The Importance Of Domestic Violence Counseling

By Sarah Fader

Updated March 18, 2020

Domestic violence is a major problem in countries around the world. In the United States, nearly 20 people per minute are abused by a domestic partner- more than 10 million women and men per year.

Though the statistics demonstrate otherwise, domestic abuse can be a very isolating experience. If you have experienced domestic abuse, you should never feel ashamed for wanting to keep your experience private. Still, you can take comfort in knowing that you are not alone- far from it.


It is completely understandable for someone who has been through domestic violence to be hesitant to seek help. But, domestic violence counseling can be a crucial factor in emotionally recovering from your domestic violence experience.

Forms Of Domestic Abuse

Not all domestic abuse is the same. You are the only person who knows your personal experience and whether anything that goes on in your relationship is abuse. In general, most domestic violence falls into one of the following categories.

Physical Abuse: This is probably what most people think of when they hear the words "domestic violence." It is the use of physical force that injures the other person or puts them at risk of becoming injured. Although the action itself is physical, the abuse can be emotionally rooted and certainly negatively impacts feelings and emotions.

Verbal Abuse: Using words to insult, disrespect, embarrass, or otherwise hurt the other person, either in private or public. It can be difficult to determine whether someone is just being "mean," or if what is happening is abuse. Many people never report or seek counseling for verbal abuse because they may not even realize it is happening. Only you can know for sure whether a partner's words are abusive. If you ever suspect that they may be, trust your gut and seek help.

Sexual Abuse: This is another form of abuse that can be difficult for the abused person even to identify. It is especially confusing when partners are already sexually active, and have had or are presently having consensual sexual intercourse. Sexual abuse involves forcing another person to do anything sexual, from touching to intercourse. If the action is unwanted by one person and they are forced into it, it is abuse. Sexual abuse often occurs in tandem with another type of abuse, especially physical abuse.

Financial Abuse: Financial or economic abuse is one of the lesser known forms of abuse, but that does not make it any less important. Financial abuse involves withholding of money from someone else or using that person's name or personal information to spend their money and possibly cause them to accrue debt. This may cause the person to feel powerless or have to rely on the abuser for financial support, putting the abuser in a greater position of power in the relationship. This can restrict the abused person from feeling that they can get out of an unhealthy relationship, and fuels the cycle of abuse to continue.

Emotional Abuse: Emotional abuse can involve a combination of any of the other types of abuse. The abuser treats a person in such a way that it reduces their self-confidence and gives the abuser more control over the other person. The abuser will use highly manipulative tactics that may cause the other person to feel guilty or that they somehow deserve the abuse.

Whatever the form of abuse may be, the most important thing to remember is that it is not your fault. Domestic violence is solely the fault of the abuser, never the person whom they abuse.


Signs Of Domestic Abuse

It can be hard to tell if someone is in an abusive relationship from an outside perspective. Sometimes the abused person in the relationship is not even fully aware of the fact that their partner's behavior is abusive. While every situation is different, certain warning signs indicate that you or someone you love may be in an abusive relationship, and or at risk for or are already dealing with domestic violence. Some of these warning signs include:

Isolation: An abuser will want to keep the person they are abusing isolated from other people, including close friends and family. This keeps the person more dependent on the abuser, as they will become the main person in their life. It allows the abuser to gain more control and power over the person they abuse.

Critical Behavior: The abuser will often put down the person they abuse to lower their self-confidence and make them feel powerless. It may start as backhanded comments that do not seem bad on their own but are slowly making the person feel more self-conscious and reliant on their abuser. Over time, the critical behavior is likely to escalate and can take the form of emotional abuse.

Invading Privacy: The abuser will try to take away the other person's sense of privacy and having their own identity. They may read their text messages and emails, or listen in on their phone calls.

There are many other signs of abuse, and certain isolated instances of these behaviors do not always point to domestic violence. But, they do often indicate current or future domestic violence, especially if a partner demonstrates a pattern of this kind of behavior. If you have noticed these behaviors in your partner, or notice signs of them in a friend or loved one's relationship, it may be a sign of domestic violence.

Never be afraid to ask for help, or to bring up the topic of domestic violence with a friend who you are concerned for. It is always better to say something, even if the conversation does not get very far than to watch a friend suffer silently.

The Domestic Violence Cycle

No two cases of domestic violence are the same. But many abusive situations among partners tend to follow a similar cycle (though not all of them do). The standard cycle of domestic violence is as follows:

Tension Building Phase: During this initial phase of the domestic violence cycle, tension begins to build, and a person may feel as though they need to "walk on eggshells" around their partner. Depending on the situation, the tension building phase may only last for few hours, or it can drag on for several months. The longer the phase lasts, the more anxious a person may feel, as they know that a "blow up" is inevitable but are not sure when it is coming.

