Counseling women who are in abusive relationships can be a rewarding, but also frustrating, experience. There are some tips to keep in mind to make this experience helpful and beneficial to the woman who is suffering.
One reason why many women stay in abusive relationships and do not seek help is that they have trouble putting what they are going through into words. While it may sound odd to the outside observer, a person can be abused in a number of different ways, even for many years, without recognizing it for what it is. Abusers often take advantage of this, calling their behavior by different names. For example, hitting his wife may be in his words, “just part of an argument – and everybody argues.” It cannot be stressed too strongly that the woman who is being abused needs to be able to use the word “abuse” – and in many cases, may need help doing so.
Experienced abusers are notorious game-players. It can cover everything from telling the woman that she is blowing things out of proportion to convincing her that no one will believe her. Counseling women in abusive relationships includes letting her know that she is believed, and that she deserves better treatment.
If you have been successful in helping her with these two blocks, it can help her with a third problem which she is probably facing. Before the abused woman recognizes abuse for what it is, she may have the misconception that there is something she herself can do to “fix” the problem. As abusers generally blame the victim, she may have begun to believe that it is her fault. She may believe that all she needs to do is try harder, change various things about herself, and essentially do and be whatever he requests. A major step in counseling women in abusive relationships includes helping her to see that this is not the case at all. A person who commits abuse usually does so simply because he can, and because he can get away with it.
When you are counseling a woman, you can help her to see her options. In most cases, leaving is the best option. She should also be informed that most abusers make empty promises about “getting help,” and fail to follow through. It is often nothing more nor less than buying time so the woman can gain a sense of false security. If he truly wants to get help, he will do so when she is no longer present.
Counseling involves providing the woman with resources necessary for her safety. This is especially true if there are children involved. An abusive relationship which results in a woman, with or without children, needing to leave her own home is best done with assistance from her local police. She may be advised to obtain a restraining order– in some locales known as a protective order. She may also need advise about her living arrangements and her property.
An important bit of advice is to not use the term “counseling,” or refer to yourself as a counselor unless you have the proper credentials. Anyone, however, can provide assistance to a woman who is in an abusive relationship. You may be saving her life; but you will also be helping to save her self-respect and her dignity as a human being.