By: Aimee LaBrie
Whether you are a clinician practitioner or a therapist, or have a tangential relationship to client-management, you will likely encounter women (and men) who have experienced domestic violence. In some cases, they may still be actively involved with an abuser. Though you may have a basic understanding of issues related to domestic violence, there are some unexpected complexities to keep in mind. Here are a few common misconceptions about domestic violence.
1. “He has never hit or touched her, so the relationship can't be categorized as domestic violence.” In fact, domestic violence is more about power and control than it is about physical abuse. The perpetrator attempts to dominate all spheres of a partner’s life by controlling finances and day-to-day decisions, and by isolating the individual from family and friends. Domestic abuse does not have to include physical harm.
2. “Women are the primary targets of domestic violence.” Actually, both men and women can experience domestic violence. This is an important distinction to keep in mind when treating clients, as men can be particularly ashamed to admit that they are in an abusive relationship. More specifically, it’s not just straight couples who experience domestic abuse. In fact, individuals in the LGBTQ community have the highest rates of victimization and yet are not often accounted for. While it is still statistically true that women are more often in these situations, men too can be at risk for these destructive patterns.
3. “People who are in abusive relationships should just leave.” Domestic violence doesn’t usually start on the first date. The perpetrator often asserts increasing levels of control over a period of time. Change can be gradual rather than sudden. As time passes, the victim starts to lose financial or personal independence and may also have children who cannot be left behind. As isolation increases, options for leaving narrow too; making it very challenging to simply move out when there are few places to go.
4. “Domestic violence occurs mostly between married people.” Actually, one in four adolescents reports verbal, physical, emotional, or sexual abuse from a dating partner. Teen dating violence sets a life-long pattern for abuse for both the perpetrator and their partner, making it much more likely that both will either be an abuser or the victim of other violent relationships in the future. More specifically, girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence – almost triple the national average.
5. “As long as s/he gets out of the relationship, everything will be okay.” In truth, it is the time just after the person leaves that s/he is in the gravest danger. Statistically speaking, partner homicides are much more likely to occur as retaliation after the person escapes, and so additional cautionary measures must be taken to keep her/him safe.
To find out more about the complexities of domestic violence or to earn your certificate in Violence Against Women and Children, contact Catie Buttner at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit https://socialwork.rutgers.edu/centers/center-violence-against-women-and-children