Can This Workbook Help Abusive
Or Violent Relationships
If someone could simply execute the simple exercises, agreements and use the two skills taught in the course, then the abuse would stop. But, in most cases of abuse the abuser is not interested in changing any of his, or her, behavior. The principles in my course may help contain some of the bad consequences of controlling abusive behaviors, but it will not address healing the reasons this person goes quickly to abuse and cannot control it. My seminar manual is not designed for couples who have experienced physical violence in the last 6 months. Some of the techniques in the book, such as Time Outs, are helpful for couples in which there has been violence, but the book is not a substitute for professional treatment. It is probably a form of 'Toxic Hope' to believe that a partner will change he, or her, abusive behaviors if that person has not at the minimum, committed to professional treatment for abusive behavior. If a man or woman who has crossed the line into abusive behavior says that he, or she, will go to regular counseling, rather than specialists who focus on abuse and violence; or the person promises to go to generic relationship workshops or marriage counseling, these will probably not substantially help the problem.
There is that old saying, "Abusive men (or women) will never change." This is somewhat true. I would only add that abusive people very rarely change unless they are getting professional help specifically designed for changing controlling and abusive behaviors. Now, I am not saying here that good therapy or applying good spiritual principles may not have miraculous effects sometimes. These are the exceptions and not the rule in most cases. In the reference to Dr. John Shore's article in the column to the right, on "Seven Reasons Women Stay In Abusive Relationships", there is a letter written to him by a woman. The woman's sister has been abused many times by a man who claims each time shortly that Jesus has cured him of the impulse to abuse her. The odds are lower for achieving success in controlling these behaviors if you seek treatment from professionals who are not expert in the subject area. The difference in results are probably as dramatic as someone with a form of cancer seeking treatment from a general family practitioner vs. a cancer specialist.
The problem is one person's abusive behavior.... period.
We do not look at what someone else did that the abusive person became abusive. That would be justifying that abuse can occur when the partner does certain things. We do not want to leave any impressions that there is ANY reason for becoming abusive. There has been a long standing public service announcement and campaign that says, "There's No Excuse For Domestic Abuse." Couples counseling assumes that the couple has problems of communication. When one person uses abuse, intimidation or violence, then the problem is his, or her, individual problem of controlling abusive behavior. Only his, or her, commitment to anger management or domestic violence treatment is sufficient to begin believing that there is a 'Real Hope' that the relationship can change. And, even with a commitment to attending treatment, the real test is whether the behavior begins to happen less frequently, with less intensitiy and for a shorter duration. With actual evidence that changes are happening, we can now say that there may be some 'Real Hope' for the relationship or marriage.
There is a continuum of behaviors within a relationship that can be called abusive. They range from being slightly disrespectful to your partner, such as raising your voice in an argument; increasing to using physical violence to control the partner. Most disrespectful and violent behavior is about controlling the partner. There is a common understanding that these men and women Research shows that about 5% of violent relationships are where females are doing the intimidation. I may hear from men that the women are violent with them, and that they should be in treatment. Of course, this statement usually long precedes that man's full change in his behavior. But, more important than this is a fact that most of us who peruse newspaper headlines can confirm just with our anecdotal experience.
When a woman is violent with a man,
it can be embarrassing...& maybe painful.
When a man gets violent with a woman
It can mean life and death!
What To Do When There Is Physical
Violence, Intimidation Or Emotional Abuse
While Time Outs are an important part of handling abusive relationships; using these methods is not a replacement for professional treatment when physical abuse is present in a relationship. Do not attempt couples counseling when intimidating or violent behavior is occuring. Couples counseling creates the illusion that the problem is a communication or couples problem, when the real problem is the violent person's impulse control. So the first order of business is that that person seeks professional help to control and cease his, or her, violence and intimidation. That may consist of at least 5 or 6 months of treatment; before beginning to work on marital communication issues with both partners in the room.
Violence is not a communication or couples problem. It is an impulse control problem.
Only do couples therapy sessions after a
period of the abuser doing abuser treatment.
