Power-Over Strategies Handout

Thank you for your interest in the Power-Over Strategies handout. We invite you to download and use any handouts you find on our website.

FAQ's About Power-Over Strategies Handout

Why was this handout created?
Having worked in the domestic violence field for over 13 years I never really came across a handout I felt comfortable using to help recipients of domestic violence and individuals who batter identify what they experienced or did. In my first couple of years as a domestic violence counselor I used the Power and Control and Equality Wheels developed by the Domestic Violence Intervention Project. The problem with these wheels was that it did not name specifically what the batterer was doing that was abusive. For example the Power and Control Wheel uses language like "making her feel bad about herself" or "making her feel guilty." The problem with this language is that it encourages the recipient of abuse to believe that her partner can make her feel bad about herself or guilty which continues to perpetuate a victim mentality. Why not just list what the person actually did that stimulated the unpleasant feeling? For instance, the aggressor in the relationship may have told her she was stupid or a slut. This action would fall under the emotional abuse category.

Nonviolent Communication (NVC) teaches that we cannot make someone feel an emotion. That the cause of an unpleasant emotion is either a judgment or an unfulfilled need. We can stimulate or trigger an emotion but we are not the cause of the person feeling a particular emotion. That would give too much power to this person and every time they did what they did it would mean the recipient would be powerless to feel different. This is not the case.

I had participants in the batterer intervention program (BIP) ask, "If we can't make someone feel an emotion why is this handout stating that I did that?" So, in regards to holding the perpetrator of violence accountable this handout was falling short. It was creating more problems because the participants in the BIP viewed the handout as if it was trying to classify them or judge them.

I wanted to create a handout that stated observations and encouraged individuals to identify actions that they either experienced or used with others. My experience is that when we tell someone that they were controlled or are being controlled it can be very disturbing and stimulate anger. I saw many women come out of counseling sessions screaming in rage. I later would find out that the counselor used a feelings list that listed faux feelings (words that were thoughts mixed in with feelings). For instance, one of the words on the list were "controlled, violated, disrespected, manipulated." If I was told that I was controlled for many years I would become angry. To encourage people to connect with faux feelings stimulates more pain. These words imply an action that someone else is doing to you. When someone is doing something to you it is easy to think you are a victim and to get stuck in that story. I don't want to contribute to that story. I want to help people shift into a different story and find empowerment. So, in NVC we would discover what was done that made this person think they were manipulated or controlled. What specifically was this person doing? Possibly the person blocked the door or repeatedly told their partner it was her fault. These are observable actions. Then we can ask how the person feels when they realize that their partner did this. They may say the felt scared, concerned, angry, etc. We can help them discover what need was not met. Maybe they needed to be safe, to have choice or freedom, acceptance, grace, or consideration. Then we can help this person to mourn these needs and come up with strategies to meet these needs. A safety plan may be in order in many cases.

For participants in the batterer's intervention program the Power-Over Strategies handout helped them to identify what they specifically did that was abusive without judging them or implying they did something that they did not do. Individuals are then encouraged to mourn the action(s) they choose to do and to connect with what value they did not live out. They are then supported in finding new strategies that are life-serving. Individuals who batter have learned strategies that do not serve life and stimulate pain for everyone. Domestic violence is a learned behavior. The good news is that individuals can learn new strategies to meet their needs that serve life.

Participants in our program are given a Life Serving Strategies handout to help them realize there are other choices available to meet their needs. The strategies encourage them to live a non-violent lifestyle.