohibits to work, makes ask for money, takes the money away, restricts from information on the family budget or family income).

When used together all these power and control strategies enable unstoppable psychological terror, which, if the “victim” tries to escape, turns into physical and sexual violence.

Power and Control Wheel