Whenever, there is violence and abuse, the violent one must FIRST get treatment for his or her problem of not controlling the violence/abuse. The one who is physically violent or emotionally abusive needs to seek help for his or her individual problem of lack of control. Group treatment by trained violence professionals is known to be the most effective type of therapy. Standard individual psychotherapy, by therapists not trained in anger management or violence may even be counterproductive. Please refer to the 800 799-SAFE domestic violence hotline telephone number or contact a women's shelter in your area for guidance and support. The best place to find referrals for therapists with experience in treating abuse is the municipal court, probation or city attorney. They will often have a list of county approved programs and therapists who meet the requirements for court ordered group treatment for battering. Shop around and speak with a few therapists before you decide. If a therapist says I can treat both you and your partner, that therapist is not practicing good ethical standards. After all, who is his patient then, when things get tough between partners if he is seeing both parties. It's O.K. to do collateral, or periodic joint visits that can include the partner, but if the other partner needs psychotherapy then it would be best if a referral is made to another clinician with similar experience in controlling relationships.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE NATIONAL
CRISIS HOTLINE 800 799-SAFE
Things to think about when you
consider ending a relationship.
If you even slightly feel scared that your partner might hurt you physically, even if he has not shown any history of physical violence with you, then it may benefit you to speak with a professionally trained person.
The worst advice from non-trained personnel is when a woman is told to simply leave him. This is often said as if it were a simple act. What these people don't appreciate is that this is the most dangerous time for the relationship and for the woman. It is best to get advice from trained people at the hotline, before considering leaving, or saying you're leaving.
If any form of physical control, intimidation or violence occurs, does it get justified (ie. "I wouldn't have done it if you didn't.... If you are afraid of your partner go call the 800 799-SAFE number to speak with a trained staff person at this national domestic violence agency.
If apologies are made is there reference made to the person's intention about changing future behavior, or is there further justification for the disrespectful behavior?
Are you growing in this relationship?
Is the other person growing in this relationship? Is there improvement? It's a process. Is there an expressed willingness to grow? Or are you assuming your partner wants to change his/her behavior and attitudes. Remember we're looking for 'Progress and not Perfection'...the rest of the list of things to consider is contained in the manual.)
When your partner apologizes does s/he mention both what s/he did and how s/he's hurt you?
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE NATIONAL
CRISIS HOTLINE 800 799-SAFE
Ten Things To Do If You
Are In An Abusive Relationship
- 1 When violence occurs, or if you are threatened or afraid, call 911.
- Take your children and go to a safe place.
- Go to the Emergency Room if injured.
- Call 800 799-SAFE for referrals to a domestic violence shelters.
- If leaving home, take important documents: birth certificates, bank, car & insurance documents; social security cards; picture I.D. Try to set aside extra cash and all the items above in a one place, or simply know ahead time where these things are; before you need them.
- If you believe you will not be hurt, then tell your partner that you cannot see a future in this marriage unless he, or she, gets counseling for being verbally abusive and/or violent. And, not just generic counseling, but Domestic Violence or Anger Management therapy. About half of our group members in the Los Angeles Domestic Violence class, that I co-facilitate with Alyce La Violette, MFT, come to our group without being referred by the court. We call these spouse ordered, but these men do deserve the respect that comes with seeking help on a voluntary basis. Alyce's agency, 'Alternatives To Violence.' We have groupls in Long Beach and West Los Angeles.
- Keep an extra set of car and house keys outside or at a neighbor's house.
- Pack a set of clothes and shoes for you or your children and store with a friend, neighbor or church.
- Obtain a Protection From Abuse order through the court.
- Know that you are not alone, and confidential, affordable help is available. The Cycle of Violence can be stopped!
What is the difference between
getting a little mad vs getting abusive?
Is it O.K. to blow off some steam once in a while? Can't a person just get angry in this country without some politically correct buttinsky telling me that I'm being abusive now? Is yelling at your husband who has just called you stupid called abusive. Where do I cross the line? Is it at raising your voice by a certain percentage? 200%? 300%? When do we call something a 'scream' instead of a 'yell?' These are interesting questions, but they should not dominate our discussion of abusive behavior.
