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The Abuse Litmus Test: A Classroom Tool to Assess Power and Control in On‐Screen Relationships

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Family Relations / Family Relations Interdisciplinary Journal of Applied Family Studies

Published online on


Despite university efforts and recent evidence‐based interventions to reduce campus sexual assault, few systematic approaches have addressed how media depictions of sex and romance that inundate young adults via popular culture help to develop and sustain attitudes and behaviors that tolerate sexual abuse and intimate partner violence as normative. We introduce a feminist‐informed pedagogical tool—drawing from the Duluth Power and Control Wheel and the Women's Experience with Battering Framework—to facilitate college students' decoding of relationship power, control, and harm in popular film, including dynamics relevant to sexual assault. We include step‐by‐step instructions for implementing the tool in classroom settings, including estimated duration, script, sample films, discussion questions, and debriefing procedures (including linking to campus assault dynamics).