Family Violence Part Two: Red Flags

Woman looking at sunset

In Part One, we summarized the broad definition of family violence in the context of separation and divorce.  It is critical to understand that during the tumultuous time of separation, family violence can escalate, or even begin for the first time.

The Duluth Model ( is a program developed to reduce domestic violence against women.  Its Power and Control Wheel is a heuristic tool that focuses on how 8 different types of abuser tactics partner with physical and sexual violence (or the threat of either) in an attempt to dominate.  It is a useful tool to point out red flags in situations of family violence.  While we recognize that violence against men by their intimate partners is also a real threat, for the purposes of this blog we will use the pronoun “she” below in addressing the victim of family violence.

Red Flags related to Power and Control and Intimate Partner Violence include:

(1)          Using Emotional Abuse – Putting her down; making her feel bad about herself; calling her names; making her think she is crazy; playing mind games; humiliating her; making her feel guilty

(2)          Using Isolation – Controlling what she does, who she sees and talks to, what she reads, where she goes; limiting her outside involvement; using jealousy to justify actions

(3)          Minimizing, Denying and Blaming – Making light of the abuse and not taking her concerns about it seriously; saying the abuse didn’t happen; shifting responsibility for abusive behaviour; saying she caused it

(4)          Using Children – Making her feel guilty about the children; using the children to relay messages; using visitation to harass her; threatening to take the children away

(5)          Using Male Privilege – Treating her like a servant; making all the big decisions; acting like the “master of the castle”; being the one to define men’s and women’s roles

(6)          Using Economic Abuse – Preventing her from getting or keeping a job; making her ask for money; giving her an allowance; taking her money; not letting her know about or have access to family income

(7)          Using Coercion and Threats – Making and/or carrying out threats to do something to hurt her; threatening to leave her, to commit suicide, to report her to welfare; making her drop charges; making her do illegal things

(2)          Using Intimidation – Making her afraid by using looks, actions, gestures; smashing things; destroying her property; abusing pets; displaying weapons

It is important to pay attention to red flags and seek help.  Collaborative professionals can lead you to resources in your time of need.

Written by Joan Spence, RCC (Divorce Coach and Child Specialist) and Rebecca Stanley (Collaborative Lawyer and Mediator)

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