Your Feelings and Expectations

  • You may find that you have very strong and automatic gut-level responses to people who are abusive to their partners: anger, disgust, fear, dismissal, sympathy, and/or compassion. There is often a temptation to marginalize the person. Sometimes this is sound clinical practice (if you are feeling threatened or at risk). Sometimes it's a position you adopt by default - the perpetrator simply is not available. Sometimes it's a result of not knowing how to proceed in a way that doesn't increase the risk to anyone.
  • If you are working with a person who has been abusive, it is important to seek consultation, to attend to your own feelings, and to take precautions about your own safety. Unit 6 goes into more detail on safety planning for yourself.
  • Be realistic about the goals of direct intervention with perpetrators of domestic violence. Even highly motivated perpetrators change only over a long period of time. For some perpetrators the pattern of abusive behavior runs deep and has been repeated in many relationships. In addition, the community's ambivalence and inconsistency in viewing intimate violence as unacceptable and in holding perpetrators responsible for stopping their violence often works against an individual's efforts at change.