Domestic Abuse Therapy

Domestic Abuse Therapy

Domestic abuse, also known as DV, domestic violence, spousal abuse, or intimate partner violence (IPV), can be broadly defined as a pattern of abusive behaviors by one or both partners in an intimate relationship such as marriage, dating, family, friends or cohabitation.

Domestic violence has many forms, including physical aggression (hitting, kicking, biting, shoving, restraining, slapping, throwing objects) or threats thereof; sexual abuse; emotional abuse; controlling or domineering; intimidation; stalking; passive/covert abuse (e.g., neglect); and economic deprivation.

Alcohol consumption and mental illness can be co-morbid with abuse and present additional challenges alongside patterns of abuse.

What is Domestic Abuse?

Abuse is defined as the systematic pattern of behaviors in a relationship that are used to gain and/or maintain power and control over another. When one defines domestic violence in terms of physical abuse, only they do not fully understand the dynamics that keep these relationships together.

Four Main Types of Abuse

Physical Abuse

Pushing, scratching, slapping, hitting, punching, choking, kicking, holding, biting, or throwing objects

Emotional Abuse

Cursing, swearing, attacks on self-esteem, blaming, criticizing your thoughts and feelings, manipulation

Sexual Abuse

Any non-consenting sexual act or behavior

Psychological Abuse

Threatening, throwing, smashing, breaking things, punching walls, hiding, sabotaging your car

Signs to look for domestic abuse therapy:

  • Jealousy
  • Controlling Behavior
  • Quick Involvement
  • Unrealistic Expectations
  • Isolation
  • Blame for Problems and Feelings
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Cruelty to Animals and Children
  • Playful Use of Force in Sex
  • Severe Mood Swings

Why You May Stay

  • Economic dependence
  • Fear of greater physical danger to themselves and their children
  • Fear of emotional damage to children
  • Fear of losing custody of children
  • Lack of alternative help and housing
  • Lack of job skills
  • Social isolation resulting in lack of support from family and friends
  • Fear of involvement in court processes
  • Cultural and religious constraints
  • Fear of retaliation

Are Children Aware of Domestic Abuse in the Home?

YES – They know.  They see, they hear, and they feel.

More than half of all shelter residents are children. The majority of women using shelters bring their children for the sake of safety. Children often hold themselves responsible for the violence and their mothers’ safety. Most batterers were battered as children and/or witnessed domestic violence.

Many girls tend to learn a response of passivity like their mothers, and many boys tend to identify with the aggressor and bully and/or inflict violence on their peers and siblings. One hundred percent of children in violent homes hear screams, threats, bumps, or glass breaking; 100% see the after-effects of broken objects, black eyes, or blood. Child witnesses often feel ambivalence and conflict toward the perpetrator; the child both loves the person and hates his or her behavior.

Domestic Abuse Effects on Children

These incredibly beautiful children learn to accept violence as a means of conflict resolution and to maintain control of others by using threats.

They learn that loved ones have the right to hurt one another. Many feel angry toward one or both parents -the abuser for doing so and the woman for staying and accepting.

  • They have sleep disturbances such as bed-wetting problems
  • Having difficulties in school, with work, or peers
  • Often confuse love and violence
  • They are identified as “at risk.”
  • Poor or no self-esteem
  • Have a sense of complete powerlessness – low expectations of themselves
  • Difficulty expressing themselves or looking one in the eye
  • Mixed emotions of hope and despair
  • Tend to use negative behaviors to get attention – tantrums
  • Live in constant fear of being hurt, or tend to hurt themselves
  • Are unable to communicate their feelings in a healthy way
  • Learn poor problem-solving skills and are unable to control their anger and impulses
  • Tend to resort to force or violence when frustrated
  • Have a poor sense of personal boundaries
  • Lack of respect for other peoples’ privacy and belongings
  • May exhibit post-traumatic stress disorders such as avoidance, increased arousal, social withdrawal
  • Demonstrate disruptive behaviors such as aggression or depression

3 Phases of Cycle of Violence

Phase One

The need for power and control, a history of family violence, and learned behavior are some factors underlying battering behavior.

For some men, phase one begins with anger, blaming, and increased tension. Increased tension, anger, blaming, and arguing are evident. It is followed by phase two, the battering incident.

Phase Two

This may be a one-time stop, push or punch, or hours of repeated beatings and ritualistic terror, with objects or weapons used to further injure or threaten the woman’s health. Sometimes sexual abuse also is present. Verbal threats have already begun at this stage if not accelerated already.

Phase Three

The man may deny or minimize the battering, promise never to do it again, or hit or blame the woman for “causing” him to lose his temper.

Most battered women (and their children) recognize the behavioral pattern of the male partner and attempt various coping mechanisms to prevent or decrease the severity of impending punishments and battering.

Usually, no matter what the woman attempts to do to prevent the battering, she is still blamed for the wrong that happens, causing him to get angry. Many deny violence, said he was drunk, upset at work, said he is sorry this time, and promised to make it right.

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