Understanding Domestic Abuse Dynamics and Support Strategies

  • 07 Pages
  • Published On: 11-12-2023

What are your initial thoughts about what might be happening here?

My initial thoughts are that the couple is in a situation of stress due to the new addition to their family and the challenges they are facing with raising a new baby. This could be a case of situational couple violence where David has reacted to the stressful situation at home by acting in a violent way with Jenny. Jenny has also said that they are both stressed out, that David has a stressful job and they are both arguing with each other more frequently. There is little evidence that David has tried to control Jenny in a way that may characterise this as intimate terrorism. There is also the statement by Jenny that this is the first time David has acted in this manner.

What key things will you need to consider and complete when you meet Jenny in order to help you to assess what is happening?

I would ask Jenny about the background of what has been happening these past few months between her and David. She mentioned constant rowing and stress and so my concerns would be related with “who is doing what to whom and with what effect” (Training Manual, p.8). As this is the first time David has physically assaulted Jenny, I would want to know whether he has been abusive with her verbally or in other ways that could characterise his behaviour as something other than situational couple violence. Jenny has also mentioned that tempers are frayed; so, I would be concerned with whether both of them have been verbally or otherwise abusive with each other. The health worker has reported that David is very caring towards Jenny and the baby and is devastated by the incident and has asked where he can go for help. I would be concerned with knowing whether he wants to seek help for what has happened.


In what ways is David displaying/not displaying characteristics of a perpetrator of intimate terrorism?

David does not seem to be displaying characteristics of perpetrator of intimate terrorism because he has not displayed any controlling behaviours. Intimate terrorism involves the perpetrator restricting the victim from contact with outside parties including friends and families to isolate the victim. This has not been reported in this situation. Nor is there any evidence of David limiting Jenny’s access to bank accounts, credit cards, or financial independence. There is also no evidence of David indulging in constant criticism of Jenny, belittling, and humiliating her or negatively affecting her self-perception and self-esteem. These are the usual markers of intimate terrorism behaviour and as David does not seem to be indulging in such behaviours, there is no evidence at this point to suggest that he is displaying characteristics of intimate terrorism.

In your own words, explain how the statistics for domestic abuse differ according to gender.

Although both men and women can be victims of domestic abuse, women are more likely to be victims of abuse or victim of high risk or severe domestic abuse as compared to men. Statistics of Marac and Idva indicate that more than 90 percent of those who are accessing these services are women. Therefore, there is definitely a gender aspect to the statistics of domestic abuse with more victims likely to be women as compared to men. Statistics on intimate terrorism also suggest that males are more likely to be perpetrators while women are victims, and statistics on violent resistance would suggest that those using it are predominantly female.

Provide at least 3 things you would need to consider when assessing a case where the person initially presenting as the victim of the abuse is male. Include reference to some of the safety implications that you (as a practitioner) may need to consider.

First, that the victim may have concerns about ‘masculinity’ and sexuality and the negative implications of being a victim of abuse by his wife or partner should be taken into account while posing questions that probe the nature of the abuse. The victim can be met at a safe place. Second, that the nature of the abuse that the male victim may suffer, especially in a heterosexual relationship, may be different from how a woman may suffer it. Instead of more physical violence, the male victim may suffer from emotional abuse and coercion. Third, that the male victim may actually be a perpetrator posing as a victim. In this regard, it would also be important to undertake a risk assessment.

Explain why it is important to carefully assess and consider the dynamics of the abuse in all new referrals.

New referrals require a careful assessment of dynamics of abuse because there can be cases where the victims are actually perpetrators or cases where there are counter-allegations of abuse that need to be considered. Although majority of domestic violence cases involve women as victims, such cases can also involve mutual violence, or the perpetrator may be pretending to be victims in such cases as well. Screening the dynamics of abuse is useful for ensuring that services are provided to those who need them, that perpetrators are not equipped with information that can be used against the victims and that the risk assessment to partners and children is done properly. Most importantly, screening helps avoid a situation where we are not inadvertently colluding with the perpetrator of the abuse.

Write a paragraph which demonstrates the ways a victim of abuse might respond to questions and how this might differ from the responses of a perpetrator.

The victims of abuse may react or respond to questions in ways that differ from the perpetrator’s responses because the former can be affected in their responses due to fear, self-blame, shock, loss of memory and confusion. Perpetrators are not victims and they would not have these factors affecting them in their responses. Victims may also have responses that are mediated by their gender or sexual orientation. Male victims may have different responses to female victims and they may be embarrassed. LGBT victims may have fear of publicity or outing which may affect their responses.

Reflect on 2 different clients/service users on the differing ways domestic abuse has impacted on them and their lives.

Women form the majority of the cases that come before services for domestic abuse. The impact of domestic abuse on their lives can have physical, emotional, psychological and financial repercussions. Women may be exposed to physical harm. They may have to become primary caregivers to their children and have to shoulder responsibility for them in financial sense if they have to leave their abusive partners. Another service user group is that of LGBT individuals. Impact of domestic abuse on their lives can be seen in their inability to report due to perceived discrimination. Therefore, many LGBT victims face the risk of further abuse because of their fears of reporting. They may therefore, be impacted in their self-esteem and may continue to suffer from abuse and psychological harm.

