I See DV Prevention as an Idea Worth Spreading

Today, we’re hearing from Leslie Morgan Steiner, a brave survivor, critically acclaimed author, speaker and a member of the hotline’s National Advisory Board. She tells how she sees domestic violence after her experience of giving a widely viewed TED Talk on the issue. 

Last August, I got a call from an old friend I had not seen since our 1977 elementary school graduation. He knew that I wrote and spoke openly about my experiences as a domestic violence survivor. He had a question: had I ever considered doing a TED Talk based on Crazy Love, my 2009 memoir about surviving domestic violence in my first marriage?

Turns out that Phil, no longer the 12-year-old soccer fanatic I remembered, had founded TEDxRainier, the Seattle-based offshoot of the big TED conventions held every year in Long Beach, California. On one Saturday in November, Phil explained, 1,200 people would each pay $100 to gather in an auditorium at the University of Seattle to listen to 30 brief, impactful TED Talks. The speeches would be filmed and distributed via YouTube.

I gave about 20 talks annually based on Crazy Love and my anthology Mommy Wars. Some keynotes to larger audiences had already been posted on YouTube. I wasn’t sure how doing a TEDTalk would be much different.

I found out quickly. I proudly submitted my standard domestic violence keynote to Phil. I had gotten standing ovations with this talk. I thought he would be impressed.

He was, he said via GoogleHangout during our first face-to-face conference in September. (TedxRainier usually coaches speakers in person, but the 3,000 miles between Seattle and my home office in Washington, DC made in-person meetings a challenge.)

Then Phil asked me a tough question about domestic violence: Who cares?

I was stunned. Phil softened the blow by explaining that TED audiences are unusually diverse, with people ranging in age from 18 to 80, from all professions, political affiliations, and interest groups. I couldn’t assume that anyone had come to hear me talk, or that a single listener knew anything about relationship violence. I would have to work hard to engage them all with one very dynamic 15-minute talk from the second I stepped onto the stage.

With Phil’s coaching, I shifted the focus of my keynote and simplified my messages.

My opening line became:

“I am here to talk about a disturbing question… Which has an equally disturbing answer. My topic is domestic violence. The question I’m going to try to answer today is the one question everyone always asks: Why does she stay? Why would anyone stay with a man who beats her?”

And then I pulled a polished nickel Colt 45 (a replica, actually, but it looked plenty real) out of the little black and white purse I’d brought on stage with me. It was the same type of loaded gun my ex-husband had held to my head more than a dozen times, I explained. The audience, all 1,200 of them, got very quiet. Taking advantage of their silence, I launched into the heart of my talk – the predictable patterns of “crazy love,” and the complex factors that make leaving an abusive partner so very hard.

I ended my talk by trying to convince the audience to transform their preconceived impressions about domestic violence. I wanted to inspire each and every person listening to act differently when confronted with the signs of abuse in their own lives.

“Right now maybe you are thinking: wow, this was fascinating. But actually, this whole time I’ve been talking about YOU. I promise you there are several people listening right now who are currently being abused, or were abused as young children. Or are abusers themselves. Abuse could be affecting your sister, your daughter, your best friend…right this moment.

“My final request for you: talk about what you heard here. Abuse thrives only in silence. You have the power to end domestic violence – simply by shining a light on it. We victims need everyone – we need EVERY ONE of YOU – to understand the secrets of domestic violence. Together we can make our beds, our dinner tables, our families, the safe and peaceful oases they should be.”

The response to my TEDTalk was beyond anything I could have imagined. Over one million people have seen it. The talk has been translated into over 30 languages. I’ve gotten in touch with domestic violence victims and advocates from around the world – TED’s global reach is well beyond anything I could have achieved on my own. I’m currently scheduled to speak in the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Madrid and yes, Seattle again, all due to the impact of my TEDTalk (plus a little help from the amazing woman who books my speaking engagements, Gail Davis).

