• Paul M Schroeder-Haag

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month

What is domestic violence?

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. As I talk about domestic violence, I am actually referring mostly to what is commonly called intimate partner violence (or IPV). IPV refers to intimate partners, whereas domestic violence can refer to any combination of relationships that occur within the household, such as brother-to-brother, sister-to-sister, uncle-to-brother, etc. IPV refers more specifically to spouses and/or partners. Also important, however, is that IPV/DV also refers to the victimization of children. Therefore, I will use IPV/DV to cover the relationships that happen in the home within the family unit (spousal abuse and child abuse).

Let me start discussing IPV/DV by saying what it is not. IPV/DV is not an anger issue. It is not a stressful day at work, a busy day at home, or a few too many beers. IPV/DV in an intentional series of acts designed to create unhealthy power differentials in the intimate relationship, or to maximize differentials within the adult-child relationship. It is purposefully creating illusions to confuse, mislead, and disempower an intimate partner (or child). It is using abusive words and action to send a message that one person has ultimate authority, while the other has none.

IPV/DV, though, does not start out looking like abuse. It starts out looking a variety of other ways. An abuser typically does not start the abusive behavior patterns by hitting. The patterns are much more subtle. Much more discrete. Much more mysterious and confusing. And, while these patterns are not identical from one abuser to the next, they are all designed to wear down a partner emotionally, psychologically, and cognitively. And, in Christian circles, they wear down a partner spiritually.

When I start a group for offenders, we typically start by discussing what abuse is by highlighting the nine different categories of abuse. The nine categories that I use are the following: physical, sexual, psychological, emotional, verbal, cultural, spiritual, financial, and neglect. Within these 9 categories, we discuss over 120 distinct actions that abusers take to control and overpower those they abuse. Yes, over 120 distinct examples of abusive actions that abusers engage in.

The Duluth Model, which is an offender treatment curriculum, identifies the following categories, which either overlap or are included in the categories above. These Duluth categories include: using threats/coercion, economic abuse, intimidation, emotional abuse, using isolation, minimizing/denying/blaming, using children, and using male privilege. All of these categories, whether the Duluth categories or the categories I use, are all done strategically and purposefully to establish dominance in the relationship at the cost of the partner being abused.

I wish I could say this enough, but IPV/DV is never the fault of the person being abused. I will write about this in another post. For now, I would ask that you reflect on the many different categories -- each category with numerous, distinct behaviors -- that abusers use to control their partners and ex-partners, children, and step-children.

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