If you approach counseling a couple where there is physical or verbal abuse as if you are doing marriage counseling, then you have already derailed and are hurting the victim even further. You cannot address this like you would a difference-of-opinions type argument expecting to work things out in a reasonable way. When violence is involved, violence changes everything. This is a domestic violence situation and its not just a disagreement. Don’t make it worse. Get out of the way and get experienced abuse counselors involved immediately.
A MUST READ for ANYONE who may at ANY TIME IN THEIR LIFE have a conversation of ANY length with a victim of verbal/physical abuse. (Note: verbal abuse always proceeds physical abuse in a relationship but verbal abuse doesn’t always evolve in to physical abuse. I lumped them together to be inclusive of all victims).
If you would like to make a significant difference in the life of an abused woman you care about, keep the following principle fresh in your mind: Your goal is to be the complete opposite of what the abuser is.
The Abuser: Pressures her severely
So you should: Be patient. Remember that it takes time for an abused woman to sort out her confusion and figure out how to handle her situation. It is not helpful for her to try to follow your timetable for when she should stand up to her partner, leave him, call the police, or whatever step you want her to take. You need to respect her judgment regarding when she is ready to take action — something the abuser never does.
The Abuser: Talks down to her
So you should: Address her as an equal. Avoid all traces of condescension or superior…
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As of today’s writing, I embark on my 25th month of counseling for myself and my children as we continue recovery from an abusive household because of their father. I have children ranging in age from 7 to 22, all boys – five of them. From the very beginning of this ordeal/detour/situation, I have been taught, learned and chosen to not put their father down in front of them. However, I have learned not to lie about what their father has done either. It’s a tedious tightrope act, almost daily, and it isn’t easy. I found a blog that mirrors what I am living and doing with my children. Please share the blog liberally, it might be the glimmer of hope for a victim parent right now. Excerpts below:
“You should not denigrate the children’s father because you are angry with him, or want to get back at him for what he did to you (and/or the kids). He is still their father and they will have feelings for him…They are going to eventually have to understand what their father has done and/or is doing and that will be very hard for them to reconcile within themselves….What we do need to do is be honest with them, in a way they can understand, but is not degrading to their father. We can then teach them what manipulation is. We can teach them what blame shifting is. We can call it out when we see it and help them learn to do the same. We can teach them how to treat others and help guide their character development along, as they grow…They will begin to see the tactics, and then see their father is using these tactics and when they discover this reality on their own, they internalize the truth much deeper than if we were to simply impose it on them…They asked their follow up questions. “Why did he hurt you? Why didn’t he stop?” And I told them, “I think it’s because daddy thought he could make me do what he wanted me to, by hurting me if I didn’t. But you can’t make people do things. You can’t force them to do things you want them to do or not do things you don’t want them to do.” I also told them that I prayed for Daddy. I prayed that God would show daddy that he needed to change and make better choices about how he treats people. I told them mommy leaving was not their fault. The divorce was not their fault. They were not to blame in any way.” Author deborahmom