Playlist teacher guide - Power

Playlist information

Playlist summary

This playlist explores the role that power plays in relationships and how unequal power has the potential to lead to disrespectful or abusive behaviour.

Playlist purpose

The content of this playlist supports students to:

  • Identify when there is an unequal balance of power in a relationship
  • Identify sources of power in personal and professional relationships
  • Devise strategies they can implement to deal with an abuse of power in their personal or professional relationships.

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Learning objectives

  • Understand how to recognise a range of disrespectful behaviours that can occur in relationships (including coercion, leverage, manipulation).
  • Understand the signs of an abusive relationship and the factors that can lead to a relationship becoming abusive.

Key messages

  • Relationships can turn abusive when there is loss of respect, trust and power.
  • Violence is never OK and never excusable, and perpetrators can take responsibility and seek support to deal with their behaviour.

Year level(s) appropriate for

Year 10, Year 11, Year 12

Australian curriculum links

Investigate how empathy and ethical decision making contribute to respectful relationships.

Media items

Power: what does it look like?

Type: Page.

Duration: 4 minutes.

Source: The Good Society.

Summary: What does power look like in relationships, of any kind? This page includes examples involving the Field Model, helping determine what types of power can take us away from free and equal negotiation in shared decisions.

Survey questions:

  1. Question number 1. Have you ever been in a situation where you felt like you had no or little power to control what happened? Answers
    1. a.Yes
    2. b.No
    3. c.I don’t know
  2. Question number 2. Have you ever been in a situation where you felt like you had complete power to control what happened? Answers
    1. a.Yes
    2. b.No
    3. c.I don’t know
    Discussion points:

    Knowing the different aspects of power and how they can be used (or abused) is important to our ability to make ethical decisions that affect both our interpersonal relationships and those people in our sphere of influence. When relationships become disrespectful and abusive it is usually the result of one partner abusing their power in the relationship. Abuse of power can happen in an intimate relationship, a working relationship, a bullying scenario or online relationship. To explore these concepts further, discuss the following questions:

    • What sorts of situations might occur where one person has little power or control over what happens?
    • If you found yourself in a position of power, how can you ensure that you use that power respectfully?
    • When a person feels like they have low power, or even no power, what can they do to change the situation or take back some control?

Using power to control

Type: Page.

Duration: 3 minutes.

Source: The Good Society.

Summary: This page discusses how power and control appears in normal relationships. Examples are given where control and pressure are applied to influence shared relationship decisions. Learn how to respect your partner's individual decisions, avoid conflicts, and avoid power misuses like intimidation.

Survey questions:

  1. Question number 1. Is there ever a justification to use the threat of leaving a relationship to get what you want from a shared decision? Answers
    1. a.Yes
    2. b.No
    3. c.Maybe
    Discussion points:

    Threatening to leave a relationship is one of the most classic forms of coercion. However, there may be justification for making this threat. If you are the one within an intimate relationship who always compromises and you decide for this decision you will not compromise, then your threat to leave could be a way of indicating this decision is the last straw which could lead you to want to end the relationship.

The Coworker

Type: Video.

Duration: 4 minutes.

Source: Cosmopolitan. ()

Summary: A video which depicts a more common, familiar case of sexual harassment in a workplace - in a bar. In just a few minutes it becomes very obvious the ways in which people can move the line on someone's No or I Don't Know.

Survey questions:

  1. Question number 1. Do you agree that he moved the line on her? Answers
    1. a.Yes
    2. b.No
    Discussion points:

    Manipulators and abusers control their victims with a range of tactics, including positive reinforcement (such as praise, flattery, ingratiation, love bombing, smiling, gifts, attention) which was used in this scenario. Even though the guy was friendly and not aggressive in any way, he still moved the line because he didn’t ask if he could touch her. To unpack the concepts addressed in this video further, discuss the following questions:

    • How could she have responded when he first touched her to make it obvious that he had made a line move?
    • Why do you think she didn’t challenge him more strongly about the line move?
    • If you had been working in the bar and witnessed his behaviour, how might you have been able to step in to challenge his behaviour?

Managing power dynamics

Type: Page.

Duration: 4 minutes.

Source: The Good Society.

Summary: This page gives guidelines and examples for observing how power dynamics work in a relationship and how that can affect the shared decision-making process. Can a Yes be freely given without pressure? Will a No be respected without fear of consequences?

