Power-based violence occurs when one party uses their power to maintain control over the other person. This includes domestic violence (also known as intimate partner violence), dating violence, elder abuse, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and stalking.
When the battered women’s movement began in the 1970’s, the language we used inherently placed the focus, and in part the blame, on the women being abused, hence “battered women.” Terms like domestic abuse arose out of a fear that calling these assaults domestic “violence” would be too harsh; “abuse” was much more palatable. However, as time went on and the movement grew, people in the victim services arena began to notice that the term “domestic violence” was not inclusive of those who were not married or those who identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Terms such as “dating violence,” “intimate partner violence,” and “gender-based violence” arose to address these issues. But still, many victims and survivors thought this placed too much emphasis on the relationship and not on the abuser, where it should be. It was out of this desire to name the violence what it was – a cycle of using one’s power and control to maintain control over another – that we now have the term power-based violence.
So Why Change our Language?
The language we use is extraordinarily important. Victims of crime are always listening to find out who is safe. They are looking for subtle hints to reinforce or lessen their feelings of shame and self-blame. By changing our language, and naming the violence what it is, we allow victims and survivors to see that the situation is about power – nothing else. Power-based abuse and violence is not a negligent act. It is an act of intention. Abusive people use their power – in the workplace, in the home, in their shuls, in their intimate relationships, in their friendships – to control others. The use of that power is intentional; it is not a mistake. By using the term power-based violence, we acknowledge not only that the violence is about power, not about sex or the partner “not being good enough,” we also acknowledge who is at fault for the abuse – the person using their power to control another.
If you or someone you know is experiencing power-based violence, please call JCADA’s free & confidential helpline for information, support, and safety planning at 1-877-88-JCADA(52232).