Domestic violence is a harmful and debilitating form of violence in the household. It involves intimate partners in a toxic and volatile relationship exhibiting abusive behaviors. Typically, one of the partners, often a male, is the one inflicting harm to maintain power and control over the other. Violence against women is the most common type of abuse relationship. However, domestic violence can look different in every relationship.
What Does Domestic Violence Look Like?
It is a common misconception that domestic violence is strictly physical abuse. While physical abuse is very common and used as a tactic to have total power and control over a partner, there are other forms of abuse as well. Domestic violence or domestic abuse can also appear as emotional abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse such as marital rape or other sexual acts, financial abuse, psychological abuse and more. Violent behavior, no matter how it looks is inexcusable and should be taken very seriously. Abusive relationships are painful for everyone involved and and one experiencing violence and abuse should seek help immediately.
Is There Help for Victims of Domestic Violence?
Experiencing domestic violence can look different but it will inevitably lead to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental and physical disorders for the person taking the brunt of the violence as well as other family members, such as children. This is why domestic violence counseling is so important. Counseling can help victims of domestic violence heal and go on to live a healthy and normal life. Victims of intimate partner violence are not alone. They can seek help if they call 911, go to their local law enforcement, go to a women’s shelter, seek counseling services, and more. This can happen to anyone and shame should not stop anyone from finding help.
What Are The Benefits of Domestic Violence Counseling?
There are five benefits of domestic violence counseling for survivors, none more important than the fact that it can be the single biggest factor in a survivor making the decision to exit the relationship. With domestic violence now estimated to be costing at least $8.3 billion annually for health care services, not to mention the lives of survivors and their families, this epidemic needs all the support it can get. Here are just five ways domestic violence counseling can save lives.
1. Minimizes Negative Beliefs
One of the benefits of domestic violence counseling is that it minimizes the negative beliefs held by the survivor. This is an important first step in a survivor’s therapy because it allows them to mitigate the manipulation, gaslighting, and constant criticism their partner has attempted in order to devolve their self-esteem and self-worth. This allows them to regain control of their life in many forms. Minimizing negative beliefs is also the first step in realizing the pattern of abuse that has evolved over the relationship, enabling survivors to understand that having a positive view of themselves can lead them to a happier life without their partner.
2. Learning the Pattern of Abuse in the Relationship
One of the five benefits of domestic violence counseling is also the understanding of the pattern of abuse in the relationship. Because intimate partner violence can take several forms, therapy can help a survivor learn which abuse patterns exist in the relationship and may even uncover how those abuse behavior patterns serve to keep them in the relationship. By confronting the pattern with honesty, a survivor can learn how to break the pattern, either by leaving outright or getting a restraining order in order to leave the relationship safely.
3. Normalize the Survivor’s Feelings
A domestic abuse survivor may have feelings of anger, resentment, fear, guilt, or even sadness over the state of their relationship. Whether they experienced physical violence, emotional abuse, or any other kind of harmful behaviors with their intimate partner, the feelings are very complicated and hard to move through. Whatever their feelings, group or individual domestic violence therapy will enable them to normalize their feelings as they process them. This is an important benefit of therapy as it provides survivors with a safe place to voice their feelings without the fear of being judged for it; because everyone processes abuse differently, reactions to learning that their relationship is abusive and they may have to leave will also differ. It also serves to validate their feelings and let them know they are not alone with their feelings.
4. Build a Network of Support
Group domestic violence counseling can be an enormous help to survivors, especially if the group is filled with survivors in different stages of their exit from their relationships. This benefits survivors because it not only shows them that leaving is possible, they will also have a network of support that includes people who are or who have been in their particular situation before. That network of support can also help survivors in planning their exit from the relationship, providing them with shelters to move into temporarily, act as witnesses if they witnessed any type of abuse, and act as moral and emotional support during the difficult process of leaving the relationship.
5. Development of a Safety Plan
Building on the network of support, the last and best benefit of domestic violence counseling is that survivors will be able to develop a safety plan for leaving the relationship. With the help of their counselor, they can make the decision to leave as well as plan for any legal action they may have to take as well as plans to protect themselves if they choose to stay in the area. Therapists can also contact law enforcement and shelters on the behalf of their client, making it easier for plans to be put into place without the survivor’s partner becoming aware of the plan to exit the relationship.
Domestic Violence is an Epidemic
Domestic violence is a serious matter; in fact, the CDC recently reported that over half of all female homicide victims are killed by their partners in a domestic violence dispute. For survivors who have made the decision to leave, domestic violence counseling cannot only be of help to their emotional and psychological needs, it can give them the strength to move on. Now that survivors know what the five benefits of domestic violence counseling are, they can make the choice to seek help from escaping their violent partner with the knowledge that there are people waiting to help them.
If you or someone you know is experiencing abusive behavior from a partner, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is a great place to contact and to find other resources for seeking help and refuge.