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Overview of Intimate Partner Violence

Intimate partner violence is more than just physical assault and is defined as a pattern of behaviors batterers use against current or former intimate partners to establish power and control. It can include physical, sexual, emotional, spiritual, or economic abuse, as well as the use of threats, isolation and pet abuse, threats related to children, and a variety of other behaviors to maintain power over one’s partner through violence, fear, and intimidation. Intimate partner violence affects millions of individuals across the United States regardless of age, economic status, race, religion, or education. Intimate partner violence impacts approximately one in four women in the United States annually.[1]

The term “coercive control” provides holistic representation of the various tactics a batterer uses beyond viewing it as a “fight” between partners. Coercive control is the means by which a batterer systemically eradicates the survivor’s liberty and freedom to strip away her sense of self.[2] Coercive control tactics amplify violence by creating fear, withholding resources, and violating the survivor’s rights and liberties. Evan Stark, an author and expert in the field of domestic violence, defines coercive control as "a malevolent course of conduct that subordinates women to an alien will by violating their physical integrity (domestic violence), denying them respect and autonomy (intimidation), depriving them of social connectedness (isolation), and appropriating or denying them access to the resources required for personhood and citizenship (control)."

power and control wheel

The Power and Control Wheel describes some of the tactics used by batterers to control their partners. The wheel was developed by the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project (DAIP) in Duluth Minnesota. Staff members of DAIP convened focus groups with battered women to learn about their experiences of violence. Although not all tactics of violence are included in the wheel, the tactics identified have been described as commonly experienced by survivors of intimate partner violence. [3]

equality wheel

The Equality Wheel was also developed by the creators of the Power and Control Wheel to describe the behavioral changes in which batterers needed to engage to shift from abusive to non-violent behaviors toward their partners. The Equality Wheel presents a model for the relationship based on respect and mutuality.


[2] Stark, E. Coercive Control: How Men Entrap Personal Life (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007).