Power and Control Wheel: 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 behavior. Saying
she caused it.

Making light of the abuse and not taking her concerns about it seriously.  A few years before the marriage broke up, Bubba had done something that made me think that he was being verbally abusive.  I’d seen verbal abuse before – I’d spent years watching it tear my sister apart since she wasn’t willing to leave her husband.  For some reason, I finally decided to tell Bubba that I thought he was being verbally abusive.  I remember sitting on my bed while he sprawled across the foot of the bed.  I was so nervous.  I knew, deep down, that the talk wasn’t going to go well.  I told him I thought he considered us his little playthings.  We were like toys to him that he could get out and play with when he chose and then he could put us up on a shelf for display until the next time he wanted to play with us.  We were expected to just be there for his convenience.  He admitted that what I said was exactly how he felt about us.  I was shocked.  Since he was in such an agreeable mood, I broached the subject of verbal abuse.  

Things went downhill fast from there.  He did what he did in all of our fights – turned it around so that it was all my fault.  He so effectively did that during this talk that I ended up apologizing for saying that I thought he was verbally abusive and hurting his feelings.  I never brought it up again.

Saying the abuse didn’t happen.  For a little while after I left, Bubba was admitting to the abuse, although he said he didn’t want the abuser label.  I told him if it walked like a duck, talked like a duck, and looked like a duck…..it was a duck.  I was really upset by that conversation because it seemed that although he was admitting to it, he was still denying it in the same breath.  Within 2 months he was fully denying the abuse and had started his campaign to turn my family and friends against me.  By the time another month had gone by he was adamantly denying the abuse happened and had downplayed it enough that my family believed we just had a troubled marriage and that I was wrong to set boundaries and not talk to him.

Shifting responsibility for abusive behavior. Saying she caused it.  Oh, he got really, really good at this one!  I hated fighting with Bubba all during our marriage.  Whenever I had a reason to be upset with him, I would try to talk to him about it.  He always got really defensive, turned it around, and found creative ways to turn it around so that he was the injured party and I was apologizing and trying to make peace.  After I left, he had my family convinced that it was all my fault and that I was cruelly keeping his children from him.  They believed all this lies.  My mother even asked me what I’d done to cause his anger issues.  I wanted so desperately to tell her that I didn’t cause his anger issues, I was just the target of them.  

No matter what I did or didn’t do, I didn’t deserve to be treated the way I had been.  His actions were his choice.  I think this is the biggest fallacy when it comes to talking about abuse.  Society in general thinks that if the woman would just do x, y, and z, then her abuser wouldn’t hurt her.  The fact is that abuse is NOT about the victim.  It is the attitude of the abuser.  He believes he is entitled to treat her any way he sees fit because he sees her not as a person, but as his possession.  When abuse happens, there cannot be a 50/50 share of blame.  Abuse is always 100% the abuser’s fault.  Always!  There are no exceptions.  Let me say it again – Abuse is always 100% the abuser’s fault.  If you are being abused, it is NOT your fault.  You aren’t responsible for it.  Nothing you can do will stop it, except leaving.  



  1. Cantata

    This one really hits home for me. I used to hang up the phone when my Ex would start in on the crazy ridiculous ranting and saying awful things about my friends, family, random races/genders/sexualities. I was ALWAYS wrong for setting that boundary. How DARE I not listen to what he had to say. I was being so childish. I always ended up apologizing.

    • Isn’t it weird how we always end up apologizing? Half the time I didn’t even understand what I was apologizing for but I figured it would end the fight faster if I just said I was sorry.

      I plan to do a post on boundaries and how abusers just do NOT understand what a boundary is. It should be an interesting post.

  2. Oh yeah, this is a huge one.
    My x has a dv charge that he PLED GUILTY for, and was fined.

    Two years later when he wrote his affidavit, he said there was no history of abuse…..

    Then after I did my affidavit which outlined various instances of his abuse, at the next court date when we spoke to a court mediator, he said I abused HIM.

    After I got a restraining order, he would mock me for being scared of him.

    He conitnues to abuse me, but tell everyone I am a liar and it never happened.

    • It amazes me how many of these men turn around and accuse us of abusing them. It boggles my mind. I’ve very sorry you are continuing to be abused by him. Do you still live with him? Are you safe? I know that once a woman escapes, many time her abuser will use the court system to continue to abuse her. I will talk later about my experiences in family court.

      I hope you are able to have strong boundaries and that you know you are not crazy and that you are precious and don’t deserve to be treated as he’s treated you and continues to treat you.

  3. Yes, I am safe. We have been separated for over 2 years, and the divorce was finalized earlier this year. We are still in court proceedings regarding the children as family court moves verrrry slowly where we are.

    Still have good days and bad days. There was a restraining order initially which meant I didn’t have to have any contact with him at all. This is now expired, so I am being exposed more to him with contact visit changeovers. I am having to learn after two years what probably a lot of women learn earlier on.

    • You are a strong woman. You will be able to do this! Just keep the changeovers all about the kids. Do you have a plan for what you will do if he tries anything? When Bubba tries to talk to me about anything, my script is, “Email me.” Actually, I don’t even get out of my car anymore at changeovers. The children are old enough to get their own suitcases out of the car and into his. I say my good-byes to the children before we arrive at the meeting place. Then, when I get them back, we say our hellos a few miles down the road.

  4. Oh I like the goodbye/hello away from him. I’m going to do that. Yes, funnily enough he tried to engage me in negotiating last time and I said, “email me.” he bitches to the kids that I don’t talk to him, and park the car far away from his.

    • It really does help to have zero interaction. I say “good-bye” to the children as they get out of the vehicle, then I don’t say another word. Once they close the trunk, I leave. The end.

  5. Amanda

    Cant tell you how many times I have apologized just to get him to stop being mad at me and taking his rage out on my kids. He rarely directed it at me, he made them suffer and made me a bad mom for letting it happen.

    • We were conditioned to try to manage their moods to avoid the abuse part of the cycle. We were desperately trying to either stay in or get back into the honeymoon phase. It is a truly sick cycle.

  6. Marie

    I feel this. All of it. Still going through it. Ugh

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