Of course we are human beings and getting angry is a normal part of being alive and having feelings. Showing our anger should be normal also. So, where do we draw the line and call it Verbal Abuse? I like what Wikipedia says about Verbal Abuse- " Verbal abuse is best described as an ongoing emotional environment organized by the abuser for the purposes of control. The underyling factor in the dynamic of verbal abuse is the abuser's low regard for him or herself. The abuser attempts to place their victim in a position to believe similar things about him or herself, a form of warped projection." I like this description because in the definition it also lets you know WHY it's happening The abuser's low self esteem is compelling him, or her, to control the other so that the other will feel the bad feelings that the abuser has about him, or herself, that is not being dealt with. The abusers may be totally unconscious of the bad self esteem that they feel about themselves. A good reference piece in Wikipedia on domestic violence is HERE.
It does't matter whether you intended to harm the other
... it is abusive if it has a damaging effect. That it harms.
We all know abuse when we see it or when we hear it. Abuse usually contains some element of a threat whether physical, emotional or mental. It also contains a felt sense of danger or threat. I can say to a woman I am divorcing, in a calm voice, that I'll make sure she never sees her children. The fact that I did so in a calm voice does not take away that I was being extremely threatening.
John Shore wrote on his blog an article called Seven Reasons Women Stay in Abusive Relationships. It is an excellent piece of writing and speaks very practically about the reasons someone stays in a bad relationship. The article is worth looking at, even if you are not someone, nor do you know someone who is abusive. The answers John gives helps us understand how it is that we may do things that do not seem like it's in our best interest. It is a wonderfully well written, easy to understand and non-clinical approach to answering the question, "Why do some women stay in abusive relationships?"
Here are some of the section headings from his article-
- The Challenge of Having to Create a New Self Image
- Fear of the Unknown
- Fear of Embarrassment
- Replaying Your Family's Old Tapes
- You Love the Lovable In Him
- How Could He Be So Different From You?
- He Lies
John's Blog on this subject has a lively comments section below his post. The discussion makes for a robust and thought provoking take off point whether you are a professional, a victim of abuse or an abuser. I highly recommend the reading.
Good Song From NickelbackThat Captures
The Thinking After A Bad Incident
If you're a man (or woman) who might have a problem with being controlling or aggressive in his tone of voice this song may help think about a future. The lyrics from the Nickelback song, "I Guess I Should've Listened" tells the story of a kind of surprised and kind of not surprised likely abuser. You can listen to the lyrics on YouTube by going HERE.
Should I Stay Or Should I Go?
Some people won't change until you leave them. And, even then maybe not. I offer three ways you can ask yourself if you should stay or leave the relationship HERE.
More Reasons People Stay In Abusive Relationships
WHY DO VICTIMS STAY WITH ABUSERS? SITUATIONAL FACTORS Financial dependence on abuser making it difficult to imagine how to survive on one's own. If there are children, fear that they will be deprived. Lack of an available support system to assist them in recognizing and escaping abuse. Friends/family who never see the partner's negative side may not believe the victim at first or may minimize the situation. Friends/family who have tried to help in the past only to see the victim return to the abuser may; be disappointed or angry and less inclined to offer help again. Failure bv societal institutions to understand soouse abuse to take the problem seriously and totake appropriate action. Examples: Clergy who focus on sanctity of marriage and emphasize maintaining the relationship at all cost; counselors who subdy or overtly side with the-abuser, law enforcement officers who minimize and do not arrest abusers or do not treat victims with respect; doctors who do not address obvious signs of abuse in their patients. Increased threats by abuser when victims tries-to separate. Threats by abuser to kill victim, children or other family, and/or to commit suicide. Knowledge of other battered women who were killed after separating from their abusers. ATTITUDINAL FACTORS AND PROGRESSIVE EFFECTS OF ABUSE At first because they love or care about the abuser. Believe that the violence is temporary and/or caused by unusual circumstances. Hope that it will soon stop. (This hope is typically reinforced