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PTSD Survivors Speak: Domestic Violence Recovery, Part 2

Posted Oct 13 2010 5:25am

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Last week we started a Survivors Speak series about healing from domestic violence. This week Cornelia continues giving us ways to help your journey toward healing.

Patricia Evans has excellent recommendations as well as very relevant and enlightening insights re: how to avoid domestic abuse, further abuse, secondary victimization and retraumatization in counseling. Quoting from “The Verbally Abusive Relationship”:

I believe that you are the expert on your own experience. I don’t believe in privileged knowledge – experts who can tell you how you should be or what is true for you. I see that patriarchy – a system of erroneous and dehumanizing beliefs about men and women – still has a tremendous influence in our culture and throughout the world. Therapeutic methods have developed over the past 100 years in the context of …patriarchal and hierarchical assumptions… Many traditional therapists are trained to look for pathology, to view the person as the problem and themselves as experts on the problem (located in the person).

Some believe that they have objective knowledge of the person and that what they deem is right for him or her is right, regardless of what the person thinks or feels. Some therapists are directive, believing that they know what you should do or how you should be – but your own insight is far more meaningful than anyone else’s. Directive and pathologizing therapy takes a one-up position. In effect, it says: “I have expert knowledge that you don’t have and therefore I have power over you, so I can confront you, direct you, tell you what to do.

The abuse of power in the “therapeutic” relationship is an outcome of therapy based in reality. (patriarchy, abuse, bullying, domination and power over approach, note by author).

If you are looking for therapeutic support, I suggest that you interview as many therapists as necessary until you find one who feels right for you.

I would reject:

  • Therapists who do not have an understanding of patriarchy, power and gender. They will be blind to the abuse.
  • Therapists who hold the partner in any way responsible for the abuser’s pervasive pattern of abuse. (Their therapeutic orientation would end up abusing the partner.)
  • Therapists whose therapeutic stance does not open space for new ways being in a respectful, collaborative way.

It’s your choice. You are the expert on your own experience.

We express our autonomy by exercising our freedom of choice.

Many more men than women have been invited in numerous ways to believe that dominating another adult in a relationship is acceptable behavior. Few women have been invited by cultural messages to dominate their mate.  Either way, the attitude that domination is acceptable is nonsense. The assumption of a “right” to dominance is one of the most destructive of all assumptions. Certainly, both verbal abuse and battering take place within this context. People are meant to be in charge of themselves, true to themselves, not subject to another person. I am always shocked to find that some people even teach oppression – the idea that one adult should obey another in an adult relationship. The forces of ignorance master the minds of many, who then, without even realizing it, perpetuate abuse. One name for the problem is “patriarchy”.

I find that there is much love and goodness in the world. I believe also that much of the pain we find in the world is only there to remind us that something is wrong. It’s time to find out what it is. As we have come to understand our human rights, we have grown in our respect for human life and human dignity.”

(Patricia Evans 1992)

I agree 100% and consider her statement very important, enlightening and helpful.

So, of course healing is possible and survivors can lead a free and safe and happier and way more fun life and often become thrivers, too, no worries. And it’s very helpful to know what can be beneficial to that. Don’t worry, survivors and their support people can do something to change things for the better.

Cornelia is happy to have come free from a  patriarchal, authoritarian-conservative and very abusive subculture where there was a lot of domestic violence and victim blaming. A translator and political scientist, she also has professional experience as an office employee. She has a PhD in Improvements in Stopping Violence Against Women and has helped with the elaboration of the new law against domestic violence in Kosovo. Cornelia finds feminist therapy very helpful.

The ideas contained in this post solely represent the perspective of the author. To contribute to ‘Survivors Speak’ contact Michele .

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