Image by Sungpyo Hong
Image by Sungpyo Hong

What Abusive Partners, Corrupt Cops and Authoritarian Leaders Have in Common

A VICE News podcast about power and control.

Show Description: 

Strongman figures—those who rule by threats, force, and violence—are found at all levels of society: from abusive romantic partners, to corrupt cops, leaders of terrorist organizations, and authoritarian heads of state. This is a series of intimate narratives from across the globe about power and control, and how these dynamics shape our lives. Hosted by Hind Hassan.



1. Obedience

Description:  When author Reema Zaman married her husband, she was dazzled by his charm. Then she started noticing all the ways he was trying to control her life.  

New York Times columnist Amanda Taub, who writes about authoritarianism, talks with Hind about how the same mechanisms of repression used by dictators also show up in abusive intimate partner relationships.

For resources on domestic violence call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1.800.799.SAFE or go to


Following the suspected murder of Sarah Everard in the UK, there are increased calls on government to introduce a national database to monitor people who harass and stalk women. 

Sharing intimate images without consent has been illegal in the UK since 2015 under revenge porn laws, but now people who even threaten to do so could face two years in prison.

VICE World News investigates the rise in violence against refugee women during Kenya’s COVID lockdowns. 


Crisis workers in Canada are reporting an increase in domestic violence during COVID.

Tan Weiwei, a Chinese pop star who performs under the name Sitar Tan, highlights the country’s domestic violence problem on her new album.

Domestic violence was the single most reported category of violence worldwide from January through May of 2020. VICE World News investigates how women are dealing with the double pandemic of coronavirus and domestic abuse.  

In November of 2020, a man in Nova Scotia assaulted his girlfriend, then killed 22 people in a mass shooting. The incident should be a turning point in how we address abusive men. 

2. Indoctrination

Description:  When writer Lurgio Gavilan was 12, the terrorist group Shining Path recruited him as a child soldier in Peru.

Journalist Marco Avilés takes us through Lurgio’s experience—and what it reveals about how indoctrination happens, and how it affects people’s lives.



Comrade Alipio and two other high-ranking soldiers in Peru’s Shining Path guerrilla organization were killed in August 2013, when a cocaine trafficker-turned-police informant lured them into a booby-trapped brothel. 

In December of 2020, a wave of women were elected to positions of power in Peruvian politics. People are now hoping those wins will reduce gender-based violence and sexism in the country. 

From the Amazon to Siberia, COVID-19 is killing off tribal elders who are the last speakers of indigenous languages that help us better understand how our brains work.

The imprisoned leader of a small, extremist political party in Peru just successfully impeached the country’s president.

Peru’s failed COVID-19 response exposed the fragility of its economy, healthcare system, and social programs. The pandemic has also highlighted existing inequalities for the country’s indigenous communities, and indigenous women in particular, who have been historically marginalized.


3. Separation

Description:  As a teenager, VICE journalist Adreanna Rodriguez was given a choice that would shape the course of her life and her identity as a member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. As time passed, she started to wonder if she made the right that many of her Native American ancestors had been denied. 

In this episode, Adreanna travels from California to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota, and looks at what it meant to be separated from her mother and her tribe. This episode was made in collaboration with the radio program Snap Judgment.


A shortage of Native American foster families has led to custody battles, and echoes of a painful history

Exclusive data shows drug distribution company McKesson supplied the vast majority of painkillers to Native American communities across the U.S. during the opioid epidemic.

Historic underfunding and policy loopholes have left Native Americans communities extra vulnerable to COVID without substantial relief.


4. Hierarchy

Description:  Growing up, Sujatha Gidla didn’t think much about India’s centuries-old caste system. But in college, something happened that forced her to reckon with the fact that she was Dalit, a group forced to the lowest rung of India’s social hierarchy. 

Hind hosts as Sujatha tells the story of how she discovered her caste, and how it shaped the course of her life.


Dalit Indians working at U.S. tech companies tell VICE News they try to hide their identities to avoid the caste-based discrimination they thought they had left behind.

In India, the task of maintaining sewers often falls on Dalits, members of a community considered the lowest in the ancient caste system.

