Power and Control

Relationship Assessment

People can experience sexual misconduct at work, in the classroom, at home, and/or in the community. Sexual misconduct is an umbrella term that includes intimate-partner violence, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and/or stalking. 

In a relationship, it may be difficult to recognize that there is abuse – abuse often feels confusing, frightening, and overwhelming. Learning about the behavioral patterns of abuse can help you make informed decisions about your own situation. 

Some people find the Power and Control Wheel helpful for understanding the different tactics that abusive people may use to gain and maintain control. For people in LGBTQ+ relationships, this Power and Control Wheel may better apply, as it discusses how abusive people may use homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia to abuse and isolate and control the other person. 

The Power and Control Wheel paints a clear picture of the tactics that abusers use to get and maintain power and control in a relationship. However, these may be hard to recognize when the person who is abusive is not an intimate partner, such as an employee you work with, a professor, or a fellow student. 

Physical and Sexual Violence

This is seen as the most forceful tactic that abusers use. The abuser may hit, punch, kick or inflict other kinds of physical harm on the other person. The abusive person may also force the other person to have sex or to perform sexual acts in order to assert their power and to instill fear. In a work setting, this might look like unwanted touching, with little to no regard for the other person’s physical comfort. 


With intimidation, the abusive person is exerting power and control with the threat that physical or sexual violence is near. The thought of what the abuser “could” do is enough to get the other person to be submissive. It could be a look, the slamming of a door, or anything that scares the other person. In a classroom setting, it could be a professor threatening to fail a student if they do not do what they want. 

Using Emotional Abuse

The abusive person constantly puts the other down. The other person is made to feel as if nothing they do is good enough and eventually may come to believe that they are inferior and cannot make it on their own. The abusive person may insult, name-call, and degrade the other person. Emotional abuse is often hard to recognize, especially since the abusive person may minimize what they are doing.

Using Isolation

The abusive person wants power and believes that they have a right and are entitled to it. To increase their need for control, the abusive person may try to isolate the other person from their friends and family. The abusive person may monitor who the other person is talking to, their social media, and may use tactics to stop the person from spending time with friends, family, or may even hide their keys to prevent them from going to work.

Minimizing, Denying, and Blaming

The abusive person will often “gaslight” the other. Gaslighting is a term that is used to describe a manipulation tactic that causes the other person to question their own reality. The abusive person may say “That never happened” or “You made me hit you.” The abusive person is attempting to make the other feel to blame for the abusive behavior.

Using Children

If there are children involved, an abusive person may use children to gain power and control over the other person. The abusive person may threaten to make sure that the other person may never see their children again or threaten to have the children taken away if they don’t give them what they want. 

Other abusive tactics may include financial/economic abuse, using male privilege, and using coercion and threats. For more information, view the National Domestic Violence website.

Talk to a CAP advocate

If you think that you or someone you know or work with may be in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, CAP advocates are here to listen. CAP advocates are available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. After hours and on weekends, our hotline is answered by a community-based advocacy agency. You can speak with a CAP advocate by emailing CAPsupport@ohsu.edu or by calling: 

Portland: 833-495-2277
Monmouth: 833-963-2277
Ashland: 833-913-2277
Klamath Falls: 833-981-2277
La Grande: 833-992-2277