How Domestic Violence Counseling Can Help You

By: Nicole Beasley

Updated August 28, 2020

Content/Trigger Warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include sexual assault & violence which could potentially be triggering.

Domestic violence is one of the most frightening issues facing the nation today. One out of three women and one out of four men have experienced domestic violence at the hands of their partner. Intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime. One out of fifteen children are exposed to domestic violence each year and ninety percent of these children are witnesses to this violence. The damage goes beyond each exposure as it sets up a cycle for repeating these behaviors. In relationships, it might start out with yelling, progress to throwing things, then hitting, and can ultimately end in death without intervention. Children who grow up witnessing these events are more likely to repeat these behaviors or be in relationships with abuse and violence.


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What Can I do if I am in an Abusive Relationship?

A really helpful place to start is with a domestic violence hotline. Hotline counselors are trained to deal with the immediate trauma of the victim and will help the victim see a way through their fears and validate that what is happening is not okay. They do not serve as long term counselors, but as mediators and a referral source. Hotline operators will present options, such as various places the victim can go for counseling sessions, support groups, legal counsel and safe housing. When you are still reeling from a violent event or attack, it can be really hard to stop and think of a plan. This is why these hotlines are so important. You can talk to someone who is calm and trained in this area and who can help you create a plan and feel safer, knowing you have options.

Where Can I go if I am not Safe in my Home?

Domestic violence shelters, or safe houses, are available for victims of domestic violence that need a safe place to stay. Safe houses are run with particular rules designed to both safeguard the victims and to modify harmful behaviors. While in a safe house, the victim is instructed to let no one know the location as this could lead to discovery by the abuser. Their rules include no drugs or alcohol on the premises. Some safe houses may prohibit cell phone and internet usage as these are ways for victims to contact their abusers, but also as a way for abusers to track them, which would compromise the safety of the shelter. Victims of violence often self-medicate to cope with their abusive partners, which keeps them in the cycle of destructive relationships and behaviors. Many safe houses or shelters offer counseling and treatment to help process trauma, learn healthy coping skills, and begin to plan for the future. A safe house is not a long-term solution, but a great start to a new beginning.

Violence tends to escalate over periods of time. Women and youth often seek safe housing when the cycle has become extreme enough to cause physical harm, such as broken bones, multiple contusions or rape. They may seek counseling reluctantly, or not at all, returning to safe housing several times before they'll admit they have a problem they can't solve.

The Domestic Violence Counselor is Waiting


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Victims of violence were often victimized since childhood. They've learned particular skills for coping with the cycles of violence. They may be unaware of warning signs of a violent event, then endure the violence, and then joyfully embrace the honeymoon phase with the abuser bringing gifts and giving attention during the time when they are feeling guilty and remorseful. This may sound confusing to someone who is not familiar with domestic violence, but those who grow up with abusers are used to these behaviors and do not always know it isn't normal or something that everyone doesn't experience at some point. Counseling will help them see the early warning flags that signal a new cycle of abuse.

Court and Child Welfare

When a police report is made, the abuser is often charged, even if the victim does not want to press charges. They may be court ordered to attend a batterer's intervention program. When substance abuse is involved in a violent incident, the courts may instruct the abuser to take substance abuse counseling as part of the condition for release from the court system. The abuser will not be the only one who faces consequences in this situation. The victim may be ordered to take classes as well to gain a better understanding of domestic violence and counseling so that they can process and heal and hopefully not re-enter relationships with abusers. If children are involved, it is not uncommon for the child welfare system to get involved to protect the children in the home from future violence. The victim may be required to take classes and complete counseling to show that he or she can create and maintain a safe environment for the children.


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Your New Life

If you are in danger, your domestic violence counseling therapist may recommend safe housing or a change of address, and help you find the agencies to suit your needs. A domestic violence counselor keeps close contact with legal aid to help protect victims and their children while going through a divorce, if that is the outcome. Remember, just because you have been in a cycle of violence and abuse, your life does not have to continue down this path. You can get help and you can learn how to feel stronger, feel better about yourself, and make plans for your future that you are excited about.


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If you ready to leave your abuser, your first step should be to contact a domestic violence counselor and to learn the resources available so that you can safely leave. You can contact a hotline as mentioned before if you are unsure of how to find a domestic violence counselor.

Even if you are not in crisis, if you have questions about your relationship and are worried or concerned that it is not healthy, you can reach out to an online counselor through BetterHelp. You can be matched with a counselor who will be able to work with you and help you make decisions about your relationship and point out any red flags that you may not be aware of. If you have been in a series of abusive relationships, this can be really important, to start to learn what is healthy and what is not. Another way that you can use BetterHelp is to help you process past trauma from abusive relationships. There are a lot of effects: low self-esteem, substance use, anxiety, and others. Your counselor can help you get on a path to healing. You can get started anywhere you have an internet connection and all you need is a smartphone, tablet, or computer. You can schedule live sessions or communicate through messages. If you have any questions or concerns about your relationship, reach out today. Help is here.


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