But perhaps most meaningful to me: I’m reaching people who would otherwise not care about domestic violence. People oblivious to the lifelong trauma relationship violence inflicts. By helping expand my audience, Phil and TED also got me to expand my goals as a domestic violence advocate: to use the power of speech to reach all corners of the world, and all corners of people’s minds.

Leslie Morgan Steiner is the author of the New York Times bestseller, Crazy Love, as well as the critically acclaimed anthology, Mommy Wars. Her most recent book, The Baby Chase, explores surrogacy’s impact on the American family. Visit her website at www.lesliemorgansteiner.com or view her TEDTalk.


How I See DV — Week 1 Recap

We asked and you answered. In the first week of our campaign we wanted to know how you saw domestic violence (DV) in your own community. Today, and every Friday in October, we’re sharing the answers we hear. Thank you for the great feedback — we’re excited to continue this conversation with you all month.



I See DV As A Complex Issue That Impacts ALL Women and Girls

This October, we’re highlighting different perspectives around domestic violence as part of our How I See DV campaign. Our first contributor is the accomplished activist Malika Saada Saar, director of the Human Rights Project for Girls (Rights4Girls).

My Work Taught Me How To Talk About Domestic Violence

I am a human rights lawyer for women and girls because of the domestic violence movement — a collection of people working to ending abuse. The domestic violence movement taught me how to name the violence done to women and girls. It gave me a language to frame the abuse in my own familial circles. And, the movement grounded me in how I wanted to make a life insistent on women’s dignity, power and safety.

The Movement, and Our Mission, Have Evolved

Since my college days of working at a domestic violence shelter, my belief in how the movement ought to move forward has changed significantly. For me, it is no longer only about the original framework of intimate partner violence against women.

The last reauthorization of our landmark Violence Against Women Act unearthed how our work has really progressed as a movement against gender-based violence. The original passage of VAWA in 1994 signaled a new discourse on violence that reshaped how we as a nation both acknowledged and framed spousal abuse. But, now almost twenty years later, VAWA includes language that names sexual violence and the need for victim services, redefines trafficking of children as a form of sexual violence, ends the impunity of non-Native persons who rape and assault women and girls on tribal lands, and recognizes that LGBT individuals are also victims of domestic and sexual violence.

Like VAWA, the domestic violence movement is powerfully expanding in its contemplation of violence to include the complex ways in which violence plays out in the lives of ALL women — and girls.

Domestic Violence Affects ALL Women and Girls

I deeply believe that we must continue to be expansive, broad, and diverse as a movement because the violence against us continues, unabated. Intimate partner violence is the leading cause of injury to women in the U.S. That means more women are being harmed by violence than in car accidents, muggings and rapes combined.

The lives of African-American women are even more diminished by violence, as African American women experience intimate partner violence at a rate 35 percent higher than that of white women. And, one out every three American women has been beaten, sexually coerced or otherwise abused in her lifetime.

The narrative of physical and sexual violence against women and girls continues to cut across the buffers of economic or educational privilege, and breeches every divide of race, class and ethnicity in America. It is a story whispered in the corners of mansions in affluent neighborhoods, in the best private schools and universities, behind the walls of women prisons and girl detention centers, and on the street corners where girls are sexually exploited and trafficked. Violence against women and girls remains a painfully American tale.

There Are New Forms of Abuse — and New Work to Be Done

Clearly, there is still so much more work to be done to address, name, and end violence against women and girls, especially when the violence has taken on new manifestations: cyber-stalking and harassment, digitized rape, the intersection between the hyper-sexualization of girls and violence. But I am made stronger when I consider the inheritance that we possess at this moment in the work.

The inheritance we possess as women who stand on the shoulders of so many who went before us, who fought for us, who won for us access to power, equality and full personhood. I think of the other inheritance too: the inheritance of those victims of rape, exploitation, abuse, and coercion whose lives were snuffed out because of the violence done to them because they were women and girls. It is the inheritance of all of this, the generational victories and sufferings that allow us to be here, with an abiding commitment to end violence against women and girls, on this domestic violence awareness month, and every month, in the years ahead.