Abusive Incident: This is the point at which the tension finally reaches its breaking point and the abuser snaps and inflicts violence upon the other person. Depending on the type of abuse, the incident may involve physical violence, sexual abuse, or harmful words or threats. In cases of financial abuse, it may involve restricting a partner's access to finances or using their identity to steal or spend money on their accounts.

Honeymoon Phase: After the abusive incidents, the abuser may make an effort to "make up" for their violent or abusive behavior. To do this, they may buy the person they abused gifts, be extra caring and thoughtful towards them, or otherwise try to show that they are "sorry" for the abuse and try to get the person to trust them and view them favorably again. Often this includes empty promises that the domestic violence will never happen again, or that they have changed.

Following the apologies or gifts, the relationship may experience a period of relative peace and stability. The abused person may believe that the abuser truly has changed and abuse will not happen again. But, in most abusive relationships, the honeymoon phase is followed by yet another tension building phase, and the domestic violence cycle begins again.


Not all abusive relationships even have a honeymoon phase. Some abusers move on to the next tension building phase immediately following an abusive incident. Even if the abuser does promise to change, in most cases of domestic violence, this does not happen. For most people, the only way to end the cycle of abuse is for the abused person to leave the relationship.

Domestic Violence Counseling

Domestic violence is a major problem, and millions of people suffer from domestic abuse each year. Domestic violence counseling is an extremely important component for anyone who has been through abuse to getting out of the abusive relationship and learning to heal from domestic violence emotionally.

Deciding to leave an abusive relationship can be extremely scary. It may help to first talk to a therapist or counselor to get advice on how to get out of an abusive relationship most safely. Online counseling is a great tool for anyone dealing with domestic violence because you can reach out to your therapist at any time, and you speak to your therapist privately from your computer or phone, rather than having to go to an office.

Types Of Domestic Violence Services

Different people will need different types of support to get out of an abusive situation and ultimately overcome the emotional weight that accompanies domestic violence. There are multiple types of counseling that can benefit someone who has lived with domestic abuse, including:

Online Counseling: Online therapy and counseling is a great tool for people living with a variety of conditions or healing from different experiences, including domestic violence. Just like in-person therapy, online counseling is conducted by licensed therapists and counselors. But unlike traditional therapy, you will have the freedom to message your therapist at any time of the day, rather than having to wait for a set appointment time.

This can be especially useful for someone who is overcoming domestic violence, as the healing process can be unpredictable and variable. Of course, in-person therapy can also be very helpful for anyone reeling from domestic violence.


Safe Houses: In cases of severe domestic violence, a person may choose or be instructed to spend time living in a safe house. The safe houses have policies in place to protect people from domestic abuse and help them recover from the experience. The location must be kept the secret to prevent the abuser from finding the house, and no alcohol or drugs are allowed on the premises so that people cannot rely on self-medicating in the wake of domestic violence. Though it may be tough at first, this is greatly beneficial for the person's recovery and mental health in the long run.

Domestic Violence Hotline: Hotlines are not a long-term solution for someone living with domestic abuse, but can be an excellent first step in the wake of domestic violence. Hotline operators can direct a person to the services they need, provide short-term advice, or help them out of acute situations. The national domestic violence hotline accepts calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The number is 800-799-SAFE (7233).

The Importance of Domestic Violence Counseling

There is nothing that can mentally prepare anyone for the physical and mental outcomes of domestic violence. Abusive relationships are notoriously difficult for an abused person to leave, and even once they do, many people struggle with depression, anxiety, stress or general emotional distress. Some people even experience PTSD following domestic violence.

Domestic violence counseling can play an invaluable role in helping people overcome an abusive situation. Having domestic counseling services readily available can make people in abusive relationships feel more confident about leaving an abusive partner. Support can make all the difference in whether or not someone leaves an abusive relationship, as well as the outcome once they do.

If you suspect that a friend or loved one may be in an abusive relationship, do not hesitate to bring it up with them or a counselor. It is better to take the risk and bring it up, even though it may feel uncomfortable than stand by and do nothing. If you are dealing with domestic violence yourself, it can be extremely difficult to tell anyone about the situation. Start by calling a national domestic violence hotline, and then reach out to a counselor. Taking the first step to get out of an abusive relationship can be very scary and hard, but it is more than worth it.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Who defines domestic violence?

Domestic violence is characterized by emotional, financial, and physical abuse. When people think about domestic violence, the first thing that normally comes to mind is domestic abuse. Intimate partner violence, domestic abuse, and domestic violence include emotional and financial abuse factors -- not just physical violence.

What is the punishment for domestic violence?

The punishment for domestic violence depends upon the severity and circumstances surrounding the incidents. Domestic abuse courts in cities and towns set the standards for punishments that can include spending time in jail.

Is domestic violence a crime?

