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In the last track we discussed how to create a reality check for your battered client who feels sorry for her batterer.
In this track we will be discussing the survival tools many battered women may need to protect themselves from further harm, while they are in the "deciding to leave" stage.
Have you found, like I, that battered women are often paralyzed by fear and feel unable to do anything to protect themselves from their batterer? As you know, some battered women may need to take very small steps to avoid violence, whereas other battered women may need a very specific and detailed safety plan to protect themselves. And, as you also know, a battered woman's safety is always the first concern, and she is the only one who truly knows what is safe and not safe for her at any time. How safe is your battered client at this moment? Is time in your next session to re-review or re-assess some survival basics, sine they have not decided to leave yet, should that be their choice?
Let's look at Grace, a 22 year old woman in my battered women's support group, and how she developed survival tools to help protect her from her husband Thomas's abuse. Grace often talked about leaving. In the support group, I asked Grace if she felt she could develop a plan to help her deal with Thomas when he becomes angry until she finally did walk out. Grace agreed, but felt very doubtful that anything would work.
Tool #2: Avoid Him When the Signal Occurs
Survival Tool #3: Find Ways to Deescalate
I also asked Grace if someone might come to her aid when Thomas's anger escalated. Other group members suggested that the distraction of someone else may help to deescalate Thomas's anger. Grace stated, "The only person who's ever home with me is my 3-year old daughter. But, no one knows about Thomas's violence anyway, no one." As with many battered women, Grace's response was guarded, and she was very hesitant to confide in others for help. Bernice, another woman in the group, stated, "There's no shame. My neighbor gets hit, too, and I come to her aid and she comes to mine. When my neighbor hears my husband yelling, she knocks on the door and asks to borrow something. Sometimes she even gets him to help her lift something that's too heavy for her."
Survival Tool #4: Escape from
Grace devised a plan including the above survival tools, as well as identifying where it was safe for her, what her financial resource was and how she would keep it, and what she would do with her 3-year old daughter. Grace told the group that her mother had taken her in after a beating once, and felt it was a safe place to return.
In our group, Grace said her safety plan of escape out loud to help her to remember it. She stated, "When Thomas starts to hit me, after the first blow, I will run out of the house, and grab the baby on the way. I will store a blanket for the baby underneath the staircase, which I can grab as I'm leaving if I need it. I will carry a $10 bill with me at all times pinned to the inside of my bra. With this $10, I will take public transportation to my mother's house. I will ask my mother for a key that I will also keep pinned to the inside of my bra together with the $10 bill." Have you found, like I, that it is helpful for the battered woman to review and repeat her safety plan of escape so she is better prepared to use it if necessary, until she decides to leave?
Think of a battered client you are currently treating. Would any of these four survival tools of recognizing signals of escalating danger, avoiding him if signal occurs, deescalating the situation, and escaping the situation help her to deal with her batterer? But why is Grace staying with Thomas?
In the next track we will discuss your client's hurdling road blocks to leaving.
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