About Our Contributor

Malika Saada Saar is Special Counsel on Human Rights at The Raben Group. She also serves as director of the Human Rights Project for Girls (Rights4Girls), an effort focused on the human rights of vulnerable girls in the U.S. Previously, Malika co-founded and was the executive director of the Rebecca Project for Human Rights, a policy and advocacy organization for women and families. At Rebecca Project, Malika led the effort to shut down Craigslist sex ads that served as the leading site for the trafficking of children for sex, ended the federal practice of shackling pregnant mothers behind bars in U.S. prisons, and successfully advocated for millions in federal funding for treatment services for at-risk families. Newsweek and the Daily Beast have named Malika as one of “150 Women Who Shake the World.”

The Obama White House selected Ms. Saada Saar to serve on the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights.

Malika has been featured in the Daily Beast, Huffington Post, O: The Oprah Magazine, Newsweek, Politico, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, USA Today, Redbook Magazine, Essence, Tavis Smiley Show, BBC, ABC News, Good Morning America, CNN, and National Public Radio.



This October, Tell Us How You See DV

October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM), starts today!

Last year, our 30 days of DVAM challenges had us talking about on-going wellness, evaluating our own behavior in relationships, building support systems and reaching out to friends and those in need.

This Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we’re focusing even more on you and want to hear How You See DV (domestic violence) within your life. Join us for our How I See DV campaign throughout the month to share your own message.

DV affects lives in different ways. Maybe you’ve witnessed or experienced it firsthand in your own home. Maybe you know someone else who has. Perhaps you’re noticing it more often in pop culture and news, or you overheard someone loudly yelling at their partner in public and it left you feeling unsettled (unhealthy behaviors are red flags — we’re talking about those, too).

This month, join us in this collaborative effort to bring more visibility to the growing problem of domestic violence. DV affects a large percentage of Americans but it’s still a taboo subject. We need to bring this ‘behind closed doors’ problem out into the open and acknowledge how it affects our communities, our families and our lives.

We Need You

This October, we’re inviting everyone to speak up. Tell us about a time when you saw domestic violence firsthand. Tell us about the effects of DV in your workplace, friend circle or larger community. Tell us why it is important to you to speak up now.

Here’s how:

  • Connect with us on Twitter and on Facebook and like/share our images, statuses and blog posts with your networks. Don’t forget to engage in discussions on our blog and Facebook pages by leaving comments
  • Tweet, Facebook, Vine, Instagram about the campaign, sharing your perspective on domestic violence by using the hashtag #SeeDV
  • Create a video around the campaign using Vine, Instagram Video or Youtube, linking your content to ours with the hashtag #SeeDV
  • Join us back here at the blog every Friday to see if one of your tweets, videos or photos has made our Friday round up
  • Let us know what you or your community are doing for DVAM

Read Blog Posts By Special Guest Writers

We’re starting the conversation around different perspectives on domestic violence by featuring guest writers all October. We reached out to free-thinking community leaders that range from athletes to activists. Check out our blog all month to see differing views on this very important issue.

Get Inspired

Need some inspiration? Check out our campaign landing page for ideas, as well as tweets and statuses you can use today.

HopeLine & Three Minutes for Three Million

This DVAM, we’re supporting HopeLine for Verizon. Sign up to host your own phone drive to help victims in need.

We also recently reached an important milestone at the hotline — we answered our three millionth call. To recognize this moment, we’re asking our friends to pledge Three Minutes for Three Million. Sign up and commit to spending three minutes actively strengthening a relationship in your life. This could mean spending three minutes calling a family member, catching up with a friend or even bonding with your significant other.

We look forward to spending this month raising awareness with you and sparking change by sharing how we #SeeDV.


