Negative, Abusive Power                                                                                       Positive, Healthy Power

One person has power over the other.                                             Each person has personal power.

Abuse and control are used.                                                                         Mutual respect is practiced.

There is one winner and one looser.                                                                Each person is a winner.

Only one person's needs are met.                                                            Each person's needs are met.

Blame and shame are used to avoid responsibility.

                                                                                    Each person has accountability and responsibility.

Relationships are competitive and/or dominating.

                                                                                           Relationships are cooperative and supportive.

This comparison is based on concepts presented by Patricia Evans in The Verbally Abusive Relationship. (1996, Adams Media Corporation).

Styles of Power in Personal Relationships

"Domestic Violence is a pattern of coercive behavior used by one person to control and

subordinate another in an intimate relationship. These behaviors include physical,

sexual, psychological, and economic abuse. Tactics of coercion, terrorism, degradation,

exploitation, and violence are used to engender fear in the victim in order to enforce

compliance."                                                                       Oregon Domestic Violence Council

Examples of Abusive Behavior:

Physical Abuse: hitting, kicking, slapping, punching, throwing things at a person, pinching, pulling hair, poking, choking, or shaking a person. This also includes physically controlling behaviors including grabbing a person, restraining a person, blocking them and moving them against their will.

Verbal Abuse: Calling names, put-downs, yelling, screaming, tearing a person apart with words, threatening and swearing at them.

Psychological abuse: Non-verbal abuse which leaves the person feeling afraid or intimidated. This includes intense looks, stares, gestures such as shaking a fist, the silent treatment or getting in a person's face (violating their sense of personal space).

Animal abuse: Any mistreatment of animals that is not considered appropriate discipline or conforms to standard hunting practices. This would include withholding of food or water, kicking or hurting in any way, an animal.

Sexual abuse: Any unwanted sexual contact or harassment, unwanted looks or comments, and pressuring a sexual partner into being sexual when they don't want to be. This can include: badgering for sex, making the partner suffer for saying "no" (whining, pouting, complaining), using guilt and other control tactics to get sex, physically forcing sex, using sex to get what the aggressor wants, forcing and/or using alcohol or drugs to get sex, willfully withholding sex, forcing undesired sexual activities, having sex with others to hurt victim, using power to get sex, using prostitutes. The difference between "coercion" and "seduction" is that seduction requires non-coerced informed consent to sexual activity in a positive relationship. Sexual abuse is about power over the victim, with sex as the activity.

If these abusive behaviors are used often, to manipulate, control, or denigrate the victim, there is a pattern of abuse. if these behaviors are an occasional circumstance, there is the potential of communication about how the behavior is demeaning; with positive communication and interest in healing the relationship, the behaviors can be changed. When there is a pattern of abuse, the primary concern is for the physical safety of the victim. People who abuse need serious help, which takes a lot of time and the strong desire to change. The victim needs safety and support, to begin the healing process and develop a personal sense of value. 

The information above is from: Allies in Change Counseling Center, 1815 SW Marlow Rd., Suite 208, Portland, Oregon 97225, phone  (503) 297-7979, fax (503) 297-7980, e-mail


Domestic Violence