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Interventions for Leaving a Violent Relationship
Violent Relationships continuing education MFT CEUs

Section 9
Barriers to Leaving Violent Relationships

CEU Question 9 | CEU Test | Table of Contents | Domestic Violence
Counselor CEUs, Psychologist CEs, Social Worker CEUs, MFT CEUs

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In the last track we discussed the survival tools of: recognizing signals of escalating danger, avoiding him if signals occur, deescalating the situation, and escaping the situation; many battered women may need to protect themselves from further harm, while they are in the "deciding to leave or stay" stage.

In this track we will take a look at the factors that encourage battered women to postpone their decision to leave their abusive situation. However, as you know, leaving may not always be in the battered woman's best interest. Statistics from the Women's Advocacy Program indicate that a battered woman's attempt to leave her abuser increases her chances of being killed by her abuser by 75%.

With this in mind, have you found, like I, that there can be three main Road Blocks that postpone a battered woman's decision to leave her battering husband when safety is not an immediate concern?

3 Road Blocks to Leaving

Road Block # 1: Dangerous Self-Delusions.
Self-delusions are often a large part of postponing decisions for battered women. Here's what I mean:

Tonia, a 37 year-old mother of four had been with her husband Joel through 8 years of abuse. Tonia stated, "The first time Joel hit me in the face, I thought, 'That's it. No man will ever hit me.' But, then I thought about the kids and all the bills and figured it would be better to wait until the kids were grown up and out of the house before I left. I mean, I don't want them to be one of 'those kids' with split parents. So I'll just have to stay with him for now." Tonia was in this fantasy world thinking that she would leave Joel, when she really knew she never would. Thus, she was creating a dangerous self-delusion.

After several sessions, Tonia felt a more realistic statement was, "I'll stay with him, as long as he goes to counseling, or to AA meetings." Would it be appropriate for your Tonia with a Dangerous Self-Delusion to be presented with the idea of developing a specific goal statement in you next session?

Road Block # 2: Fear.
As is true with most battered women, fear is another reason many battered women will postpone their decision to leave. As you know, some batterers cannot ever let go and will stalk their victim, using any means possible to track her down.

Dana, a 51 year old paralegal, "My husband, Jeremy, is an attorney and counselor for divorce law. He takes pictures of battered clients and shows them to me, saying, "If you ever try to leave me, you'll end up worse than the bitch in this picture!"

Since Jeremy was a part of the legal system, her Road Block to leaving was not only physical fear, but fear of a corrupt legal system and lack of support for a restraining order or from the police department. In a previous track we have discussed the prejudice against a domestic violence victim that has a mental or physical handicap.

Road Block # 3: Loss of Financial Stability.
In addition to self-delusions and fear, a third Road Block to hurdle before Dana left was the loss of financial stability. Statistics indicate that 50% of the homeless women and children in the US are fleeing abuse.

Dana created a certain level of financial stability for herself by not informing Jeremy of a raise she had received, as well as any time she wrote a check for groceries, writing it for more than the amount and getting the remaining in cash. Initially she stored this money in a tampon box. Later she put it in a separate bank account and was surprised to discover her husband had lied to her about her inability to open a separate checking account.

7 Forms of Evidence Battered Clients Can Use
The book Lawyer's Manual on Domestic Violence: Representing the Victim provides a list of seven forms of evidence that battered clients can use. As I read these, think of your Tonia or Dana and see if suggesting any of the 7 basic forms of evidence would be appropriate for your next session with her to support their choice to leave or to stay.
--1. Photographs of the injuries - Do you need to suggest to your client to take photos not just the day of the incident, but days later after more bruises and swelling appear to show the extent of the injury?
--2. 911 Call Record - Do you need to remind your battered client that his or her calls to 911 are recorded and could facilitate evidence in court?
--3. Medical Records - Does your client need to be informed that his or her medical records can determine whether the abuse is a misdemeanor or a felony?
--4. Statements - Well documented interviews or a victim's statement in a police report provide evidence of violence, threats or chicanery. I told Diana that Jeremy's note begging for forgiveness attached to flowers can be used as chicanery.
--5. Criminal Records - Do you need to inform your client that even though their batterer's previous crimes cannot be admitted as evidence, they can show motive and intent?
--6. Crime scenes and Photographs - Do you need to remind your client that evidence recorded by the police, such as blood stains or broken furniture can be submitted as proof of the incident?
--7. Taps and Tapes - Would it be appropriate to suggest to your client to video tape stalking for evidence and to make a back-up recording of answering machine messages?

Would it be beneficial to replay this track to review the 7 forms of evidence of photos, 911 call records, medical records, statements, criminal records, crime scene photos, and video tapings, prior to your next session whether your client is considering leaving or not ?

On the next tract, we will discuss the Cycle of Addictive Love that prevents you battered client from leaving and how information about Nurturing Love can help.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Gortner, E., Berns, S. B., Jacobson, N. S., & Gottman, J. M. (1997). When women leave violent relationships: Dispelling clinical myths. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 34(4), 343–352.

Hardesty, J. L., Ogolsky, B. G., Raffaelli, M., Whittaker, A., Crossman, K. A., Haselschwerdt, M. L., Mitchell, E. T., & Khaw, L. (2017). Coparenting relationship trajectories: Marital violence linked to change and variability after separation. Journal of Family Psychology, 31(7), 844–854.

Metz, C., Calmet, J., & Thevenot, A. (2019). Women subjected to domestic violence: The impossibility of separation. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 36(1), 36–43. 

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 9
What are three Road Blocks to be hurdled before many leave? To select and enter your answer go to CEU Test.

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