Surviving in a Domestic Violence Relationship
Unit 6 Project
May 1, 2011
A few days after I have left a message on her phone that I called Teresa appear in my office with a black eye, broken nose, and bandaged hand. She says that she fell and will be fine soon. She apologizes for not calling me back and tells me to not worry about her or the children because they would continue to live with her boyfriend. He is paying the bills now and has promised to buy all of the children new school clothes; they have never had new school clothes before. I was shocked by her appearance and asked her again about the bruises. She now says that she may have fallen accidentally when her boyfriend pushed her, but that it was her fault because she knew better than to anger him.
The first thing that comes to my mind after seeing the appearance of my client is that knowing that treating domestic violence victims requires specialized training even though many people believe that short term counseling and advocacy are what is necessary to successfully treat domestic violence victims, many times a long term approach needs to be taken in an effort to work through the abuse and to help victims to not get into future relationships that are abusive. These factors are essential in beginning sessions, most all victims of abuse have experienced emotional trauma as a result of being in an abusive relationship. Dealing with these issues takes time, and cannot be worked through in just a few sessions. After these issues have been addressed in beginning domestic violence sessions, effective counseling with victims of abuse may take longer than expected.
There are three important messages that I need to give to Teresa the first is telling her she is not crazy, the second that the domestic violence was not her fault, and finally she is not alone. These messages are essential to the counseling process because the survivor of the relationship believes that the violence was her fault, the abuser often refers to the survivor as crazy and minimizes the violence. Oftentimes, clients may believe that the counselor does not understand their experience because the stories may seem unbelievable. Given this perception, it is important that I demonstrate my own understanding of how it affects each relationship differently. This can be done by reviewing the cycle of violence with Teresa and allowing her to share her experiences. A survivor can become aware of potentially dangerous situations through recognition of how her own behavior can potentially affect a domestic violence episode. In this case, it is especially important for me to be cognizant of the blame and guilt a survivor might perceive when discussing her behavior in the relationship. The final stages of counseling should assist Teresa in supporting her grief process (e.g. perceived loss of the relationship they once knew) as well as intervention/prevention strategies. Allowing Theresa to devise her own safety plan as it pertains to her and her family is part of the empowerment process (The Importance of Cultural Responsiveness When Treating Domestic Violence Survivors).
I cannot force Teresa to leave her environment but I can make sure she has a safety plan in place until she is ready to leave. I tell Teresa that I will be here for her and help her anyway I can and I suggest to her that she needs to start to attend group therapy as it will allow her to identify with others and decreases the feeling of isolation. It can also help her to...