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Section 19
Safety Planning With
Battered Women

CEU Question 19 | CEU Answer Booklet | Table of Contents | Domestic Violence
Psychologist CEs, Social Worker CEUs, Counselor CEUs, MFT CEUs

Battered women analyze the risks to themselves and their children on an ongoing basis. One day a woman may believe that her greatest risk is losing her home; the next day she may believe her greatest risk is that she will be killed. For some battered women, the decision to leave will increase the severity and number of risks they may face. For others, leaving will lessen the risks.

The following figure was developed to compare some of the risks that women may face in their relationships and to explore what effect staying in or leaving these relationships may have on those risks. Some women may face a few of these risks, whereas other women may experience most or all of these risks. The following figure summarizes the two key points of this chapter. First, battered women’s risk analyses include a consideration of more risks than physical violence. Second, women’s lives are not necessarily made better or safer by leaving the relationship. That is not to say that women should stay in violent relationships, but rather to acknowledge the reality that the options and choices available to women who want to leave are limited or nonexistent.

Possible Risks if She Stays in the Relationship Possible Risks if She Leaves the Relationship
Physical
Physical injury: He can continue to hit her and injure her Physical injury: He may continue to hit and injure her. Some studies have shown he may be more likely to hurt her after she has left.
Death: He may kill her. Death: Threats can often surface when a woman explores leaving or tries to leave, “If I can’t have you then nobody will.”
Leaving does not ensure that he will not find her and may increase the chance she will be killed.
HIV: Through unsafe behavior with her partner, she may have no choice regarding sex, including whether to practice safer sex; he may sexually assault her. HIV: Unsafe behavior with her partner may continue; he may sexually assault her
Much advocacy ends at this point on the list of risks that women with violent partners face. The risks that follow are acknowledged, and advocates do try to respons to these concerns. The primary resources, options, and services are designed to address physical risks, however.
Psychological
Psychological harm: His use of violence to keep control will continue to affect her and he can continue to attack her verbally and emotionally. Psychological harm: He may continue to have access to her, particularly if they have children in common and there is ongoing contact due to court-ordered visitation.
Substance abuse: She may abuse drugs and/or alcohol to help her cope with the emotional and physical pain. Substance abuse: Even if she leaves, she will take an addiction with her; she may abuse drugs and/or alcohol to cope with her new life situation.
Long-term effects: She may experience long-term psychological issues. Long-term effects: She may experience long-term psychological issues.
Suicide (victim, partner): He could commit murder/suicide; she may commit suicide as a result of the psychological effects of his violence or her desire to take control of a death she may believe is inevitable. Suicide (victim, partner): He could commit murder/suicide; she may commit suicide as a result of the psychological effects of his violence or her desire to take control of a death she may believe is inevitable.
Relationship
Loss of partner or relationship: He could leave her or be unavailable emotionally. Loss of partner or relationship: Leaving means the loss of her partner and significant change to the relationship
Loss of caretaker: If she is disabled and he is her caretaker, he may not adequately care for her. Loss of caretaker: If she is disabled and he is her caretaker, he will no longer be there to help.
Children
Physical injury or psychological harm to children: Children can witness violence, be the object of physical violence or psychological attack, or be hurt while trying to protect their mother. Physical injury or psychological harm to children: Children can witness violence, be the object of physical violence or psychological attack, or be hurt while trying to protect their mother, may be at a greater risk while on visitation without parent-victim present; no visitation may also harm the child.
Loss of children: Child protective services could become involved if violence is disclosed, “failure to protect”-type arguments could be used to place children in foster care or proceed on termination of parental rights case. Loss of children: He could legally gain custody or just take the children; child protective services could still be involved or become involved.
Being alone, single parenting: He could be emotionally unavailable; he could do little to help with the children. Being alone, single parenting: He is unavailable, and she may not be able (or want) to “find someone new”; he may not visit or help raise the children; it may not be safe for the children or her to have him do so.
Financial
Standard of living: He may control the money and give her little money to live on; he could lose or quit his job; he could make her lose or quit her job Standard of living: She may now live solely on her income; she may have to move out of her home, neighborhood; she may have less money; he could make her lose her job.
Loss of income/job: He could keep her from working, limit how much she works; he may sabotage her efforts to find a job, succeed at a job, or pursue job training. Loss of income/job: She could lose his income, have to quit a job to relocate, have to quit if she has become a single parent; he could keep her from working by harassment, threats.
Loss of housing: She could be evicted due to “disturbance” or damage he has done. Loss of housing: She may need to move out to leave the relationship or go into hiding for safety; she could lose her residence as part of a divorce.
Loss or damage to posessions: He may destroy things of importance or value to her to further his control. Loss or damage to posessions: He may destroy things of importance or value to her to further his control; she may have to leave things behind when she leaves; he may win the right to possessions in a divorce proceeding.
Family and Friends
Threat or injury to family or friends: Family and friends may be at risk, particularly if they try to intervene. Threat or injury to family or friends: Family and friends may be at risk, particularly if they try to intervene, protect the woman, provide her with housing; threat can be used to keep a woman from going into hiding: “If I don’t know where you are I’ll get your family.”
Loss of family or friends’ support: They may want her to leave and stop supporting her if she stays; they may not like him or may be afriad of him; he may keep her isolated from them. Loss of family or friends’ support: They may not want her to leave him; they may blame her for the end of the relationship.
Arrest, Legal Status
Her arrest: He could threaten to turn her in or turn her in if she has participated in criminal activity; he may threaten this to keep her from leaving; he may force her to participate in criminal activity; she may defend herself against him and be charged with a crime. Arrest could lead to incarceration, loss of job, loss of children, public embarrassment, etc. Her arrest: He could threaten to turn her in or turn her in if she has participated in criminal activity; she may defend herself against him and be charged with a crime. Arrest could lead to incarceration, loss of job, loss of children, public embarrassment, etc.
Partner’s arrest: He might be arrested leading to his retaliation, the loss of his job, public embarrassment for her and her family. Partner’s arrest: He might be arrested leading to his retaliation, the loss of his job, public embarrassment for her and her family.
Loss of residency status: He could carry out that threat. Loss of residency status: He could carry out that threat.

- Safety Planning With Battered Women. Davies, Jill and Eleanor Lyon. SAGE Publications: London. 1998.
The article above contains foundational information. Articles below contain optional updates.


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Personal Reflection Exercise #5
The preceding section was about safety planning for battered women. Write three case study examples regarding how you might use the content of this section in your practice.

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 19
What can increase the severity and number of risks a battered woman faces? Record the letter of the correct answer the CEU Answer Booklet.

 
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The article above contains foundational information. Articles below contain optional updates.
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