We at the hotline care very deeply about the safety of anyone using our services. Please keep in mind that sharing personal stories could jeopardize your safety if you are currently in an abusive relationship, or have recently left an abusive partner. If you would like to discuss your unique situation and receive support, please call 1-800-799-7233.

minimizing violence

Excuses, Excuses…

Just as people make excuses for their own poor behavior, it seems to be human nature that we often make excuses for others as well — in particular, our significant others. Have you ever found yourself apologizing for the actions of your partner? “Sorry about that, they’re just tired and had a really long day,” or, “They don’t mean to act like that, they’ve just been stressed at work.”

Has a family member or friend ever directly asked you about the way your partner treats you? How did you respond? Did you come up with an excuse to put them at ease — or, to put your own mind at ease?

In an unhealthy or abusive relationship, making justifications for a partner’s behavior is common. When your partner continually makes excuses for how they treat you, it’s only normal that you may start making similar excuses and echoing their sentiments.

What do these excuses sound like?

“It’s my fault. I made a mistake and did something that upset them.”

“They said that I’m controlling. I drove them to act this way.”

“They’re just stressed/tired/having a bad day/kidding.”

“They aren’t usually like this.”

“It’s not that bad. At least they don’t hit me.”

“They didn’t hit me that hard. It could be worse.”

“They weren’t always like this.”

“They were abused as a child/they grew up in an abusive family — it’s all they know.”

“They just have a drug/alcohol problem.”

“They’re bipolar — it’s a medical condition.”

“I’m just overreacting. They say I’m too emotional.”

Why do we do this?

If your partner is treating you in an unhealthy way, it’s often really difficult to acknowledge what’s happening. It’s hard to believe that someone we care for and love could hurt us. Oftentimes a relationship doesn’t begin badly — so it’s confusing when one can change so drastically.

We may also be in denial about what’s actually happening.

It can be tough to stop making excuses for a partner who is treating you badly, but beginning to accept what’s happening is the first step toward holding them accountable for their own behavior.

You are not responsible for your partner’s bad behavior. Your partner’s hurtful words and actions are their own choice — there is always a choice.

If you’re in a relationship where your partner is emotionally or physically abusive and you find yourself making excuses for them, call us at 1-800-799-SAFE. Our advocates can confidentially speak with you more about this and discuss safety and plans for the future.

choose to change

The Hotline Calls You May Not Expect

As you may imagine, our 24/7 Hotline receives all types of calls from all over the country. The largest group of callers is people experiencing abuse of some sort, questioning unhealthy aspects of their relationship and seeking help and services. Our second largest group of callers is friends and family concerned about loved ones.

What you may not know is that we also frequently speak with people who identify as abusive, or who are concerned about behaviors that may be unhealthy.

We treat all callers with dignity and respect, and talk to these people because we support accountability. Every call from someone who is becoming more aware of their unhealthy behavior is an opportunity to plant a seed for change.

No matter what the situation, our Hotline advocates are supportive and remain empathetic.

What will an advocate recommend?

Depending on what you’re calling about, our advocates will talk to you about different courses of action. If throughout the call you and the advocate are beginning to identify unhealthy behaviors in your relationship, they’ll discuss these red flags with you and then brainstorm healthy alternatives for the behavior.

EX: “You can’t change your feelings of jealousy all the time, but you can change how you are confronting your partner about these feelings.”

They’ll talk about strategies for calming down and deescalating if you feel yourself getting angry, and discuss how your actions can negatively affect yourself and those around you.

Callers may want to know about Battering Intervention and Prevention Programs — but not all callers asking about BIPPS are the same. While some are looking for a referral because the court has ordered them to, others are seeking out this information on their own accord. In 2010, Hotline advocates made between 950-1,000 referrals to these programs.

Can you really call without being judged?

Yes. If you’re looking for someone to lend a confidential, impartial ear, our advocates at The Hotline are a great option. They’ll listen, withhold judgment and help you begin to address what’s going on in your relationship.

