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Strategies for Battered Women
Battered Women continuing education psychology CEUs

Section 5
Seeking Safety from Intimate Partner Violence

CEU Question 5 | CE Test | Table of Contents | Domestic Violence
Counselor CEUs, Social Worker CEUs, Psychologist CEs, MFT CEUs

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The last track discussed an intervention for unraveling guilt.

This track discusses an aspect of the guilt related to children.

Case Study: Michelle
Michelle, age 37, discussed on the previous track, probably is similar to a client you are currently treating. Like many battered women, she believes that she deserved the physical abuse she received from her husband, Steve.

Steve's battering of Michelle did not start until after the birth of their third child. Michelle stated, "Before our third child Maddie was born, Steve would just shake me really angrily and walk away. But after Maddie, his rages were worse and he would slap my face so hard I ended up falling to the floor. When I turned away to protect myself, he would pound on my back and shoulders. Then, once he had me on the ground, he would start kicking me. That's how I ended up in the hospital the first time."

I asked Michelle why it was necessary for her to stay in the abusive relationship. Michelle stated, "I could never leave Steve. He is the father of my children and he loves them. I can't deprive the children of their own father! I'd feel terrible keeping them apart."

Three Common Concerns
As I list the three specific concerns why Michelle felt leaving Steve would be harmful to her children, think of your "Michelle" to see if she has some of the same guilty feelings.
-- Concern 1. Visitation Rights: Michelle stated, "Steve's violent behavior might prevent him from getting visitation rights to see the children. I'm afraid that the children might blame me if they don't see their father."
-- Concern 2. Safety: Even if Steve did get visitation rights, Michelle felt that she would need someone to protect her when she brought the children to see him. However, she didn't think it was good for the children to have supervised visitation.
-- Concern 3. Court: Michelle stated, "The children were often the only witnesses when Steve abused me. I'm too afraid that asking them to testify in court against their own father would be too harmful to them emotionally."

The more Michelle went over her visitation, safety, and court concerns in her mind, the more guilty she felt. Michelle confided, "There are times when I think about leaving and I get scared. So I tell myself, things aren't so bad here. They could be worse. I have already hurt the children enough; I feel bad about even thinking of leaving."

3 Safe Alternatives for Children
As I discussed Michelle's fears and guilt with her, we also discussed three possible alternatives she could consider to safeguard her children's physical and emotional well being if she left Steve.
-- 1. Meet Steve only in public places. Michelle could bring the children to Steve for visitation in places where there are people constantly coming and going, or by bringing a friend along. This might make Steve pause before acting out his anger in front of those who are not family members and could serve as a witness.
-- 2. Limit the children's involvement in the court process. By law, minor children cannot be interviewed by lawyers without a parent's permission. However, Michelle could have the children testify on camera, meaning that they would talk to the judge alone in his chambers.
-- 3. Document abusive incidents for evidence. Another way Michelle could avoid having the children testify is to take photos of her injuries and keep records of how, when, and where the incidents occurred. This way, she would have documented evidence without needing the children's involvement in court.

In this track we discussed three plans regarding visitation, safety and the courts. Do you have a client who is staying in a battering relationship because they are unclear about alternatives they have related to visitation, safety and court testimony? In your next session, do you need to evaluate the need for providing more specific procedural information?

In the next track we will discuss the Power House Three that occur with learned helplessness and result in failure expectancy; as well as the intervention of Symptom Discovery.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Callaghan, J. E. M., Fellin, L. C., Alexander, J. H., Mavrou, S., & Papathanasiou, M. (2017). Children and domestic violence: Emotional competencies in embodied and relational contexts. Psychology of Violence, 7(3), 333–342.

Hans, J. D., Hardesty, J. L., Haselschwerdt, M. L., & Frey, L. M. (2014). The effects of domestic violence allegations on custody evaluators’ recommendations. Journal of Family Psychology, 28(6), 957–966.

Smagur, K. E., Bogat, G. A., & Levendosky, A. A. (2018). Attachment insecurity mediates the effects of intimate partner violence and childhood maltreatment on depressive symptoms in adult women. Psychology of Violence, 8(4), 460–469.

Thomas, K. A., Goodman, L., & Putnins, S. (2015). “I have lost everything”: Trade-offs of seeking safety from intimate partner violence. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 85(2), 170–180. 

Tsvieli, N., & Diamond, G. M. (2018). Therapist interventions and emotional processing in attachment-based family therapy for unresolved anger. Psychotherapy, 55(3), 289–297.

Zonana, J., Simberlund, J., & Christos, P. (2018). The impact of safety plans in an outpatient clinic. Crisis: The Journal of Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention, 39(4), 304–309.

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 5
What are three areas you might discuss to alleviate client guilt regarding her children? To select and enter your answer go to CE Test.

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