What is Power-Based Personal Violence?

My sophomore year at The College of New Jersey I began my journey with the Office of Anti-Violence Initiatives (AVI) on campus. The office is dedicated to preventing power-based personal violence and supporting/empowering survivors with our services ranging from counseling, advocacy, and prevention education. As a student involved in the office, I function as a peer educator in which I work on a team of passionate students to coordinate and facilitate education programs and awareness campaigns surrounding bystander intervention, healthy relationships, healthy sexuality, and supporting survivors.
Getting involved with AVI has been one of the best decisions I have made throughout my college career.
“Not only have I helped foster a safer more supportive campus community, but I have learned how to name my experiences, know my worth, and live a healthier life.”
It is beautiful to find a workplace that genuinely matches your values and allows you to grow as a person while simultaneously making an impact in your community. In part this is due to the messaging and education AVI prides itself on. Notably, our education around defining and identifying power-based personal violence is especially important and something I would like to share.
How is Power-Based Personal Violence (PBPV) Defined?
While we have all heard terms such as gender-based violence, violence against women, and sexual violence, power-based personal violence is less commonly used/known.
The term was originally coined by Dr. Dorothy Edwards during her time at the University of Kentucky. I appreciate the term power-based personal violence because it acknowledges the fact that people of all genders can be impacted by interpersonal violence as well as the fact that perpetrators commit violence in various forms, all of which are rooted in power and control.
Power-based personal violence is an umbrella term for sexual assault, dating/domestic violence, and stalking. Power-based personal violence is rooted in the use of power, control, and intimidation to inflict harm onto a person.
Anyone can be affected by sexual assault, domestic/dating violence, and stalking regardless of race, gender identity, sexuality, class status, etc. It is also necessary to recognize that particular populations and communities experience violence at disproportionate rates and that everyone’s experience is unique.
The Power and Control Wheel
In order to display the various ways in which perpetrators take power and control away from victims/survivors, we at AVI, use the power and control wheel. It was created by Ellen Pence, Michael Paymar and Coral McDonald during their time working with domestic/dating violence advocacy groups.
The wheel displays the ways in which violence can be more explicit, through the form of physical and sexual violence, but also can manifest in less visible forms of abuse/violence.
On the inside of the wheel are the more covert signs of abuse that perpetrators commonly use. These forms of abuse are used to maintain power and control over a victim/survivor and can be reinforced through the use of physical and sexual violence as seen on the outside of the wheel.
Framing power-based personal violence in this way allows for the recognition of how complex power-based personal violence truly is. An intersectional feminist understanding of PBPV also allows for the recognition of how perpetrators may reinforce systems of oppression through their abuse. For example, perpetrators may threaten to report someone’s immigration status, mistreat service animals, or threaten to “out” someone. A person’s intersecting identities, such as their race, gender, sexuality, class, etc., may affect the nature by which a perpetrator exerts control.
Supporting Survivors
Some of the most meaningful work I do with AVI is educating my fellow students about how to support survivors of PBPV. In a world defined by rape culture, survivors are often met with many hardships—from silencing to victim-blaming —while on their journey to heal from trauma.
“That is why it is our duty to have hard conversations and change the culture.”
For many survivors, disclosing their experience, whether it be to family or friends, is associated with a lot of fear and anxiety. When receiving a disclosure, it is super important to respond in a way that is expressive of support for the survivor. Responses like “I believe you” and “thank you for sharing” let the survivor know that they are heard and that you are a person they can depend on. When receiving a disclosure and helping a survivor navigate their options, it is also important to ensure that the survivor has complete power and control over their healing process. Trauma and healing look different for everyone.
In your everyday life, there are many ways to show your support for survivors and create a world free of rape culture. Pay attention to who you support. Call your friends out when they perpetuate rape culture. Advocate for policy. Have the hard conversations.
Attached here are some more tips for how to respond to receiving a disclosure from a survivor as well as how to support survivors long-term and in your everyday life.
I also want to recognize the importance of the This is Jane Project for creating a space of support and empowerment for survivors of trauma. It is through efforts like this that we will create and normalize a culture defined by love, support, and empowerment for survivors.
For more information on Anti-Violence-Initiatives AVI go here.
Do you know someone suffering from power-based violence? For safe, anonymous online support, call, chat, or text The Hotline.
The Hotline is available 24/7.
Have a story healing anecdote to share? Send 700 words or more to thisisjaneproject@gmail.om and we’ll publish it!

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