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Intimate Partner Abuse: Knowing the Warning Signs of Power & Control


Intimate Partner Abuse: Knowing the Warning Signs of Power & Control

Identifying Danger

Romantic relationships are not always free from occasional disagreements, differences in opinion, or arguments. When you spend so much time with a significant other and if you choose to share your living space, goals, friendships, and future together-there is more opportunity for serious conversations and needed problem solving to take place. However, when respect becomes absent during disagreements, or when themes of power and control become prevalent in a relationship-then that relationship may be experiencing early signs of Intimate Partner Violence & Abuse (IPV). In this article, we will be explaining the Power and Control warning signs of intimate partner violence & psychological abuse, and the importance of recognizing when you or a loved one could be experiencing an unsafe relationship.

Power and Control 

The Power and Control warning signs were originally developed as a visual wheel tool by The Domestic Violence Abuse Intervention Project, and aims to educate people on why leaving an unhealthy relationship is not as simple as just leaving. Many intimate partner violence & abuse survivors have extreme difficulty escaping their current situation because abusers engage in behaviors that grow in intensity over a long period of time (National Domestic Violence Hotline, 2023). Power and Control behaviors can create an environment that removes choice, and can even reinforce both physical and sexual violence, which is why Mental Health Professionals encourage all individuals to learn the following:

Power and Control Warning Signs: 

(Adapted From the Domestic Violence Abuse Intervention Project)


Controlling who the person sees, where they go, what they do. This can take the form of watching the amount of time that someone is away, prying/asking about who is on the phone, and canceling plans to see other people. Displaying extreme jealousy or insecurity.


Making the person afraid by using looks, gestures or actions that display intensity. Such as smashing objects, destroying property or mishandling pets.


Using threats to keep the person from leaving. Blackmailing, threatening to harm oneself, threatening to report the person, or making them engage in illegal activity.

Minimizing, Denying, Blaming

Not taking the abuse seriously, shifting responsibility for abusive behavior, never admitting fault. 

Economic Abuse

Preventing the person from getting or keeping a job, making them ask for money, limiting access to family income, taking their money, freezing their accounts. 

Emotional Abuse 

Putting the person down, making them think they are crazy, making them think they are guilty, using humiliation. Making them feel like what they think is not important.

Using Children

Threatening children, using children to send messages. 


Making all of the rules, defining roles, treating the person as a servant, possessive actions.


Relationships rarely start out as abusive, that is why the emergence of these behaviors can begin as subtle and then increase until they create a dangerous situation. When someone you love reveals the capacity to harm you, asking for help can seem impossible. However, there are many organizations that know how to navigate the complexities of unsafe relationships. If you or a loved one is experiencing Intimate Partner Violence or Abuse, please contact the below resources:

National DV Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

NY Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence: 1-800-942-6906,Text%20844%2D997%2D2121.

Love is Respect: 1-966-331-9474

RAINN: 1-800-656-4673

Siena Vaccara, MHC-LP Siena Vaccara received her master’s in Mental Health & Psychological Counseling from Columbia University. Siena believes in encouraging personal growth through education, cultural awareness, and building trusting relationships. She utilizes Feminist and Narrative treatment plans, as well as Cognitive Behavioral and Person-Centered techniques in session to incorporate an integrative psychotherapy approach that honors the unique needs of individuals. She understands the importance of the collaborative therapeutic space being non-judgemental, unbiased, open-minded, and strength-driven. Siena treats individuals with concerns ranging from personal transitions to family planning, identity, mood fluctuations, and stressful life events.

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