Uncharted Violence: Reclaiming Structural Causes in the Power and Control Wheel

By Tamara Kuennen. 

The “Power and Control Wheel” (“the Wheel”) is an iconic image in the anti-gender violence field. On a single vivid page, it captures multiple layers of intimate partner abuse. In the Wheel’s hub are the words “power and control,” the fundamental motivation of an abusive partner. Eight spokes emanate from the center, each representing a tactic of abuse designed to accomplish that goal, such as “coercion and threats” and “intimidation.” The rim of the wheel identifies “physical” and “sexual” violence as the actions holding together and fortifying the tactics of an abusive partner’s control.

The Wheel sprung from activists’ focus group interviews with two hundred “battered women,” conducted in the early 1980s.4 First printed in a modest spiral bound manual with cover art drawn by a volunteer, the Wheel has been the predominant model of domestic violence in the U.S for thirty years. Advocates use the Wheel to explain domestic violence to people who experience abuse, people who are abusive, law enforcement, judges and juries, and the general public. The Wheel has spread around the globe, been translated into more than forty languages, and adapted to scores of distinct cultural contexts. Full Article.