If you’re questioning your own behavior at all, or if someone else has brought it to your attention, acknowledging it is a step in the right direction. Give us a call today at 1-800-799-SAFE to start the conversation.

can abusers change

Is Change Possible In An Abuser?

People change.

That small, two-word sentence is actually a huge, significant statement that carries a lot of weight. We grow up learning about change — the inevitability of it, the uncertainty it can bring. We change — our opinions, personalities, careers, friends and much more.

Some changes feel like they happen overnight. Others are more conscious, and they have to be, like overcoming an addiction or correcting a personality flaw that’s harmful to ourselves or others.

If you’re the one wanting a loved one to change, it can feel impossible — but we hold onto the hope that they will change, because we desperately want them to, because we remember how they were different in the past (and if they changed for the worse, can’t they change for the better?)

Can an abusive partner really change?

While people do have the capacity to change, they need to deeply want to and be committed to all aspects of change in order to begin to do so — and even then, it’s a lot easier said than done.

In discussing why abusers abuse , it’s clear that a lot of the causal factors behind these behaviors are learned attitudes and feelings of entitlement and privilege — which can be extremely difficult to truly change. Because of this, there’s a very low percentage of abusers who truly do change their ways.

One part of changing may involve an abusive partner willingly attending a certified batterer intervention program that focuses on behavior, reflection and accountability. At the Hotline we don’t recommend couples counseling, anger management, substance abuse programs or mental health treatments for abusers to learn about and deal with their abusive patterns (although oftentimes these can helpfully supplement a batterer intervention program).

How can abusers change?

According to author Lundy Bancroft, the following are some changes in your partner that could indicate they’re making progress in their recovery:

  • Admitting fully to what they have done
  • Stopping excuses and blaming
  • Making amends
  • Accepting responsibility and recognizing that abuse is a choice
  • Identifying patterns of controlling behavior they use
  • Identifying the attitudes that drive their abuse
  • Accepting that overcoming abusiveness is a decades-long processnot declaring themselves “cured”
  • Not demanding credit for improvements they’ve made
  • Not treating improvements as vouchers to be spent on occasional acts of abuse (ex. “I haven’t done anything like this in a long time, so it’s not a big deal)
  • Developing respectful, kind, supportive behaviors
  • Carrying their weight and sharing power
  • Changing how they respond to their partner’s (or former partner’s) anger and grievances
  • Changing how they act in heated conflicts
  • Accepting the consequences of their actions (including not feeling sorry for themselves about the consequences, and not blaming their partner or children for them)

Learn more about Lundy Bancroft here and check out some of his helpful books, including “Why Does He Do That? Inside The Minds of Angry and Controlling Men.”

As Bancroft notes, truly overcoming abusiveness can be an ongoing, often lifelong process.

No one deserves abuse, and it’s never too late to seek help. While we hope abusive partners will change, it’s not always realistic to expect that they can and will. Focus on changes you can control to improve your own life, because you deserved to feel loved, happy and safe.

In the words of artist Andy Warhol, “When people are ready to, they change. They never do it before then… You can’t make them change if they don’t want to.”

am I hurting my partner

Ask Yourself, “Am I Hurting My Partner?”

Even the best of relationships have their ups and downs. You hate it when your boyfriend leaves dirty dishes in the sink… for the third night in a row. Your wife keeps scheduling all the holiday visits with her in-laws and you just wanted to see your family this Christmas. You can’t pry your husband away from the football game even when you had plans to go out.

In any relationship there are arguments both big and small that can cause hurt feelings. What distinguishes the arguments in a healthy relationship from those in an unhealthy relationship is how they’re handled, how each partner responds to them and how both partners communicate about them.

Have you ever thought that you may be behaving in a way that could be physically or mentally harmful to your partner? These behaviors are often difficult to recognize if you’re the one doing them — but acknowledging that you may be hurting your partner is the first step in moving toward a healthier relationship.

