Abuse is more than the stereotypes we see in media. In this thread, I intend to break down the many ways abuse manifests itself.

Let's begin with a definition: abuse is a *pattern* of using harm (including the threat of harm) to gain and maintain power and control over others. The Power and Control Wheel. My apologies, but there is too
To folks using alt-text readers: there is too much text in the above image to put into the alt-text box. I will be breaking down the power and control wheel pictured in this thread, but here is a site with several videos w/audio explaining each component.theduluthmodel.org/wheels/underst…
Above is The Power and Control Wheel, that does a pretty excellent job of breaking down the different forms abuse can take, and how they all work to serve the ultimate aim of abusers, which is to have power and control over others. Of course, it is not an exhaustive list.
Notice that power and control is the center of the wheel towards which all actions surrounding it work to uphold. You'll notice also that the outer ring of the wheel is sexual and physical violence.
Sexual and physical violence are not a requirement for a relationship to be abusive, but they do reinforce the other, often more frequent, forms of abuse.

When an abuser uses sexual/physical violence, the threat of that violence always looms on the edge of their other tactics.
The way that functions in an abusive relationship? If an abuser is utilizing other tactics-- threats, gaslighting, etc.-- their victim is always keenly aware that a challenge to those tactics, or even just a failure to submit to them, can result in physical/sexual violence.
However, abuse can and very frequently does happen without physical or sexual violence. We are often taught that something is only really abuse if it has that form of violence, but that is simply not true, and that belief leads many of us to not see other forms of abuse.
Using Coercion and Threats:
Coercion and threats can include-- but are NOT limited to-- making threats on the physical safety of the victim. Another common tactic of abusers is to threaten their *own* physical safety (ex: self-harm or suicide) to get their victim to acquiesce.
That is not to say that people who struggle with and talk about their struggles with si or self-harm are inherently abusive. Remember, it is abuse when it is used towards the end of gaining power and control over someone.
Some abusers will threaten suicide or self-harm to their victims to keep them from leaving them (ex: "if you ever left me I would kill myself") or keep them from challenging their abuse (ex: "you talking about how I hurt you triggered me into hurting myself)
I speak to this tactic specifically because it is really common and a lot less overt than direct threats to someone else's safety. Abusers who do this strategically use their victim's care for them as well as their concern for their mental health as a means to gain control.
Using Intimidation:
Abusers will sue intimidation in a variety of ways, overt and covert. Gesturing or looking at their victims in ways to make them afraid. Breaking or throwing things. Essentially anything that creates a fear response in their victims.
Many people are familiar with the common tropes about this tactic, and while the overt tactics ARE definitely used by many abusers, because this thread is about getting into the underlying dynamics of abuse most people don't see, I'll focus on the more covert.
When an abuser gives their victim a certain look, or becomes quiet or cold, it may seem to outside observers like them just expressing relatively harmless emotions of frustration. That is exactly the point: it is meant to be a means of communicating threat *only* to their victim.
Someone in an abusive relationship *knows* their abuser very intimately, knows the underlying meaning in their every gesture, they have to in order to be safe. A cold look in a public space communicates to the victim: "if you don't fall in line, there will be hell to pay later."
Again, it is all in the service of maintaining power and control: something an abuser believes they have an absolute right to over their victim. A key component of that control, for them, is being able to exert it in *every* situation, not just behind closed doors.
I think about it as a similar dynamic to how police function. Police don't need to beat up every single person they see to have power and control. It is enough for everyone around them to know they *could* attack them if they do not submit to them to their satisfaction.
Using Emotional Abuse:
Emotional abuse is a massive component to abuse in general and I will not be able to cover all the ways it expresses itself here. But we'll delve into what we can.
Emotional abuse works to make victims feel small, weak, or bad about themselves. Abusers gain an intimate knowledge of their victims, and turn that knowledge into a sharp weapon. It works as a punishment for stepping out of line, of not submitting fully to control.
Abusers use emotional abuse as a means of control by working to make their victims believe that they *deserve* the abuse. To make them believe that the abuse is actually just a natural response to how terrible they are. To get victims to excuse the actions of their abusers.
Emotional abuse isn't just direct put-downs or name calling. It can involve undermining their personal identity, devaluing their accomplishments, embarrassing them in front of others, etc. It can also come from the abuser playing hot & cold or lashing out emotionally.
