Recognising abuses of power
Any form of harassment or abuse of power is not OK.
There is no excuse for emotional, financial or psychological abuse, or physical or sexual violence in a relationship.
Image from The Duluth Model: https://www.theduluthmodel.org/wheels/
The Power and Control Wheel shows how the presence of physical or sexual violence in a relationship amplifies the potential threat of other abusive tactics like emotional abuse, coercion, intimidation, minimising, denying and blaming.
In a healthy and respectful relationship, a complaint about the quality of the evening meal would typically be resolved with a conversation. But when someone has demonstrated that they are prepared to use physical or sexual violence to get what they want, this threat is always in the background of any potential conflict. So now a conversation about this same dinner complaint carries with it the more serious threat of physical or sexual abuse, and acts like minimising, denying and blaming are amplified and more dangerous as a result.
The presence of any of these tactics or behaviours in a relationship is a big red flag and requires action.
The abusive person may apologise, even repeatedly, but unless they follow the apology with real action for positive behaviour change, it’s likely the abusive behaviours will continue.
Picking up on it early
In a respectful relationship, both persons should feel that their thoughts, opinions, needs and wants are important.
Both persons should feel they are listened to, that their individual decisions are respected, and that shared decisions can be made without pressure or coercion.
If someone attempts to restrict the places you visit, the things you do, the way you dress, or the people you see, this can indicate a controlling or abusive relationship.
Behaviours that might indicate a relationship is not respectful include:
- becoming angry or sullen when you spend time with your friends or family
- always wanting to know where you are and who you’re with
- monitoring your calls, texts and online activity
- constant put-downs, names, insults, jabs and jokes at your expense
- using pressure and coercion to get nude photos or to have sex
- threatening to share your nude pics or spread rumours
- use of physical force or violence
- withholding medications or contraceptives
- withholding access to shared finances
- blaming you or others for problems they have caused.
If you’re experiencing any of these behaviours in your relationship and you feel it’s safe to do so, try and talk to your partner. Work out if they are willing to listen to the way their behaviour is making you feel.
Sometimes an open and frank conversation can make a real and positive difference.
Stop Ask Listen recognises other people as individuals with their own rich inner worlds and making an effort to understand what they really want is essential in a healthy and respectful relationship.
Ask what the person wants
Listen to what the person says
But if there’s no change in behaviour it might be time to end the relationship, if you feel it’s safe to do so.
If the abusive behaviour continues and you feel unsafe, seek external help from a friend, a trusted guardian or adult, or a support agency such as the following:
- 1800RESPECT - National sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. Open 24 hours to support people impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence and abuse. Call 1800 737 732 or visit https://www.1800respect.org.au/
- Kids Helpline - Australia’s only free, private and confidential 24/7 phone and online counselling service for young people aged 5 to 25. Call 1800 55 1800 or visit https://kidshelpline.com.au/
- Office of the eSafety Commissioner - The Office of the eSafety Commissioner is committed to helping Australians have safer online experiences through a range of prevention, education and early intervention measures. Visit https://www.esafety.gov.au/
When it’s not you but someone you know
If a friend or acquaintance confides in you that they’re concerned about their partner’s behaviour, the first thing you need to do is to believe them.
Believe them and offer to support them in any way that you feel you can manage.
Assure the person that their partner’s controlling or abusive behaviour is not their fault or responsibility.
Establish whether the person feels themselves to be in physical danger.
Offer to help them find a support service and professional advice, and even go with them if they want you to. Where crimes are being committed, you may be required by law to help them report it.