Check in with yourself: How do you act toward your partner?

Do you…

  • Get angry or insecure about your partner’s relationships with others (friends, family, coworkers) and feel possessive?
  • Frequently call and text to check up on your partner, or have them check in with you?
  • Check up on your partner in different ways? (Ex. Reading their personal emails, checking their texts)
  • Feel like your partner needs to ask your permission to go out, get a job, go to school or spend time with others?
  • Get angry when your partner doesn’t act the way you want them to or do what you want them to?
  • Blame your anger on drugs, alcohol, or your partner’s actions?
  • Find it very difficult to control your anger and calm down?
  • Express your anger by threatening to hurt your partner, or actually physically doing so?
  • Express your anger verbally through raising your voice, name calling or using put-downs?
  • Forbid your partner from spending money, or require that they have an allowance and keep receipts of their spending?
  • Force or attempt to force your partner to be intimate with you?
  • Blow up in anger at small incidents or “mistakes” your partner makes?

How does your partner react?

Do they…

  • Seem nervous around you?
  • Seem afraid of you?
  • Cringe or move away from you when you’re angry?
  • Cry because of something you don’t let them do, or something you made them do?
  • Seem scared or unable to contradict you or speak up about something?
  • Restrict their own interaction with friends, coworkers or family in order to avoid displeasing you?

If any of these behaviors sound familiar to how you act or how your partner reacts, it could be a red flag that you may be hurting them. This can be a difficult and unnerving realization to come to.

So — what now? At the hotline we take calls from everyone, from concerned friends and family, to those questioning unhealthy behaviors in their relationship (whether they’re on the giving or receiving end of the actions). Call us at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) to confidentially talk to one of our advocates. We’ll discuss these behaviors with you, learn about what’s going on and take it from there.

By acknowledging now that your behaviors might be questionable and taking responsibility for them, you’re a step ahead in beginning to correct them.

domestic violence elderly

When Abuse Tarnishes The Golden Years

Abuse doesn’t discriminate against age — and an unsettling number of older Americans are in abusive relationships that either begin in or persist into later life.

No one deserves abuse, and no matter what your situation, there are ways to find help. It is never too late to report the violence and talk to someone about it.

Why Now?

Abuse can begin later in life or start earlier and continue into later years. There are many causes for late onset domestic violence, including stresses resulting from retirement, disability, shifting roles for family members and sexual changes. Older men and women are also more likely to experience domestic violence at this age if they enter a new relationship later in life.

What Does This Look Like?

In addition to the known symptoms of domestic abuse, frequent and more severe injuries, confusion and disassociation are characteristics of late onset domestic violence. Social workers, police and medical professionals find these elderly-specific indicators to be difficult to diagnose because they often occur in one form or another without the presence of domestic abuse.

Why Is It Underreported?

There are lots of reasons people don’t report abuse in their later years of life. Retirement and disability often render elderly individuals financially unstable and they may fear losing health care benefits or falling into poverty or homelessness. If they do rely on their partner for caretaking and support they may have fewer options after leaving.

Because of generational norms, some older women feel that speaking out about domestic violence would be “airing dirty laundry,” and prefer to keep their personal lives private. In addition, many individuals are anxious about leaving a partner late in life with the concern that they may spend the rest of their days alone.

How Can You Help Someone You Know?

Many domestic violence campaigns and services don’t address late onset domestic violence and instead focus mainly on people between 18 and 45 years old. This limits the availability of assistance older people. Fortunately, specific resources do exist. Adult Protective Services (APS) in all states serve abused older victims.

Do you know someone who may be experiencing abuse at the hand of their partner? Since there are unique reasons many older Americans don’t report abuse, speaking up if you notice red flags could be the support someone needs to begin to get help.

