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These 8 Behaviors Lead to Sexual & Physical Abuse

Updated: Jun 19, 2018


Guys, are you man enough to walk a mile in her shoes?

Above is a picture of me with my daughter. I hope she never has to walk a mile in high-heeled shoes, because it's one of the hardest things I've ever done! After working with violent offenders and their victims, I also hope she never has to experience domestic violence. And that's why I walked a mile in these red pumps. But doing a "fun" event is just the beginning. Guys, and ladies, we need to educate ourselves on domestic violence because this stuff isn't taught in school and all too common in our society.


Have you ever heard of the Power & Control Wheel? I hadn’t either until I was gifted the position of leading a therapy/educational group for convicted violent offenders.

It’s something that looks like a pie or a pizza and each slice is a different type of behavior that often leads to sexual or physical violence. These things usually don’t happen all at once, but build up slowly over time.


“Using Intimidation” is the first slice. I remember one of my group members talking about how he had put his fist through a wall but hadn’t touched his significant other and didn’t understand why he had been convicted. Well, it had to do with intimidation. When a person sees another person who is angry at them using physical force to destroy something, the other person feels threatened and as though they are the next victim.


“Using emotional abuse” is the next slice. We see this a lot in our society in general. It shows up as put-downs and name-calling. It’s probably what you’d expect to see in playground bullying, but it’s coming from an adult. It can also involve someone trying to make the other one think they’re crazy or humiliating the significant other in front of friends or family. This is one of the first “red flags” that show up in romantic relationships, so be aware!


“Using isolation” can mean not allowing access to a vehicle, or him excessively leaving her at home with the kids while he is out doing recreational activities. Some guys will even check their partners’ phones, their email, and have login information for social media accounts due to a huge amount of jealousy and distrust. Some of my group participants have been known to limit their partner’s time with family members who used to be close.

“Minimizing, denying, and blaming” is something we see when abuse ramps up. Someone will try to say “you’re hurting me by doing this” and the other will say “oh, that wasn’t a big deal,” or “you made me do it,” or “you’re not remembering it right.” The victim will start to question herself.


“Using children” crops up in situation where there is shared parenting in the same home, or in separated home where there are custody issues. Common phrases are “you’re an unfit parent,” or “you shouldn’t have kids.” Parents will also sometimes try to pit children against the other parent. Sometimes threats will be made to do x,y,z or “you will never see your kids again.” People will sometimes use this slice of the pie in combination with other slices to intensify controlling behavior.


“Using male privilege” is something all of us guys are guilty of at one time or another, myself included! But when does this behavior become abusive? When it’s his way or the highway. It’s treating women and children as second-class citizens. It might come down to him demanding that he gets to make all the decisions for the family, or refusing to help with household chores because “it’s woman’s’ work.” I think you get the picture. We’re talking about a very rigid guy who thinks he’s king of the castle.


“Using economic abuse” looks like limiting the partner’s access to funds or bank accounts, controlling all the money, and making large purchase decisions on behalf of the family without consulting anyone else. Unfortunately, this can lead to bills being unpaid or children not being fed because the master of the castle decided to spend the money in a different way. It can also mean that she is not allowed to earn an income and is dependent on him, which can make it very difficult to escape from the abusive relationship.


“Using coercion and threats” is where the stuff hits the fan. This looks like one partner making direct threats to hurt the other person, their kids, their pets, or themselves if the other person doesn’t comply. She might be too scared to leave, or live in constant fear after leaving.


It is VERY hard for women to leave abusive relationships. Contrary to opinion, they are not choosing their significant other over their kids, and they often don’t feel they or their children deserve the abusive treatment. They’re just stuck in a really bad situation and it’s not easy to get out. It’s actually a dangerous situation. And the fear of the unknown (the threats and uncertainty) is scarier than the fear of the known. Don’t ever blame a victim, and don’t be one yourself.


Now that you know the signs of impending physical and sexual abuse, you can head it off at the pass. Get help and get out before it gets out of control. Get your copy of the Power and Control Wheel by clicking the space below.

Need counseling? I work with victims and offenders in Defiance, Ohio. 419-239-2113. I also recently spoke about Domestic Violence on the Thrive Tribe 419 Podcast; click here to listen.


From www.bwjp.org:

“Help is available to callers 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Hotline advocates are available for victims and anyone calling on their behalf to provide crisis intervention, safety planning, information and referrals to agencies in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Assistance is available in English and Spanish with access to more than 170 languages through interpreter services. If you or someone you know is frightened about something in your relationship, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224”


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American Counseling Association Professional Member Matt Hollo
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