Amnesty International, Report on Torture (New York: Farra, Strauss, and Giroux), 1973.


General Method

Effects (Purposes)


Methods of power and control used in abusive relationships

1. Isolation

Deprives victim of all social supports and of his ability to resist. Develops an intense concern with self. Makes victim dependent upon interrogator.

Complete solitary confinement. Complete isolation Semi‐isolation. Group isolation.

Denies participation in leisure activities. Restricts contact with family and friends. Excessive jealousy that reduces social interaction or discredits the victim to friends and family. Controls or restricts use of transportation, phone and/or finances. Confines to the home.

2. Monopolization of Perception

Fixes attention upon immediate predicament, fosters introspection. Eliminates stimuli competing with those controlled by captor. Frustrates all actions not consistent with compliance.

Physical isolation. Darkness or bright light. Barren environment. Restricted movement. Monotonous food.

Blames victim for the abuse, often reinforced by social and familial response. Victims become focused on how they “caused” the abuse and their own weaknesses. Unpredictable behaviour. Constant calling, texting or emailing.

3. Induced debility and exhaustion

Weakens mental and physical ability to resist.

Semi‐starvation. Exposure. Exploitation of wounds. Induced illness. Sleep deprivation. Prolonged interrogation. Forced writing. Overexertion.

Assaults to body image. Restricts finances for food and other necessities. Withholds access to medical care. Disrupts meals and sleep patterns with physical and verbal assaults, e.g. “you’re going to stay up all night and listen to me”. Rape and assaults during pregnancy.

4. Threats

Cultivates anxiety and despair

Threats of death. Threats of non‐return. Threats of endless interrogation and isolation. Threats against family. Vague threats. Mysterious changes of treatment.

Threats to kill her or her family. Threats to take children away. Threats of suicide. Threats of abandonment. Destruction of property or pets.

5. Occasional indulgences

Provides positive motivation

Occasional favours. Fluctuations of interrogation attitudes.

Apologizes for the battering, sends flowers and gifts. Promises to change or it “will never happen again”. Becomes “Disneyland” parent.

6. Demonstrating "omnipotence"

Suggests futility of resistance.

Demonstrating complete control over victim's fate. Confrontation. Pretending cooperation taken for granted.

Physical assaults. Manipulation of legal system. Using male privilege. Stalking.

7. Degradation

Makes cost of resistance appear more damaging to self‐esteem than capitulation. Reduces prisoner to "animal level" concerns.

Personal hygiene prevented. Filthy, infested surroundings. Demeaning punishments. Insults and taunts. Denial of privacy.

Public humiliation. Forcing participation in demeaning or degrading sexual acts. Verbal abuse, "put downs" or name calling. Frequently tells victim that they are “stupid”, “worthless” and unlovable.

8. Enforcing trivial demands

Develops habit of compliance

Forced writing. Enforcement of minute rules.

Punishes for noncompliance with "the rules" which are rigid and unrealistic. These rules often govern the victim’s appearance, housekeeping, parenting, timeliness, etc. Frequently changes "the rules". Plays “mind games”.