Stages of Healthy Gay Relationships
Intro To Domestic Violence
Introduction to Gay Male Domestic Violence
Treatment Of Domestic Violence
Treatment Of Domestic Violence
Intro To Domestic Violence
Cycle of Violence
Assessing for Violence
Causes of Domestic Violence
As noted earlier, among straight couples, 20-25% have experienced some violence or abuse, perhaps as a single incident, perhaps as a pattern of abuse. That translates to about 1 in 4 or 5 couples from the general population. However, Vivian and Malone (1997) reported that about 60% of couples seeking therapy experience some kind of domestic abuse or violence. That translates to every other couple seeking treatment. Thus, clear assessment of the risk for and presence of any domestic violence or abuse is important in couples therapy and assessment.
Assessment of risk for violence should likely occur in ever couple and individual client seen. However, signs that should raise "red flags" include:
Proper assessment of risk for abuse and violence depends both on how the questions are asked, as well as what questions are asked. Typically, if a couple or individual client is asked whether there is violence in their relationship, "yes" means "yes", but "no" can mean many things. "No" can mean:
- a history of unexplained or poorly explained injuries at various stages of healing
- a pattern of unexplained failure to meet obligations, such as keeping appointments for parent-teacher meeting
- signs of traumatic stress such as depression, insomnia, nightmares, and anxiety
- reluctance to provide details about the home life and the family's problems
- the appearance of strong dependence on the partner to make decisions
- alcohol/substance abuse in the partner
Thus, the setting in which a couple is assessed is important. Gottman and others recommend seeing couples with a joint-single session approach. The couple is seen together and asked about why they are seeking services, and then each partner is seen individually. This allows for the therapist or counselor to ask questions about abuse again in a setting in which the victim might feel more safe to disclose, or to follow-up on any indications from the joint interview that might indicate there is no violence but that one partner feels controlled, fearful, or powerless.
- "No, there never has been any issue with violence or abuse"
- "No, there hasn't been any violence in a long time"
- "No, there isn't any violence (but that doesn't mean I'm not fearful of it happening)"
- "No, there isn't any violence (but that doesn't mean there will never be any)"
- "No, I'm not going to admit to any violence until I know you better and trust you"
- "No, I'm not going to admit to any violence while the abuser is here"
Further, closed or direct questions about abuse without any "lead in" are likely to lead to a "No" answer. Asking, "You haven't resorted to violence in any fights, have you?" is a closed question likely to be answered with "No." Asking, "Is anyone violent and abusive toward their partner in your relationship?" is a strongly worded question without "lead in" questions, and is also likely to lead to a "No" answer.
As for what is asked, a number of authors (see for example, Williamson, 2000) offer several topic areas and several kinds of questions worth asking. Questioning should begin with less threatening questions about issues in the stability, satisfaction, and general functioning of the relationship, which are easier to admit to and discuss. Questioning turns to direct inquiries about violence only after this "lead in" approach allows the client to feel more comfortable and safe disclosing any violence. Topics and questions include:
- How are things at home? Have they always been that way?
- Are you afraid of anyone at home?
- Are there any problems in your relationship? Has it always been so?
- How serious are these problems? How long have they lasted?
- How often do you argue?
- What kinds of things do you argue about?
- What's the worst argument you've ever had?
- Have things ever gotten physical between the two of you when you're arguing?
- Do you feel criticized or controlled by your partner?
- Does you partner interrupt you, swear at you, yell at you, or minimize your contribution to the relationship?
- Does your partner interfere in your work, school, or other relationships?
- (For gays and lesbians) Has your partner ever threatened to "out" you?
- Does your partner seem jealous of you, or accuse you of being unfaithful?
- Does your partner track your time, control your money, or make you explain all of your actions or spending to him or her?
- How does your partner handle anger? Do you ever feel intimidated or frightened by your partner?
- Has your partner ever threatened to hurt loved ones, or threatened to hurt himself/herself?
- Has your partner ever threatened to hurt you?
- Have you talked to anyone about this?
- Have you ever tried to leave your partner? What happened?
- Has your partner ever threatened you if you tried to leave him or her?
- Has your partner ever stalked you?
- Does your partner throw things, break things, or kick or punch things when angry?
- Does your partner threaten to or purposely destroy things of yours, perhaps that have sentimental value or that you worked hard to afford?
- Has your partner ever locked you out of your home?
- Has your partner ever put his or her hands on you in anger?
- Has your partner ever tried to prevent you from leaving the home?
- Has your partner ever grabbed or slapped you? Ever left a bruise by holding you?
- Has your partner ever pushed or shoved you? Did this lead to injuries?
- Has your partner ever tried to cut, choke, punch, or burn you?
- Has your partner ever cut, choked, punched, or burned you?
- Has your partner ever threatened you with a weapon?
- Has your partner ever been arrested for assault or violence of any kind?
- Have you ever been unable or unwilling to leave the home after a fight?
- Have you ever been unable to get out of bed after a fight?
- Have you ever needed medical care after a fight? What kinds of injuries have you sustained?
- Have you ever sought medical services after a fight?
- Has your partner ever withheld medication or prevented you from seeking medical services?
- Have you ever sought services such as a battered women's shelter or support group?
- Does your partner have access to weapons, like hunting knives or guns?
- How long has the violence gone on? Has it always been this bad? How bad do you think it could get?
- Has your partner ever forced you to have sex when you did not want to?
- Has your partner ever pressured you to have "make up" sex after a fight, when you were unwilling or wanted to be alone?
- Has your partner ever had affairs and bragged about them to you?
- Has your partner ever pressured you to engage in sexual activities you felt were humiliating, frightening, or painful?
- Have you ever been worried about contracting HIV from your partner? Has your partner forced you to engage in unprotected sex?
- Has your partner ever threatened to hurt you if you did not agree to have sex when and how he or she wanted?
- Has your partner ever physically restrained or injured you during sex?
- Have you ever sought services such as rape crises counseling?
- Does your partner drink or use drugs too much?
- Does your partner have a problem controlling his or her temper soon after using substances?
- Does your partner become frightening, controlling, or more hostile soon after using substances?
- Does your partner have a problem controlling his or her temper the day after using substances?
- Does your partner become frightening, controlling, or more hostile the day after using substances?
- Has your partner been physically or sexually violent after using substances?
- Has your partner ever forced you to use substances?
- Have you ever sought services for codependence or substance abuse?
Williamson points out that a child abuse report to State authorities may be necessary after this kind of interviewing, and that an assessment of the batterer's likely response and the victim's safety is likely needed.
- Do your children witness serious arguments between you and your partner?
- Do your children seem scared, upset, angry after these arguments?
- How much violence have the children witnessed? How do they understand it?
- Do the children try to intervene to stop it?
- Does your partner threaten to hurt your children?
- Has your partner prevented you from doing something to care for your children, such as shopping, keeping medical appointments, or contacting a child's teachers?
- Has your partner physically or sexually abused your children? Have you been fearful he or she would?
- Have the children told anyone?
- Have the children needed medical attention as a result of your partner? What kinds of injuries did they sustain?
- Has your partner ever withheld medication or prevented you from seeking medical services for the children?
- How do you think your partner will react to a report against him or her?
- Is there anywhere you can stay while the report is being investigated? What will happen if your partner seeks you out there?
- Do you need to take your children with you?
- Do you have a safety plan?
- Does your partner suffer from emotional problems like severe depression or rage?
- Has your partner ever threatened to kill himself or herself? Has your partner ever threatened to kill you?
- Does your partner have access to a weapon?
- Has your partner ever threatened to harm you if you left the relationship? What did he or she threaten and can they carry out this threat?