The theoretical and cultural understandings of how abuse operates, presents and the impacts it has on individuals and communities, still not inclusive of the experiences of non-monogamous relationships. Services providers, literature and general information available about abuse assume a monogamous relationship, and as such individuals seeking support and information are just as likely to be alienates and ostracised as they are to be helped - polyamory or non-monogamy is likely to be understood as a symptom of the abuse or a tool of the abuser.
While many of the red flags and tactics of abuse may be similar to dyadic or monogamous relationships, without explicitly expanding our definitions and concepts to include non-monogamy, we allow tactics in non-monogamous relationships to become invisible and un-named. When something is unnamed, unlabelled or without reference, it becomes much harder to talk about it and call out abusive behaviour. And this is exactly what has happened. From the well-documented decades of abuse by Franklin Veaux, to the recent legal case against Eliot Winter for human trafficking and sexual assault, polyamory has become a hunting ground, refuge or fertile soil for men who wish to harm, control and exploit women.
As such, there is a need for tools to taxonomically catalogue, the various strategies used for abuse in polyamory and account for how they present in non-monogamous relationships. The Duluth Wheel of Power and Control is one such tool: a visual resource to aid us in a comprehensive understanding of the tactics used by abusers, and how these tactics interact to maintain control and power in a relationship.
In 1984, staff at the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project (DAIP) in Duluth, Minnesota began developing a curricula for groups on "men who batter and victims of domestic violence". They wanted a way to describe "battering" for victims, offenders, practitioners in the criminal justice system and the general public. Over several months, and through many focus groups with women who had been "battered" they documented the most common abusive behaviours or tactics that were used against these women. The tactics chosen for the wheel were those that were most universally experienced by victims of domestic assault and violence.
The wheel is a product of it's time and so uses highly gendered languages, as-well as being very mono- and hetero- normative. This is a deliberate and concious choice by the DAIP who claims that the week "does not attempt to give a broad understanding of all violence in the home or community but instead offers a more precise explanation of the tactics men use to batter women."
What does it look like?
CLAIRE LOUISE TRAVERS
This is (c) Claire Louise Travers: an academic author, researcher and polyamorous community organiser. You can tip here on PayPal: @claireltravers