Academic journal article Perspectives in Psychiatric Care

Domestic Violence: Counseling Strategies That Minimize the Impact of Secondary Victimization

Academic journal article Perspectives in Psychiatric Care

Domestic Violence: Counseling Strategies That Minimize the Impact of Secondary Victimization

Article excerpt

TOPIC. Psychotherapy with abused women PURPOSE. To contrast the usefulness of several models of psychotherapy with abused women SOURCE. Review of the literature and clinical experience of the authors CONCLUSIONS. Because marital counseling often focuses on the violence as a product of the couple system rather than oppression of the woman, the authors recommend individual counseling to address developmentally determined feelings of helplessness. The goal of this psychotherapy is empowerment. Key words: Abuse, domestic violence, feminist therapy, non-sexist therapy, wife battering

Affection, unity, and respect are examples of positive characteristics expected in a marital relationship. Yet there is conclusive evidence that husband-initiated marital violence remains a historical and current norm. The reasons for this phenomenon have been extensively researched, and related factors have been identified (Pagelow, 1992; Sampselle, 1992; Walker, 1991).

This article discusses contributing developmental factors associated with domestic violence, the process of secondary victimization and traumatic response, and appropriate intervention.

Developmental Factors

The most consistent factor in developmental background of both abusers and victims is previous exposure to violence (Strauss & Gelles, 1990). This exposure usually originates in the family of origin, where children are either victims or witnesses of violence against other family members. The effect of this exposure, combined with individual developmental variables, is uniquely experienced and interpreted. However, distinct developmental patterns are noted repeatedly in men and women who come from violent homes.

Characteristics of Male Batterers

Male batterers from abusive families may recall detesting the violence they observed or experienced as children, yet as adults they perpetuate this pattern. Effective relationship skills are not learned from dysfunctional role models. Scharer (1979) found that as children, abusers are often told how to act and feel, discouraging creativity and autonomy in problem-solving. They then grow increasingly distrustful and hostile while forming a protective psychological shell. This produces a low tolerance for frustration, leading to emotional instability.

As the child matures, hostility and aggressive behaviors are elicited with little provocation. Emotional insecurity and dependency continue. As adults, males raised with violence expect spouses and children to provide consistent validation of personal value. However, this unrealistic expectation accompanied by critical, resentful behavior leads to rejection and alienation from the objects most desired for support. A vicious cycle of behavior ensues.

Hurlbert and Apt (1991) conducted a study that compared sexual characteristics of abusive and nonabusive husbands. The study revealed that abusive husbands manifest "significantly lower levels of relationship closeness, sexual assertiveness, and sexual satisfaction" (p. 279) than nonabusive husbands. Although these men demonstrated more preoccupation with sex and greater sexual esteem, their general attitudes toward sex were more negative. Interpersonal relations of abusive husbands were described as more egocentric or narcissistic.

Leonard and Blane (1992) found male alcohol consumption is a significant contribution to male-perpetrated marital violence. This is noted even when high levels of male marital satisfaction exist.

Alcohol and drug abuse are frequently associated with abuse of pregnant women. Increased female battering has been demonstrated at all socioeconomic levels during pregnancy (Sampselle, 1992). Initial episodes of male violence are reported, especially during the first trimester of pregnancy (55%). One in 12 men wile batter his female partner during pregnancy. Strauss and Gelles (1990) acknowledged pregnancy as a stressor that may reinforce feelings of inadequacy. …

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