Using Isolation:
Abuse happens best in isolation. When victims *only* have their abuser to reflect reality to them (humans need each other to do so!), that reality can be easily distorted. When no one else is around to challenge abuse, it can seem more natural.
Abusers create isolation in many ways: weaponizing jealousy, talking badly about their victim's friends/family, or even *recruiting* their victim's friends/family by quickly establishing close relationships with them to make it hard for their victim to talk to anyone about them.
If their victim has someone in their life who can clearly see that abuse is happening, an abuser will very often work quickly to undermine their victim's relationship with that person through any of (but not limited to) the above tactics.
Denying, Minimizing, Blaming:
Abusers will either deny abuse is happening, minimize its intensity, or blame their victims for it. Basically, anything that will allow them to dodge any sort of accountability for their behavior and continue to practice their abuse.
This can come in the form of gaslighting (denying their victim's experience of what happened), reducing it to being "just normal conflict", or saying that their victim drove them to be abusive (almost always by not submitting to their control to their satisfaction).
Abusers might also try to flip the script on their victims and say that *they* are really the abusive ones. This usually gets trotted out whenever their victim tries to challenge the way that their abuser is treating them.
ALL forms of denial, minimizing, and blame work towards the end of making their victims question their own experiences or excuse the abusive actions of their abusers. It is not uncommon for abuse victims to not even know they are being abused because of these very tactics.
Using Children:
If there are children involved--or even if there is the potential for children in the future-- abusers will almost always weaponize them against their victims.
They'll neglect children on purpose and blame it on their victim, threaten to take them away if their victim does not comply, and use children as a means to relay messages to their victim.
Essentially, an abuser will weaponize their victim's love for their children, as well as their fear for their safety, against them to keep them submitting to their control. Children are vulnerable and easily hurt, and abusers will absolutely use that to their advantage.
Using Privilege:
If there is a structural power imbalance at play in the relationship (ex: abuser is white/cis/wealthy/a man/able bodied/etc. and the victim is not) abusers will find a myriad of ways to weaponize that power imbalance.
Abusive men in relationships with women will use patriarchal expectations to assert control (ex: making her do all the housework and cooking). A cis abuser might use their trans partner's lack of safety in public as a means of control or to make them afraid.
It's an incredibly common tactic for abusers to threaten their undocumented partners with deportation if they leave them or fail to comply. A white abuser might threaten to call the police on their victim who is a person of color.
Using Economic Abuse:
Economic abuse is a set of tactics abusers use to threaten their victim's feelings of economic safety or stability, and very often to create a structure of dependence within the relationship to make it difficult for their victim to leave.
Often, this is expressed through the abuser having control over finances, or otherwise making sure that their victim would be financially precarious if they tried to leave. They also might use their control over money/assets to make big decisions for their partner.
An abuser might also use economic abuse by stealing money from their partner or using their own financial precarity to make them stay in their relationship (ex: "if you leave me I'll be totally destitute")
Again, this is not an exhaustive list, but it can be used to shed light on other tactics not discussed here. The important piece to understand about all of it is that all of these tactics are about using harm as a means to gain power and control over others.
Power and control is what abusers feel entitled to. That is what lies beneath all of their other excuses and obfuscations. I go more in depth breaking down the different myths about why abusers abuse in this thread here:
If we are to create spaces of safety, it is vital that we develop thorough analyses of what abuse looks like and how it functions beyond the shallow tropes of abuse we are shown in media. It is important that we apply our broader analyses of power to the interpersonal.
We cannot hope to break down larger systems of abuse if we do not work to do so in every aspect of life, including & especially in interpersonal relationships and communities. We need to learn how to spot and especially to INTERRUPT abuse when it is in our communities.
Every instance of abuse happens on a backdrop of a communal failure to recognize & challenge it. Abuse can only happen when exerting power and control over others is normalized by the people closest to it.

Take the time to learn. It is part of what will help us all get free.
I try to do threads that make information & analysis more clear & accessible to others on a regular basis. I will always do it for free, but if you want to show your support/appreciation you can either give love to my tip jars or join my Patreon: patreon.com/butchanarchy Cashapp: $butchanarchyVenmo: @ genderchaos

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