How might this impact of domestic abuse differ according to the gender or sexual orientation of the person and if they are experiencing it or perpetrating it? Make sure you include a comparison with the 2 different clients / service users you referred to in Part A.

With female victims, the experience of abuse in the gendered sense can be related to their gender in the sense of their experience being more believable than if they were men. Therefore, if the women were perpetrators, their victims may have found it to be more difficult to report against them. In LGBT context, the experience of abuse can be different from that in heterosexual relationships because of the lower social acceptability of LGBT identity. As victims, LGBT individuals may find it difficult to report their experience. There is also lack of appropriate services for LGBT and male victims.

Describe 3 coping strategies that someone might develop when living with domestic abuse.

The victim may develop denial strategy to helps them avoid feelings of terror and humiliation at being victimised. They may develop shock and dissociation so that they can avoid dealing with immediate feelings or even avoid thinking that this is happening to them. They may even develop retaliation to counter the abuse with some form of reprisal against the perpetrator. These strategies may make it difficult for the victims to access help because they are in denial or have disassociated themselves. In the case of retaliation, the situation may be mistyped as mutual violence.

Describe 3 myths that might be perpetuated either by those perpetrating abuse or society that minimise or justify abuse.

With regard to LGBT individuals, one myth is that abusive incidents between LGBT individuals are mutual and are not related to power and control as we see in heterosexual relationships. With regard to female victims of sexual abuse, a myth is that they may have encouraged the abuse by their own actions. Another myth with regard to sexual abuse is that it is perpetrated by strangers in most cases. Due to these myths there can be problems for assessing the risk or situation.

Analyse how a perpetrator of coercive control might use these coping strategies or myths to justify their behaviour.

A perpetrator of coercive control may take advantage of the denial coping strategy to keep the victim from going for help to family and friends and continue to take advantage of the victim’s isolation from others to continue the perpetration of the abuse. The perpetrator can also use this to justify their own behaviour by casting doubt on the experiences of the victim as the latter is in a denial. In sexual abuse situations, the perpetrator who is close to the victim can take advantage of the myth that the victim may be at fault by reinforcing the idea that the victim will be disbelieved or will be blamed for her own victimisation if she went for help. Using this, the perpetrator can continue to victimise and abuse the victim of sexual abuse and also to justify their own behaviour if she does report it.

Some professionals working with clients may be influenced by these myths and attitudes. How might these myths and attitudes influence the practitioner’s professional judgements/assessment process?

Professionals can be impacted by such myths and attitudes and this can be reflected in their approach to the case before them. For example, a professional who also believes that LGBT individuals have mutual abuse tendencies, will have difficulty believing that one partner may actually be in a position of power and control over the other and may be abusing it. This can lead to incorrect assessment of situation as well as incorrect risk assesment with regard to the partner or any children.

List a range of behaviours that may be defined by the term 'sexual abuse'.

Sexual abuse is a broad term that includes a range of behaviours involving non-consensual sexual activity including: sex under threat or force, rape and serious sexual assault; deliberate infliction of pain during sex; enforced prostitution; and intentional transmission of sexual infections including AIDS, to name a few.

What is the legal definition of consent to sexual intercourse?

Under Section 74 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, the statutory definition of consent is provided as agreement by choice and has the freedom and capacity to make that choice. Therefore, there are two parts to the legal definition of consent; first, that the individual has capacity and freedom to make a choice about sexual intercourse; and second that they have agreed to such intercourse by choice.

Reflect on two clients/service users that you have worked with who experienced sexual abuse by their partner. In what ways did their responses differ? How did this impact on their ability to seek help and support?

In case of female victims of sexual abuse, there is greater access to services and support for sexual abuse. In comparison, LGBT victims have more barriers to seeking support because of their sexual identity not being socially accepted to a great degree. This prevents them from seeking help. There can also be fear of judgement and bias in LGBT victims of sexual abuse due to which they may not always seek help when they suffer such abuse. There is also the problem of there not being adequate services for LGBT victims due to which they may not be able to get support and help.

Questions about the relationship. Q. How would you describe your relationship with David generally? Q. Have you and David have had some tension in your relationship in recent months? Are things different from what they were before? Q. Are you and David able to talk about your relationship problems? Would you and David be willing to seek counselling?

Questions about abusive tactics. Q. Have you and David been quarrelling? What happens when you quarrel? Q. Has David used abusive language with you on any occasion? Q. Has David physically attacked you or tried to harm you in some way on any other occasion other than the time when he assaulted you?

Questions about behaviour and patterns of control. Q. Has David tried to stop you from meeting friends and family? Q. Do you have access to finances? Q. Are you required to do things around the house in some specific ways and according to David’s desires?

What stage of change do you consider David to be at? Please explain why you believe him to be at this stage.