It’s never too late to reclaim your life, and we want to help. Call NDVH at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) to chat with an advocate about the abuse — whether it’s happening to you personally, or to someone you know.

Further Resources

power and control wheel

Taking a Spin Around the Power and Control Wheel

We recently debunked the myth that abuse can be described as a cycle. If we can’t describe it that way, is there a more accurate way to talk about abuse?

Yes! It’s called The Duluth Model, and at its core is the Power & Control Wheel.

Relationship violence is a combination of a number of different tactics of abuse that are used to maintain power and control — which are the words in the very center of the wheel. The center is surrounded by different sets of behaviors that an abusive partner uses in order to maintain this power and control.

These sets of behaviors are:

  • Coercion and threats
  • Intimidation
  • Emotional abuse
  • Isolation
  • Minimizing, denying and blaming
  • Using children
  • Economic abuse
  • Male privilege

A lot of these behaviors can feel subtle and normal — often unrecognizable until you look at the wheel in this way. Many of these can be happening at any one time, all as a way to enforce power within the relationship.

Think of the wheel as a diagram of the tactics your abusive partner uses to keep you in the relationship. While the inside of the wheel is comprised of subtle, continual behaviors, the outer ring represents physical, visible violence. These are the abusive acts that are more overt and forceful, and often the intense acts that reinforce the regular use of other subtler methods of abuse.

How and why do we use the power and control wheel?

Our advocates use the wheel to help teach callers about the dynamics of an abusive relationship. It shows a victim that they are not alone in what they are experiencing, and that these tactics of maintaining power and control are common to abusers.

We also use the wheel to help other callers like friends, family members or even someone who may identify as abusive to better understand the complicated components of abuse and the many forms it can take. This can be really helpful in explaining the difficulties and dangers of leaving an abusive relationship.

To learn more about the Power and Control Wheel, visit the Home of the Duluth Model online.

abuse isn't a cycle

Is Abuse Really a ‘Cycle’?

We use many different words when we’re describing abuse: systematic, power, control, pattern, purposeful. One word we don’t use when talking about abusive relationships is cycle.

This way of describing abuse began in the 1970s and today, the “cycle of abuse” is still talked about in courtrooms, therapist sessions, in the media and more. Here at The Hotline we don’t use that descriptor, for a variety of reasons. Here’s why:

To describe abuse as a cycle makes it seem like there are four predictable, repetitive steps of what is going on in any relationship at any given time:

1)    Tension-building

2)    Incident — often a physical altercation

3)    Reconciliation

4)    Calm

If abuse was a cycle, it would be predictable — you could know what to expect and when to expect it. But the reality about domestic violence is that it doesn’t happen that way. While there may be recognizable patterns going on in a relationship (ex. you know your partner tends to get more confrontational after going out drinking) the violence rarely occurs in a predictable cycle.

An important reason why we don’t use the term “cycle” is because it’s sometimes used to blame victims for the continuation of abuse.

In her essay “Reframing Domestic Violence Law and Policy,” Professor Leigh Goodmark writes,

“Describing abuse as a cycle becomes problematic when this language is co-opted to be used against victims, particularly in a court setting — ex. “Why didn’t you leave during the calm stage?”

No one ever asks to experience abuse. The fault lies with the abuser, not the victim, so it’s important that we don’t use language that blames the person suffering abuse.

The model that more accurately describes what occurs in an abusive relationship is The Duluth Model and its Power & Control Wheel. It explains the many tactics an abusive partner uses at any one time to establish and maintain power and control over their partner.

To learn more about why we don’t refer to abuse as a cycle, check out the video below of Ellen Pence, co-founder of the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project, speaking about the creation of a new model of understanding abuse.

Pence also helped to create the Power & Control wheel, which was developed through listening to the stories of people who had experienced different types of abuse.

On Monday we’re taking a spin around the Power & Control Wheel, which will shed some light on a more accurate way of describing what’s happening within abusive relationships.

Head back to the blog next week to learn more!