FAQs About the Wheels

Why was the Power and Control Wheel created?

In 1984, staff at the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project (DAIP) began developing curricula for groups for men who batter and victims of domestic violence. We wanted a way to describe battering for victims, offenders, practitioners in the criminal justice system and the general public. Over several months, we convened focus groups of women who had been battered. We listened to heart-wrenching stories of violence, terror and survival. After listening to these stories and asking questions, we documented the most common abusive behaviors or tactics that were used against these women. The tactics chosen for the wheel were those that were most universally experienced by battered women.

Why did you call it the Power and Control Wheel?

Battering is one form of domestic or intimate partner violence. It is characterized by the pattern of actions that an individual uses to intentionally control or dominate his intimate partner. That is why the words “power and control” are in the center of the wheel. A batterer systematically uses threats, intimidation, and coercion to instill fear in his partner. These behaviors are the spokes of the wheel. Physical and sexual violence holds it all together—this violence is the rim of the wheel.

Why isn’t the Power and Control Wheel gender neutral?

The Power and Control Wheel represents the lived experience of women who live with a man who beats them. It does not attempt to give a broad understanding of all violence in the home or community but instead offers a more precise explanation of the tactics men use to batter women. We keep our focus on women’s experience because the battering of women by men continues to be a significant social problem–men commit 86 to 97 percent of all criminal assaults and women are killed 3.5 times more often than men in domestic homicides1.

When women use violence in an intimate relationship, the context of that violence tends to differ from men. First, men’s use of violence against women is learned and reinforced through many social, cultural and institutional avenues, while women’s use of violence does not have the same kind of societal support. Secondly, many women who do use violence against their male partners are being battered. Their violence is primarily used to respond to and resist the controlling violence being used against them. On the societal level, women’s violence against men has a trivial effect on men compared to the devastating effect of men’s violence against women.

Battering in same-sex intimate relationships has many of the same characteristics of battering in heterosexual relationships, but happens within the context of the larger societal oppression of same-sex couples. Resources that describe same-sex domestic violence have been developed by specialists in that field such as The Northwest Network of Bi, Trans, Lesbian and Gay Survivors of Abuse, www.nwnetwork.org

Making the Power and Control Wheel gender neutral would hide the power imbalances in relationships between men and women that reflect power imbalances in society. By naming the power differences, we can more clearly provide advocacy and support for victims, accountability and opportunities for change for offenders, and system and societal changes that end violence against women.

Why did you create the Equality Wheel?

The Equality Wheel was developed not to describe equality per se, but to describe the changes needed for men who batter to move from being abusive to non-violent partnership. For example, the “emotional abuse” segment on the Power and Control Wheel is contrasted with the “respect” segment on the Equality Wheel. So the wheels can be used together as a way to identify and explore abuse, then encourage non-violent change.

Has the wheel been translated into different languages?

Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs has translated the wheel into Spanish. And, the wheel has been translated by many others worldwide. The wheel has also been adapted culturally, such as the wheel adapted by Mending the Sacred Hoop to reflect some of the tactics a Native American batterer might use against his intimate partner to control her.

How is the Power and Control Wheel used?

The wheel is used in many settings and can be found in manuals, books, articles, and on the walls of agencies that seek to prevent domestic violence. It has even been seen by millions on national television shows and soap operas!

Many women’s groups use the Power and Control Wheel. Battered women can point to each of the tactics on the wheel and clearly explain how these behaviors were used against them. They are able to see that they are not alone in their experience and more fully understand how their batterer could exert such control over them.

The wheel is also used in counseling and education groups for men who batter to help group participants identify the tactics they use. By seeing that their behavior is not atypical for men who batter, there is an impetus (for those who are motivated to change) to explore the beliefs that contribute to their behavior. The Power and Control Wheel is used in concert with the Equality Wheel to help group participants see alternate ways of being in a relationship with a woman, free of violence and controlling behavior.

The wheel is also used in a variety of settings to describe battering. For instance, in training for law enforcement or prosecutors, the wheel provides an explanation for why a victim might return to an abusive spouse or why victim is refusing to cooperate in a criminal prosecution.

The wheel makes the pattern, intent and impact of violence visible.