Last week we discussed the difficulty that abused women have in leaving their abuser when there are children involved. This week I’d like to discuss what happens when the couple or the abuser enters counseling.
Victims want the abuse to end, but also sometimes they want the relationship to continue. They can be persuaded because of counseling that there is hope when there really isn’t.
Often the abused feels that counseling is going to solve the problem and they will stay in the relationship while counseling is going on. This can be a dangerous mistake because most abusers will not change their ways. So the counseling gives the victim false hope and puts her in a potentially dangerous position.
One surprising statistic is that ‘most experts believe that a man must be violence free for two to three years before marriage counseling is safe or appropriate’.1 This is a disturbing statistic because normally counseling begin while the couple is together and the woman is talking about leaving.
Women aren’t given enough information on the success rate of these programs. They feel encouraged when their abuser goes into any type of counseling. Sometimes the counseling is court mandated and the abuser isn’t even going into the program voluntarily. The success of this type of counseling is very low. Batterer’s intervention groups, not anger management, are better ways to go; however, still do not yield high success rates.
Domestic violence is such a difficult and confusing issue for everyone involved. What do we tell our friend who is in a bad relationship? Leave? Go to counseling even though the success rate is dismal? I think it’s best to try to persuade a victim to go to the closest domestic violence organization where she can get all of the support she needs. Also, always be there to listen.
Remember, if we can help just one woman, we’ve done our job.
1 Ellen Pence, one of the founders of the Duluth project, quoted in the February 16, 1992 New York Times article “When Men Hit Women” by Jan Hoffman.
Please note: If you are in an abusive relationship, please reach out to your local domestic violence organization or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233.
Men are victims of domestic violence too. For this series I am focusing on women and why they stay as long as they do.