by periods of time in which there is no abuse and partner is loving or at least civil.) Belief that they should understand their attacker and help them to stop their abuse. For women especially this is part of the spousal role. Her inability to help her partner may mean to her that she is failing in the role of nurturer . Belief in the value of holding the family together putting this value above their personal pain, fear, etc. May feel pressure from family, religion, etc. to do this. Feelings of personal incompetence such a feeling that one must have a partner to get by in the world, even though they are abusive. Self-blame. Belief that they are in part responsible for the abuse; Their abuser is punishing them for their inability to at properly or to meet the abuser's expectations. NOTE: Self-blame is a recognized side-effect of repeated traumatic stress. Increasing mental and physical exhaustion due to unpredictability of abuse. Victim experiences increasing confusion and difficulty in thinking clearly as a result of the pressure of living with someone who changes from kind to cruel without warning, of never knowing what's going to set them off next, of living on continual alert Increasing mental and physical exhaustion. Growing self-doubt about their value as a person, their judgment, capabilities, and attractiveness as the effects of abuse eat away at self-esteem ("Maybe he's right, maybe I'm exaggerating; and anyway, how could I manage on my own?" t4How will I ever find anybody else?", etc.) Need to defend the abuser. Battering reduces faith in oneself and increases isolation so that victim comes to feel they cannot survive without the abuser. At this point any threat to the abuser may be perceived as a threat to themselves, and they may act to protect the abuser. Belief that all men are abusive. This is reinforced by growing up in a culture in which physical aggressiveness is considered manly. May come from being raised by abusive parent(s). Belief in omnipotence "of abuser caused by abuser's control tactics. (This will be stronger if victim has separated and been forced or enticed into returning only to have abuse continue). 11. Terror induced by prolonged abuse. There is no better way of making people compliant that beating them up on an intermittent basis." Richard Gelies, Director of the Family Violence Research Program at the University of Rhode Island, quoted in Newsweek. 7/4/94, page 29. National Domestic Violence Hotline 1 800-799-SAFE (7233) 800 787 3224 (TTY)
Trust your sense of danger! If you are afraid of more physical abuse or stalking then don't act until you've spoken with domestic violence professionals.
Warning Signs Of
Are you going out
with someone who...
- Acts jealous or possessive? Tells you who you can see & who you cannot.
- Is bossy, gives you orders... ignores your wishes?
- Never seems to be able to say, "I see I did something that hurt you.
- Cannot seem to take ANY responsibility for problems in the relationship. When there is abuse he, or she, says it would not have happened if only you did not _______ .
- Threatens to hurt you? Threatens you financially or emotionally?
- Verbally abuses you (puts you down, calls you names)?
- Criticizes you, humiliates or degrades you? Especially in an unwanted sexual context.
- Makes all the decisions in the relationship?
- Has a violent temper, has weapons, has a violent history? Partner has tortured animals.
- Won't let you have friends of the opposite sex?
- Pressures you for sex?
- Constantly wants to be with you and know where you are at all times.
- Does he, or she, have a history of bad relationships and blames the "ex" all the time?
- Has your friends and family warned you about the person?
- Are you are afraid of the person? What is the partner's response when you say you are afraid? If it is dismissive of your concern and there is no remorse then it will continue in the future.
- If so, you may be in danger of experiencing abuse within the relationship. YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE NATIONAL
CRISIS HOTLINE 800 799-SAFE
Final Words If You Are The Abuser
If you listen to the still small voice within, you may know that you have a problem and that you are out of control. Maybe it's fear, or pride, or not believing that anyone CAN help, or simply not knowing that there is compassionate help available for you. Please do not let these things delay you from seeking help from professionals who do this type of work. It may be hard to believe but I can say for myself, we do have empathy, compassion and a basic level of respect for the men in the Violence and Anger Management groups and classes. Abusive people do not stop (O.K. rarely, if ever) their patterns without help. The odds of changing your harsh behavior increases exponentially when you are in treatment.