Intimate partner violence (IPV) also known as domestic violence, domestic abuse, battering or dating abuse is defined as any form of physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological abuse between partners in an intimate relationship. An intimate relationship is seen as any current or previous relationship where there is an emotional, sexual, and romantic connection (Murray & Graves, 2013). Domestic violence is a public health issue that impacts millions of individuals and families and it is one of the most common forms of inter-personal violence internationally (Howard, Trevillion, Khalifeh, Agnew-Davies, &Feder, 2010). Victims of IPV are more likely to develop psychological challenges such as post-traumatic stress disorder, symptoms of depression, practice self-harm, psychosomatic complaints, substance abuse issues, and a lower self-esteem.It has been found that IPV has both short-term and long-term consequences (Kress, Protivnak, & Sadlack, 2008). According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) conducted in 2011, over 10 million women and men experience physical violence by a current or previous partner. It is estimated that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 7 men are victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner during their lifetime (Breiding, Basile, Smith , Black , Mahendra, 2015).
Given that intimate partner violence is linked to mental health issues like depression and post-traumatic stress disorder it is likely that those experiencing it will seek out the help of a mental health professional or they will ask themselves “where can I go get a psychological evaluation near me? ”. Predominantly, the treatment approaches were contributed by feminist activists and practitioners who were behind the Battered Women’s Movement in the United States (Lee, 2007). One aspect of this movement is how cultural beliefs on sex roles maintain gender inequality and oppression of women by men. Therefore, the common approach is to separate partners for treatment, to empower the victim, and assist them through psychoeducational groups. Although there is some literature that finds this approach helpful, it is founded on a problem saturated perspective meaning that focus is the problem not the solution. Some could also say that viewing domestic violence this way focuses on the negative aspects of the issue and may ignore the strength and resiliency that survivors possess.
With that being said, it may be helpful to shift perspectives a bit by approaching intimate partner violence from a solution focused perspective. So what does this all mean? Lets start by explaining what a solution focused approach is based on. According to the literature the basic tenet of solution focused thinking is “doing what works”. A solution focused understanding does coincide with those of the feminist therapists as this approach also emphasizes empowerment and safety. However, the main difference is what has been previously mentioned above; the emphasis on strengths and competencies. As someone who has worked with victims of abuse, I realized that approaching the issue from a solution focused perspective allowed me to value what the victims possessed that allowed them to survive. What I mean by this, is people rarely think about how people get through something as horrible as domestic violence. They usually think why do they stay in those relationships.
Another important aspect of integrating solution focused thinking to survivors of abuse is the future orientation of the model. Many survivors of abuse experience helplessness, distress, extreme fear and as a result become paralyzed and withdrawn. As they cope with all these hardships they are rarely thinking of the future or the positive things it could bring. However, by viewing their experience as a sign of strength and resiliency rather than a weakness, survivors of abuse can feel validated and empowered. In addition, utilizing a solution focused approach can help view a future without violence as that is our goal. Viewing the problem from this perspective creates hope and possibility.
As a society, adopting a solution focused perspective can reframe domestic violence. Instead of focusing on how a survivor stayed and asking what is wrong with them that they “allowed” the violence to occur for so long this perspective sees the strength in such a horrible situation. The truth is no one ever wonders how someone really survives abuse. Have you ever wondered how a survivor woke up every day living with the fear that their partner may or may not terrorize them physically and/or emotionally? Do you ever think about what it is like for a survivor to be experiencing a war at their home, which is supposed to be place of safety? It is important to realize that living through that takes a great amount of strength that we could build on for a better future.
It is important to note, that approaching this issue from a solution focused frame of mind does not and should not negate the severity of the problem. It is an international public health issue impacting millions. Domestic violence has consequences on an individual, familial, and societal level. This approach also does not make any form of violence acceptable. Approaching it from this perspective should allow us to hope and work towards a better future for individuals, families, and society where violence within the family system or anywhere is not present. If you know you or someone you know is going through domestic violence, remember that there is hope and although the situation is extremely difficult and you might feel worthless, you are strong and you are resilient. Remember there is help out there, so if you are reading this and you feel mentally distressed ask yourself “where can I get a psychological evaluation near me?” Or “is there a counselor near me who can help me?” Chances are you can get both. If you need more information visit rkcaregroup.com, we want to help you!