Sutherland Shire Domestic Violence Committee

The Power and Control Wheel was developed in the early 1980s in Duluth, Minnesota, USA by advocates who talked to many, many women who experienced domestic violence and asked them about the ways in which their partners maintained a hold over them. What came out of those discussions was a model to explain what was going on in their relationships where the partner was able to control his partner to do what he wanted. The rim of the wheel represents the physical and sexual violence or the threat of physical and sexual violence that is used to enforce the underlining tactics to achieve dominance which is represented by the 8 segments of the wheel including using Intimidation, Emotional Abuse, Isolation, Minimising, Denying and Blaming Behaviour, using Children, Male privilege, Economic abuse and Coercion and Threats. The aim of using these tactics is to maintain dominant power and control within the relationship. This framework continues to be used adapted to support an understanding of domestic violence relationships and has been a useful educational tool for both professionals and for women experiencing domestic violence. Many women have been so brainwashed within their relationships that they are confused by dynamics of the relationships they are living in.

The Power and Control Wheel has been adapted many times to increase the understanding of other including post separation abuse, same sex relationship abuse and in more recent decades technology facilitated abuse. Now with the global COVID19 pandemic impacting our local communities, our workers at The Family Co. are hearing from women additional information about how their abusive partners are using strategies and tactics to maintain power and control within their relationships in the context of COVID. Isolation is a key driver for someone who is controlling. If you can limit how much a person can have contact with another, limit their access to family members, support services and community than it is easier to get them to do what is you want them to do. Lockdown restrictions enforced to keep much of the population from spreading the virus and to keep families safe from the impacts of the virus, is unfortunately the perfect environment for perpetrators of domestic violence to further isolate their partners and misuse Covid information and government restrictions. This places women at greater danger and further isolation, particularly as they cannot seek assistance at work or visiting friends or services.

The SSWDVCAS has noticed that the week the Sydney lockdown was announced, we experienced a 60 per cent increase in calls for support ahead of lockdown.

The adapted COVID Power and Control Wheel highlights the stories from women of how Covid has been used as a way of maintaining control, many stories obtained throughout and after the last lockdown and from those families still able to access our services now. Some examples are listed below;

  • Forcing women not to have the vaccine/forcing them to even if against their wishes.
  • Forcing her to not wear a mask in public places so that she gets into trouble.
  • Forcing women to go to their families/friends’ homes during lockdown when she doesn’t feel it is safe to do so and doesn’t want to break the Stay at Home orders.
  • Monitoring all technology devices in the homes on a regular basis and restricting access to other supports, family and friends and services, limiting exposure of new government updates to insite breaking the law and then blame her, just to instill a greater sense of worthlessness. Ie going outside kms radius
  • Increased critising parenting and home-schooling efforts of the mother and belittling in front of the children.
  • Some women who have left their abusive partners are still being expected to leave their homes, travel by public transport to enter highly restricted LGAS so their children can access with their fathers, remain in the area for fear of travelling by public transport too many times and fearful that they may get a fine by authorities for not being at home but mostly fearful of the consequences of their abusive partner if they express the health safety concerns of themselves and their children.

The COVID Power and Control Wheel can be used as an educational tool or intervention resource to assist women and other professionals to understanding the additional struggles that women experiencing domestic violence are encountering throughout the pandemic. The Family Co team understand the manipulative and coercive nature of using COVID excuses to maintain control and can offer support for women who identify that this may be occurring in their situation.

Written by: Belinda Harrison, Chair of Sutherland Shire Domestic Violence Committee