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The Wilder womens groups are typically facilitated by professional,
credentialed staff who have bachelors or masters degrees. The majority
of our staff have been educated and trained in psychology, social work, counseling,
womens studies, or similar disciplines. We have also had staff with no degrees
but with life experiences and personal strengths that made them a valued resource
to our participants. Since the start of the program, we have also used student
interns from the local colleges, community volunteers, and other professionals.
Many ideas exist about the issue of counseling versus therapy for battered
women. Some positions on this issue follow.
One position suggests
that when women who have been abused are told they need counseling, therapy, or
treatment, the implication is that there is something wrong with them. Saying
women need counseling places blame or responsibility on the woman for the mans
violence; it suggests that if the woman would change her behavior, she would stop
being abused. Certainly this position warrants serious consideration. The last
thing that anyone working with women who have been abused would want to perpetuate
is the myth that the victim has something to do with her partners abuse.
A second position suggests that women who seek counseling for being
victims of male battering may be (and have been) labeled with a clinical mental
health diagnosis or other stigmatizing labels, which can have potentially serious
ramifications. For example, in some instances a woman may not be eligible for
life or medical insurance if she has had a certain diagnosis related to being
abused. One can easily see how a woman may be re-victimized for a crime that has
been committed against her.
Women who have been battered and have
sought counseling have also had to defend themselves in the courts. Perpetrators
have used the courts and legal counsel to question the stability or suitability
of the woman who has received professional psychiatric or therapeutic assistance.
It has also been suggested that the woman has a weakness or deficiency in her
character, as evidenced by her seeking counseling.
There have also been
cases in which the womans parenting or coping skills are questioned because
she has received counseling. The children are usually caught in the middle in
these cases. The courts may often be unaware or unenlightened about the extent
of the violence that has occurred.
Grass Roots Versus Professional
Another issue has been a grass-roots versus a professional
approach toward serving battered women. The discussion revolves around who is
more qualified or knowledgeable to work with victims of abuse.
debate is what services should receive emphasis: shelter and advocacy or counseling
Unfortunately, many of these discussions have pitted
women against women, grass-roots women advocates against women who
are professional counselors and therapists. The outcome of these discussions
is unknown. Hopefully the listening and learning will continue, and battered women
will reap the rewards of this difficult work.
- Fischer, K., MA & McGrane, M. F. (1997). Journey Beyond Abuse. Amherst H. Wilder Foundation: Saint Paul.
What drawback is there to suggesting a battered woman seek counseling? To select and enter your answer go to .