Control & Isolation

Domestic violence is about power and control.  It is a pattern of coercion, intimidation, or violence used to gain and maintain control over a household member or intimate partner.  One of the ways abusers gain control over their victims is by isolating them.  It is often one of the earliest signs of a domestic violence relationship. 

 After David slays the giant warrior Goliath, King Saul makes him a part of his household.  In 1 Samuel 18:2 we see attempts by Saul to keep David under his control and to separate him from his family. Abusers frequently try to isolate their victims by controlling whom they communicate or spend time with.  An abuser may try to disconnect the victim from her family.  An abuser may put down the victim's friends and discourage her from seeing them.  Other isolation tactics include moving frequently (often away from family and social contacts); living in isolated areas; restricting access to money or reliable transportation; preventing the victim from working outside the home or causing her to be fired.  The abuser may "assign" the victim numerous domestic duties designed to keep her at home. 

 Jealousy can also be used to control and isolate the victim.  In 1 Samuel 18:8-9, we see that Saul is insecure and becomes jealous of David, monitoring his every move.  An abuser may force the victim to account for every moment of her time, and may falsely accuse her of infidelity and betrayal when he disapproves of her use of time or travel.  Early in a relationship such controlling behavior may be mistaken for "love" and devotion.   It can be flattering to have someone want to spend all his time with you and say he cannot live without you.  But it can quickly turn into an unhealthy isolation enforced by jealousy and other control tactics.  Jealousy can lead to increased surveillance, anger, and threats.  For David it led to physical violence and stalking.

 Isolation is an effective method for gaining power and control.  Without social contact and support, the victim is more easily manipulated.  As contact with other people diminishes, the victim becomes more dependent on the abuser, and may come to see the abuser as her sole source of emotional nurture and practical help.  This dependency may make it harder for the victim to identify and weigh options or to find alternate ways to get her needs met. She may feel trapped. What a contrast this is to the woman described in Proverbs 31:10-31, who earns, manages, makes investment decisions, teaches, and directs her household in support of those she loves, and whose husband praises and trusts her!

Discussion Question:

1)      Have you had a partner who controlled you through jealousy?  In what ways?  In what ways may this have isolated you?

 2)      Did you ever try to break the isolation?  If so, what would happen?  

Copyright 2005   Judy Kennedy