A court in India wrote that intercaste marriages should be encouraged as a way to uproot the country’s rigid social hierarchy.   

After a gang rape in 2020 shocked India, VICE News looks at the way Dalit women are forced to navigate caste, gender and violence

More than 40,000 women in India marched to the New Delhi border to protest against controversial farm laws.


A Dalit man in India was brutally beaten for touching a scooter that belonged to someone of an upper caste.

Young people in India tell VICE what it’s like to be opinionated and unfiltered on the internet and beyond. 

5. Policing

Description:  In 2020, the police killings of several Black people, and the civil rights protests that followed, led to a renewed focus on how the criminal justice system is used as a tool of oppression in the U.S.

Kenya has also tried to combat its own problems with police violence, but it has continued unchecked. 

In this episode, journalist Asha Mwilu examines how policing in Kenya is a legacy of colonial oppression, through the story of Evans Njoroge, who was killed by a police officer in 2018.


Cops in Kenya are killing people and using heavy-handed tactics to try and control the spread of coronavirus.

Kenyan police are using laws created to contain the spread of COVID as an excuse to arrest protesters.  

Sixty-five Kenyan women said they experienced sexual violence at the hands state security agents in 2017. Survivors turned to activists for help in the harrowing task of reporting the police to the police.


6. Forced Silence

Description: Sexual violence happens around the world, and is often used to silence women. Egypt is no exception. But some women in the country have started to speak up about their experiences of sexual harassment and assault. 

In this final episode, Hind goes to Egypt and uncovers the most comprehensive account to date of the infamous Fairmont gang rape case.

For resources on sexual harassment and assault go to in the U.S. and in Egypt.


A woman in Egypt is using an Instagram account to unmask a man accused by dozens of women of sexual harassment and assault.

Video of an alleged gang rape in Egypt was so widely shared that it had a name: “The Fairmont Incident.” So why hasn’t anyone been charged with a violent crime?

Egypt jailed two TikTok influencers accused of violating “family values.” Activists say it’s part of a broader government crackdown targeting women.

Ten years after the revolution, Tahrir Square is sanitized, and the current dictatorship in Egypt is harsher than the one it replaced.



Strongman is a production of VICE News

Host and Reporter: Hind Hassan

Producers Pete Lang Stanton, Pallavi Kottamasu

Senior Producer: Stephanie Kariuki

Associate Producer: Sam Eagan

Sound Design and Original Scoring: Pranav Bandi

Executive Producer: Annie Avilés

VP of VICE Audio: Kate Osborn

Senior Production Manager: Janet Lee 

Production Coordination: Stephanie Brown 

Fact Checking: Michelle Harris

Additional Episode Notes

Episode 1

Special thanks to Reema Zaman and Amanda Taub

For resources on domestic violence call the national domestic hotline at 1-800.799.SAFE

Episode 2

This episode was narrated by Marco Avilés with voice acting by Diego Senior. Special thanks to Lurgio Gavilán, Jose Carlos Aguero, Américo Mendoza-Mori, Adrianna Tapia, Marie Mendoza, Gabriel Jimenez, and the Center for Documentation and Research at the Lugar de Memoria in Peru. 

Episode 3

From Vice News Reports: this episode was reported and produced by Adreanna Rodriguez and Edited by Adizah Eghan. 

From Snap Judgement: Our producer is Shaina Shealy. Editing from Mark Ristich and Anna Sussman 

Episode 4

Thanks to Sujatha Gidla, Thenmozhi Soundararajan, Suraj Yengde, Jetforce Studios, Sonia Luthria, and Somnath Waghmare.

Episode 5

This episode was reported and narrated by Asha Mwilu from Debunk Media, Our field producer is Paula Rogo. Thanks also to Daniel Wesangula, David Anderson, Andrew Latham, Happy Alphonce and AMP Studios Africa.

Episode 6

Reported and narrated by Hind Hassan. Field producing by Lama Al Arian.Thanks also to Dalia Fahmy and The Sound Company London. 

For resources on sexual harassment and assault head to RAINN.ORG.