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Coping with Intimate Partner Violence (Part 2)
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The previous section outlined Life Perserver #1 the role
support groups play.
This section deals with the role family
and friends and a balance plays in her decision to stay or to leave.
3 Life Preservers, Part 2 of 2
Preserver #2: Family and Friends.
Aside from support groups described
in the previous section as we have discussed earlier, family and friends also provide
a second option for a battered woman in gaining support. However, as you also
know, this can be a very difficult task. Evelyn, whom we discussed in the previous
section was afraid to confide in her family and friends because they always viewed
her as being so strong.
She stated, "Last week we were all meeting for dinner
together. I didn't get ready for dinner fast enough, and I mentioned that we were
only about five minutes late. But as we were passing through the door, Brett threw
me into the door frame so hard I fell to the ground. I had to hide my tears and
pain at dinner because I didn't want my family to think I was weak."
♦ Four Steps to Seek Support
used the following 4 steps to seek support from her friends and family. As
I read these steps, think of your Evelyn. Would any of these steps help her to
ask her family for support resulting in facilitation regarding her decision to
-- First Evelyn found someone to trust.
-- Second Evelyn had
a general discussion with this trusted person about abuse. If Evelyn didn't
think this person would understand her feelings or relationship, she found someone
else to trust and started again.
-- Third Evelyn vented her feelings.
Once Evelyn found a family member who was willing to listen, she wanted to tell
every horrifying detail of her relationship with Brett.
-- In the fourth and
final step in seeking support, Evelyn attempted to find multiple sources
to confide in. For Evelyn, having told one person was not enough. She wanted to
tell someone else in hopes that eventually she would run into someone with the
same story. Evelyn began to regularly attend the battered women's support group,
as well as the Thursday 12-step co-dependence group. Then she was able to meet
new people to share her story with.
I find it crucial to break
this process into steps because often times the battered neglected the first two
steps in assessing who she can trust, followed by a general discussion regarding
abuse to test the waters so to speak regarding their empathy and sympathy for
those physical abuse in general.
♦ Life Preserver #3: Balancing
Aside from seeking support systems through groups, friends,
and family, battered women may also gain support to leave through maintaining
balance. Have you found, like I, that many battered women struggle to maintain
a balance between their fear, anxiety, and sadness with other aspects of their
life when coping with the abuse in an effort not to leave?
♦ Four Tactics for Maintaining Emotional Balance
I have found
4 Tactics that are useful in helping battered women maintain a balance regarding
these feelings when coping with the stress of a battering situation. Think of
your Evelyn as I read this list. Is there something in this list that you could
use in your next session to facilitate her decision to stay or leave?
-- #1. Knowing what the abuser is communicating. An example of this was
Brett's slapping and pushing Evelyn. Evelyn began to see that his abuse could
be a statement about Brett's low self-esteem, feelings of inadequacy at the machine
shop. He feared that she would see how inadequate he truly thought he was and
leave. For the first time she saw her leaving a real threat to Brett's self-esteem.
-- #2. Being aware of the abuser's purpose. I stated to Evelyn,
"An abusers motive are usually control and to diminish his partner so that
she will doubt herself and be more controllable. After several sessions, Evelyn
began to see that Brett's anger about her housekeeping skills was not really a
result of her being a bad housekeeper. Rather, it was about making Evelyn doubt
her abilities, thus becoming more controllable. Uncovering Brett's purpose of
controllability was making her decision to leave much easier.
-- #3. Being aware that you are only in charge of your own happiness. As
you know, abusers often make their partners responsible for their happiness. I
explained to Evelyn that Brett would say things like "You make me
happy. You make me mad. You made me do it" in order to gain
more control over her. As you know, battered women often fail to realize that
every person is capable of deciding how another will affect them.
#4. Knowing you are separate from the abuser. I stated to Evelyn, "Brett
may not be willing for her to have a different opinion, thus making her responsible
for everything he feels." Evelyn replyed, "Brett hated it when we didn't
agree on things, even stupid things. Once I told him I didn't like a favorite
movie of his very well, and he started screaming at me, 'Why do you have to ruin
everything I enjoy?' I didn't say it to convince him the movie was bad, I was
just sharing an opinion. I didn't say that again after he exploded like that."
Evelyn, these four balancing tactics of knowing what the abuser is communicating;
being aware of the abuser's purpose; being aware that you are only in charge of
your own happiness; and knowing you are separate from the abuser; helped her to
balance her fear, anxiety, and sadness. With this level of emotional balance Evelyn
was able gain the perspective to leave Brett.
In this section and the previous section, we have discussed the three Life Preservers of support
groups; family or friends; and Balance Tactics. In the next section, we will discuss
Emotional Getaways, or how battered women often ignore their emotions, particularly
feelings of fear. I will also outline 5 Hidden Fear questions to use with a battered
client who is denying her feelings.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Elliott, B. A. (2015). Survivors’ coping with intimate partner violence: Insights and limitations. Families, Systems, & Health, 33(3), 295–296.
Foster, E. L., Becho, J., Burge, S. K., Talamantes, M. A., Ferrer, R. L., Wood, R. C., & Katerndahl, D. A. (2015). Coping with intimate partner violence: Qualitative findings from the study of dynamics of husband to wife abuse. Families, Systems, & Health, 33(3), 285–294.
Lambert, J. E., Benight, C. C., Wong, T., & Johnson, L. E. (2013). Cognitive bias in the interpretation of physiological sensations, coping self-efficacy, and psychological distress after intimate partner violence. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 5(5), 494–500.
What are four Balance Tactics you might consider including in your
next session with your battered client? To select and enter your answer go to .