Domestic Violence

Posted on September 26, 2016

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Let’s go all the way back to the Fall.  The first thing humans did after they sinned was to start trying to place the blame elsewhere.  It was the woman (her fault) that You put here (God’s fault).  It was the serpent (someone else’s fault).

There is a lesson here and you may not like it.  There is no such thing as “You made me do it.”  Do not tell yourself this lie.  You are responsible for you, your choices, your responses, your actions.  There is a reason why you do what you do, but that does not make it okay.

Further, let’s try not to cover it up with euphemisms.  Got physical with, hit, slapped, shoved, threw things at, etc. are all still domestic violence.

You also don’t get a pass because you are the physically smaller or weaker partner.  A 2011 CDC study (http://www.saveservices.org/2012/02/cdc-study-more-men-than-women-victims-of-partner-abuse/) found that more men than women were victims of “intimate partner physical violence.”  In my practice, I have seen many more couples in which the wife is the aggressor than those in which the husband is the aggressor.  Often he won’t tell me about it, and I learn about it from her.

A few comments about discussing this with your therapist.  First, while therapists are mandated to report child and elder abuse and intent to harm self or others, we have no such mandate about domestic violence.  We are required to keep your confidence (unless the person getting hit is under 18 or over 65).  Second, most therapists will neither encourage you to stay in nor to leave the relationship.  The therapist will want to discuss a safety plan of how you can protect yourself from harm.

Third, ongoing abuse is one of the contraindications for couple’s therapy.  That is to say, that if there is ongoing physical abuse, it is more appropriate for each partner to have individual therapy until enough safety can be established for the marital work.  It is difficult and unsafe to be honest and vulnerable in therapy if it might escalate into physical harm when you get home.  This does not mean that a single incident of domestic violence excludes the possibility of marital therapy.  Rather, the therapist needs to assess the situation.  In particular, the therapist will want to see that the perpetrator is taking ownership of his or her actions and is committed to ensuring physical safety.  This still does not make it okay, but it does allow for safety planning.  The antithesis of owning it is to assert that it was justified or caused by something your partner did or said.

Finally, if there are times that the relationship is wonderful and other times when you either have been hurt by your partner or are afraid for your physical safety, these danger signals should not be ignored.

If you become so overwhelmed that you “get physical” with your partner, find the support you need to learn to cope with those feelings without violence.  No matter how much your partner pushes your buttons, you are still responsible for your behavior.  It wouldn’t be okay if someone were treating your daughter or son like that, would it?

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