The Wheel of Power and Control
“Only approximately one-quarter of all physical assaults, one-fifth of all rapes, and one-half of all stalkings perpetuated against females by intimate partners are reported to the police” (Tjaden). How does this happen? Anyone who sees this statistic is firstly appalled, and secondly unable to comprehend how such blatant abuse occurs without reprimand. And furthermore, someone who has studied sexuality would look at this statistic and wonder about how many men or transgender people are affected by physical assaults, rapes, and stalkings. But regardless of your response to this statistic, there is one thing that we all can agree on: domestic violence must stop now. And for us to move forward with this campaign, we must first identify the roots of what sprouted this horrifying type of abuse.
Firstly, it is important to acknowledge that for any change in the realm of domestic violence, there must first be institutional change, rather than structural change. That is, the system that has been in place is what really requires change, rather than the immediate relationship or family of domestic partners. Institutionalization is well known by sexuality studies for establishing a system that fosters heteronormativity, discrimination against women, problems for gays and lesbians seeking union, and on and on. But the goal of this essay is not to identify what changes the system needs. Rather, it is to examine the direct physical and sexual violence and its relation to power and control; more commonly known as the “power and control wheel”.
My group identified intimidation as a major part of domestic violence. While DCCADV doesn’t work directly with victims, they look for group that can combat intimidation in domestic partnership. They define this as anything that one partner uses to scare the other using looks, actions, or gestures. It can be anything from vocal abuse, using weapons or large objects, etc. When one partner is afraid of the other, it creates many other problems beyond the direct assertion of intimidation. One way is fostering fear that prevents a reach out for help. If your partner really intimidates you, the chances of seeking help are slim, just because you fear for your own safety. In “Domestic Violence: Focus Groups from the Survivors’ Perspective” the authors asked women in abuse consoling to identify and rank-order the challenges they faced (Dziegielewski). Of the women who had the desire to leave, but were not sure they could, nearly all cited examples of intimidation. This type of domestic violence makes one partner think they are powerless without the other partner, while simultaneously isolating the abused partner from help and the rest of society.
Isolation is another form of domestic violence. This is defined as controlling what your partner does whether it is who they talk to, when they leave, or generally limiting the outside resources available to them. These are all direct results of one partner’s control over the other. Isolation leads to the same feeling of powerlessness. The abused partner feels like they have no one to go to, and knows that their partner will only “punish” them for searching for outward help. This type of power and control is especially apparent in non-heterosexual relationships. In “Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of Politics of Sexuality”, Gayle Rubin discusses how the contemporary era has oppressed those who’s sexual tastes differ from the norm. She argues that those who are considered sexually deviant from society are not only discriminated against, but also isolated. This is the main reason GLBT partners that experience domestic violence feel a heightened sense of isolation (Rubin). Because they are already cut off from society, there are even less outlets for them to seek in terms of help. Without a reliable partner, these victims are often left stranded in between their abusive relationship and an...
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