Survey questions:

  1. Question number 1. Have you ever been involved in a conflict where you have felt like your needs or opinions were ignored? Answers
    1. a.Yes
    2. b.No
    Discussion points:

    Conflict is a normal part of any human relationship. We are all individuals and we are going to sometimes want things that are different to others who we interact with. When you are in an intimate relationship you may have to make compromises to reach a middle ground that you can both be happy with. If there is a power imbalance and one partner constantly gets their own way and doesn’t care about the needs or wants of their partner then it is time to question how respectful that relationship is. To explore this concept further, discuss the following questions:

    • Is it ever OK to refuse to compromise on a shared decision?
    • How could you deal with a situation where your partner never compromises on shared decisions where you both have different responses?
    • If you refuse to compromise on a shared decision is that automatically a line move?

Power and Control Wheel

Type: Video.

Duration: 2 minutes.

Source: TheDuluthModel. ()

Summary: The Power and Control Wheel is a visual diagram of the tactics and controlling behaviours most often used in abusive relationships. This short video explains how the wheel came about and what it means.

Survey questions:

  1. Question number 1. Can you abuse your partner without being sexually or physically violent? Answers
    1. a.Yes
    2. b.No
    3. c.I don’t know
    Discussion points:

    The Power and Control outlines the tactics that abusers use to manipulate, control and abuse their partners. A person doesn’t need to inflict physical or sexual violence on their partner to be abusing them. The tactics described in the Power and Control wheel can manifest themselves through economic abuse – where one partner has full control over the finances and the other partner is restricted in how much money they have access to; or as emotional abuse where the partner is constantly degrading and berating them.

    To unpack the Power and Control Wheel further, download a copy of the Power and Control Wheel PDF, sourced from the Domestic Violence Action Centre website.

    And discuss the following questions:

    • Which of the tactics in the middle of the circle do you think is most harmful and why?

    What strategies could a partner who is experiencing these tactics in their relationship use to counter or challenge them safely?

Recognising abuses of power

Type: Page.

Duration: 4 minutes.

Source: The Good Society.

Summary: Recognising the early signs of power being abused in a relationship is extremely important for safety and wellbeing. This page gives an overview of how to recognise when someone is misusing or abusing power - whether it's in your own relationship or somebody else's. Also covered is how to find help and offer support.

Survey questions:

  1. Question number 1. If you or someone you knew was experiencing violence or abuse, would you know where to go to get help? Answers
    1. a.Yes
    2. b.No
    Discussion points:

    It is really important to ensure that all students are fully aware of the support organisations and avenues for getting help that are available to them if they or someone they know is in an abusive relationship. It is recommended that you have the website addresses for 1800 RESPECT, kidshelpline eSafety Commissioner (for abusive online relationships) prominently displayed in the classroom. If a student discloses that they have experienced or witnessed violence within their family, you have a duty of disclosure that must be followed. Refer to your education sector guidelines on the process for mandatory reporting in your school sector.

Abuse in Relationships: Would you Stop Yourself?

Type: Video.

Duration: 1 minute.

Source: ThisIsAbuse. ()

Summary: This video quickly illustrates a succession of controlling and then abusive behaviours within a relationship, and asks perpetrators to try to see themselves and their actions.

Survey questions:

  1. Question number 1. Does the guy’s behaviour constitute a line move in this video? Answers
    1. a.Yes
    2. b.No
    3. c.I don’t know
    Discussion points:

    It can be hard when you are in a situation to take an outsider’s view of what is going on to check-in on your behaviour to make sure you are being respectful. To unpack the situation in this video further, discuss the following questions:

    • Is there a power imbalance between the two characters? Where is the unequal power drawn from?
    • What decisions were being made in the video by the two characters?
    • Were each of these decisions shared decisions or individual decisions? (see YNIDK and Moving the Line to recap the difference between individual and shared decisions)
    • Were the girl’s No’s respected? Does this constitute a line move?
    • What behaviour in the video constitutes disrespect and/or abuse?

Activities and extras

The conversations generated through engaging with this playlist could be built upon and reinforced using role plays, scenarios or group activities that allow students to practise and refine strategies to:

  • Challenge power dynamics in their personal or professional relationships where there is potential for their rights to be violated.

Another interesting resource that teachers could share with their class is the following podcast:

  • Five Women
  • Source: This American Life
  • https://www.thisamericanlife.org/640/five-women
  • This podcast explores a series of stories about women being sexually harassed by the same boss. There are very specific references to power and the social norms that create expectations of how the genders behave in a workplace. Each woman in her story reflects on past moments where other events happened, and they go through a process of re-evaluating how they viewed these past experiences. How they justified or dismissed this behaviour as being OK because he was a man. Each woman explores how they have been conditioned to relate to men in the workplace and how the workplace culture and social norms formed that made this disrespectful behaviour socially acceptable in their workplace.
  • This would be a very valuable resource to unpack time permitting, as it is 78mins in length.