When domestic violence becomes physical, this is a crime. Financial abuse can also be a crime depending on the circumstances. While emotional abuse may not be seen as an actual crime -- the lingering effects of domestic violence can be severe and long-lasting.

Can a domestic violence case be dismissed?

If the perpetrator of domestic violence agrees to get domestic violence counseling, there is a chance a judge or court may reduce or dismiss domestic violence charges for first-time or non-habitual offenders. Sessions with a domestic violence counselor can benefit people who are experiencing domestic violence on both sides.

What is the definition of verbal abuse?

Verbal abuse is a form of domestic violence that happens when someone uses negative talk and cutting remarks towards their partner. Survivors of domestic violence often report verbal abuse as the first sign they noticed before other forms of domestic violence began.

What are the effects of domestic violence on the victim?

The effects of domestic violence can be long-lasting. Domestic violence victims can experience mental health issues like post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression as a result of domestic violence abuse. Survivors of domestic violence often feel the physical and emotional effects of domestic violence for years after the violence has ended.

If you're a survivor or victim of domestic violence, reach out for help by talking to a licensed therapist. You can also get immediate support or domestic violence concerns by contacting The National Domestic Violence Hotline. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is a twenty-four-hour service that provider survivors and victims of domestic violence with local resources and support.

How long are you in jail for domestic violence?

When people go to jail for domestic violence, how long they stay is up to a judge. The length of time someone is in jail for domestic violence largely depends on the domestic violence charges against them. In most states, survivors of domestic violence are notified by the courts before a domestic violence abuser is released from jail.

What happens in a domestic violence case?

When a domestic violence case goes to court, the person charged with domestic violence is normally arrested and sent to jail while the charges against them are investigated. The domestic violence perpetrator may get bonded out of jail if they don't show a history of violence or similar incidents. Survivors of domestic violence are often given support by friends and family and domestic violence counselors. Domestic violence therapists can help survivors of domestic abuse process the physical and emotional pain caused by the incident.

Does a domestic violence stay on your record?

When someone is convicted of domestic violence charges, these charges stay on their record for the rest of their lives. Domestic violence perpetrators are often given the option to get domestic violence counseling if they are not habitual offenders instead of being convicted of a crime. Victims of domestic violence should seek support for issues with ongoing violence or healing from the wounds of domestic violence. Reaching out to a licensed therapy professional or a domestic violence advocate at the National Domestic Violence Hotline can answer many domestic violence-related questions and concerns as survivors learn to heal.

Do they drug test for domestic violence?

At this time, there isn't a drug test designed specifically for domestic violence. If you're a victim of domestic violence and want to have the person accused of violence against you drug tested in court, contact a domestic violence advocate for support and advice on filing your request. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is an excellent resource for finding answers to questions like these. Survivors of violence who use the services of the National Domestic Violence Hotline have an easier time finding their way than survivors who choose to go it alone.

What happens at a bench trial for domestic violence?

During a bench trial for domestic violence, a judge looks at all of the evidence and facts of the case and makes a final decision. There is no jury present at a bench trial. The judges hear all the evidence and make a judgement based on the facts presented. Both parties including the accuser and accused are present at a bench trial. The National Domestic Violence Hotline can help victims of domestic violence through the court process by connecting them with domestic violence advocates. The domestic violence advocates the National Domestic Violence Hotline connects you with can attend court with you and in some cases even on your behalf.

What happens if a domestic violence case goes to trial?

If a domestic violence case goes to trial, both the perpetrator and the victim are allowed to tell their side of the story to a judge. During this process, a judge will also listen to testimony from friends and family on both sides. The judge will decide the outcome of the case based on the facts and evidence presented in court.

Do I have to testify against my husband in a domestic violence case?

If you've been the victim of domestic violence and your husband is the accused, depending on the state where you live -- you may be required to testify against him in court. Talk to a therapy expert about the impacts of domestic violence on your mental health. If you need to get in contact with a domestic violence advocate for support -- call the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline can provide guidance and support for families and victims of domestic violence. The hotline is available online by chat and by phone 24-hours a day. If you or a loved one is a victim of domestic violence -- the National Domestic Violence Hotline is a great place to start looking for help.

How do most domestic violence cases end?

Domestic violence cases can have many outcomes. In some cases, the charges against the accused are dismissed due to a lack of proof (or evidence). In other cases, the person accused of domestic violence is convicted and may go to jail or have to serve a period of time on probation. Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline if you're in a domestic violence situation and need help.

Do victims of domestic violence have to testify?

In most cases where domestic violence victims end up in court, they are required to testify against the person accused of the violence. Some states require that people in domestic violence situations testify in court on their own behalf. If you have concerns about testifying as a victim of domestic violence in court, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline to get help.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline can provide domestic violence victims with support resources. They may even be able to point you in the right direction to find a domestic violence advocate to go to court with them.

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