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

Section 13
Emotion Regulation in Partner Violence

CEU Question 13 | CEU Test | Table of Contents | Domestic Violence
Social Worker CEUs, Counselor CEUs, Psychologist CEs, MFT CEUs

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In the last track we discussed the three Life Preservers of support groups; family or friends; and Balance Tactics.

In this track we will discuss how battered women hide from their emotions in order to provide an impression of normalcy by taking an Emotional Getaway, so to speak. Through an emotional getaway a battered woman can escape her feelings to allow her stay. Thus these are really emotional gateways to prison.

As you know, many battered women will turn to alcohol, sedatives, or "busy" tasks in an attempt to avoid the feelings they have about their abusive situation. Because of this, many battered women cover up their emotions, and fail to recognize the warning signs in their life that something isn't right. Haddie, a 45-year old mother of three, hid her emotions and fears in order to keep up a façade of normalcy. I found it helpful with Haddie to divide the reasons for her emotional getaway and not expressing her emotions into three categories.

3 Reasons for Emotional Getaways

Reason #1 - Protection from Additional Abuse
As mentioned on an earlier track, women in violent relationships encounter the added risk of being ridiculed, assaulted, or injured by their abuser for showing what they are truly feeling. Here is an example of how Haddie's emotional reaction escalated her husband, Clint's abuse.

Haddie first walked into my office with a black eye, a cut on her forehead, a jaw that was beginning to swell, and several bruises on her arms. In a session, Haddie stated, " I walked into the bedroom to find that Clint had torn a hole in the hand-embroidered jewelry case my grandmother had given me. I sat on the bed crying only to see that he'd also ripped some of my clothes in the closet to shreds. When he came into the room I was so angry all I could do was scream at him and beat his chest. But, my anger made Clint hit me harder."

After some discussion of this incident, Haddie stated "I should have pushed aside my anger and gotten the best of him by not giving him an additional reason for beating me." Are you currently treating a client who needs to be reassessed for her ability to push aside or ignore her emotions as a means to maintain her safety, if she has decided to return? Some women do this automatically, however I have treated some clients who lack the ability to control their emotions, even though their safety is at risk. Do you have a client that might currently benefit from anger management training and needs to create an emotional getaway from their anger if they have decided not to leave?

Reason #2 - Protection of their Image
Oftentimes battered women do not express their emotions in an attempt to shield their children or maintain an image with family, friends, and neighbors. Haddie, like many battered women, kept her true feelings of shame and guilt from her friends and coworkers so that they would continue to see her in a favorable light.

Haddie stated, "I didn't want to be the picture of a pitiful woman in my friends and coworkers' eyes. I had enough of that from myself. Most of my friends and people I worked with see me as a capable and outgoing person. Their view of me actually bolstered me much of the time, for the view I had of myself was much worse. I explained the bruises by saying Clint and I went on a camping trip and I fell down a steep hill."

Haddie felt that the only way to keep any kind of dignity and a feeling of normalcy with coworkers and friends was to create an emotional getaway by hiding her emotions as well as her bruises from the people with which she was closest. As we have discussed on a previous track do you have a client, who, in your next session, you need to discuss people with which it is safe to let down their guard around and not hide her emotions? Letting down her guard and not hiding her emotions may be the spring board she is needing to decide to leave.

Reason #3 - Denying the Problem.
As you know, many battered women will ignore their feelings of fear, guilt, and pain, in order to deny that they are a victim of abuse. They minimize and downplay. Haddie stated, "When I was in the emergency room and the nurse was checking me over, I had bruises everywhere. But, I wasn't seeing them. I knew my shoulder hurt, but I didn't realize that my entire back was black-and-blue. I said, 'I don't have bruises.' And the nurse told me, 'Honey, either you have bruises, or you're out of your mind. Now which one is it?' It took that experience to open my eyes. Before that, I even denied that Clint beat me up."

Denying that she is a victim of abuse often prevents a battered woman from seeking the help she needs. Obviously, Haddie's frequent use of the emotional getaways to serve as protection from more abuse, protection of her image, and denying the abuse, did not help her to face the abuse, they only helped her to hide it. As you know, Haddie's acceptance and perhaps eventual leaving begins with admitting that she is a victim of abuse, and not by minimizing or denying what she is feeling.

Haddie did leave Clint shortly after our sessions had begun . Would it be beneficial to replay this track prior to your session with your Haddie who is taking emotional Getaways. Or how about playing this 7 minute track as an educational tool in you next session? If so make a mental note to replay track 13.

After leaving Clint, I found it beneficial for Haddie to explore her hidden fears regarding being on her own. The next track will explore those hidden fears.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Chen, J., Walters, M. L., Gilbert, L. K., & Patel, N. (2020). Sexual violence, stalking, and intimate partner violence by sexual orientation, United States. Psychology of Violence, 10(1), 110–119.

Crossman, K. A., & Hardesty, J. L. (2018). Placing coercive control at the center: What are the processes of coercive control and what makes control coercive? Psychology of Violence, 8(2), 196–206.

Dichter, M. E., Thomas, K. A., Crits-Christoph, P., Ogden, S. N., & Rhodes, K. V. (2018). Coercive control in intimate partner violence: Relationship with women’s experience of violence, use of violence, and danger. Psychology of Violence, 8(5), 596–604. 

Katz, L. F., & Gurtovenko, K. (2015). Posttraumatic stress and emotion regulation in survivors of intimate partner violence. Journal of Family Psychology, 29(4), 528–536.

Marshall, A. D., & Holtzworth-Munroe, A. (2010). Recognition of wives’ emotional expressions: A mechanism in the relationship between psychopathology and intimate partner violence perpetration. Journal of Family Psychology, 24(1), 21–30. 

McNulty, J. K., & Hellmuth, J. C. (2008). Emotion regulation and intimate partner violence in newlyweds. Journal of Family Psychology, 22(5), 794–797. 

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 13
What are three purposes battered women often have in taking an Emotional Getaways? To select and enter your answer go to CEU Test.

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