I believe that David is at the stage of situational couple violence. Situational couple violence is characterised by the perpetrator responding to a specific situation with violence. David is most likely not able to manage his anger and may be sub consciously responding to Jenny’s drinking and lack of care for their child and home. From David’s responses, he is not trying to control Jenny but is responding with anger to a situation at his home. His stage of change is contemplation because he is able to recognise that there is a problem with his behaviour and he is open about what is happening, but is not sure about what to do next.

List at least 5 examples of Motivational Interviewing questions that you might ask David. Explain what you would hope to achieve with these questions.

“What would you like to change about the situation?” I would ask this question to probe whether David is open to change something.

“What’s led you to feel you want to make this change?” I would ask this to probe whether David has contemplated the effects of his behaviour for his wife and child

“What would you like to stay the same?” I would ask this to probe David’s sense of his relationship with Jenny and whether he would want to continue with some aspects of their relationship as they are.

“What advice would you give a friend in the same situation?” I would ask this to probe whether David has any ideas about how he can change this situation and what kind of positive change strategies he can contemplate at this time.

“What is it that makes it difficult to change?” I would ask this to probe what kinds of challenges David is contemplating with regard to this situation and the changes that he needs to make.

In a hypothetical situation where I could be faced with a case of domestic abuse with an LGBT client, the situation may involve two same sex partners where one of them has been physically abusive with the other and the other has retaliated to that abuse. The victim may be in denial or may not be willing to seek help. The motivational questions I would ask in such cases would be: “Why are people concerned? What do you think about this?”; “What is it about your current situation that you are happy with?”; “What is it about your current situation that you would like to change?”

The reflective statements I would make to the client would include statements that clarify what the client is saying. Example: “So in your opinion, the behaviour of your partner was not abusive?”; or, “You are saying that they did not mean to harm you when they hit you?”

The theory of Motivational Interviewing is concerned with using a client-centred counselling style for eliciting behaviour change in the clients by helping them explore and resolve their ambivalence to a given situation. By asking these questions, I am trying to help the client by expressing my empathy and not being confrontational and at the same time by helping create a discrepancy in the client’s mind between their present behaviour and their goals.

I think that my question relating to what other people may be concerned with in the given situation may be posed better by appealing first to what the client thinks about this situation.

One diverse group of clients is that of LGBT individuals. They face many barriers in accessing services. Three of these barriers are: real or perceived homophobia or transphobia from service providers; lack of appropriate or specialised services with knowledge of LGBT+ abuse; and lack of confidence in the criminal justice system which is public in nature and which may lead to the LGBT victims to not access it out of fear of publicity.

Explain 3 things to consider when working with interpreters in domestic abuse cases.

First, family members or children of the victim should not be allowed to interpret for victims who are not able to speak English. Interpreters should have been advised that they have to follow clear and explicit confidentiality policies. The interpreter should not be personally known to the client and their family.

Analyse the difference between Vicarious Trauma and Burnout. You should make reference to the following: who might be affected by each condition; likely causes; and the effects on the sufferer.

Vicarious Trauma is the effect on the workers due to their work with victims and survivors of trauma where they have short and long-term consequences of disruptive nature. This is very specific to the workers in the field of trauma. Burnout refers to the exhaustion and diminished interest that people experience in their work. The likely causes of Vicarious Trauma are exposure to victims and survivors of trauma. Burnout is caused due to overwork or lack of rest. The effects of the Vicarious Trauma are that the workers take in the perspective of the victim. From your own practice, through research or through discussion with a colleague, describe an actual example of vicarious trauma.

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A.) What advice could you give to a new colleague around what they can do to promote good self- care in practice?

I would suggest that they adopt meditation as a way of dealing with stress. If not meditation, they could also take up Yoga and Tai Chi as ways for relaxing themselves. The second suggestion I might make is that they adopt a regular exercise regimen which could include some time to themselves doing an activity that they enjoy like running, swimming, or group sports. The third suggestion I might make is that they take regular and healthy meals and adopt this healthy lifestyle.

What would you tell them they can expect their organisation to do to promote good self-care and prevent vicarious trauma?

The organisation can provide adequate time for case conferencing. It can provide means and support from professional development of their workers including seminars, conferences, and training. The third thing that the organisation can do is that they can create an environment of support where they provide time and space for open discussion Vicarious Trauma so that workers can feel supported and encouraged to speak about their own problems and issues that they face in this regard.

C.) What are the risks if these things aren’t in place?

Workers who are exposed to trauma victims are at a risk of Vicarious Trauma where they take on the perspective of the victims. If these things are not in place then the workers risk Vicarious Trauma and may even be unable to continue being effective in their work.

The practitioner in the domestic abuse field may also face some risks in lone working contexts. There is always a risk of being harmed when in a situation of a home visit which involves an abusive person. There is also a risk of inability to manage an emergency situation when working alone when a partner is needed to manage the situation. The practitioner can also be at risk of being harmed and not being able to call for help because they have not informed their organisation or team as to where they are going for home calls.

Continue your journey with our comprehensive guide to Understanding Criminal Investigation.

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