**Now Accepting Clients - CA Residents Only**
March 4, 2024

Trauma Therapy for Intimate Partner Violence

Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) is a multifaceted issue deeply rooted in power dynamics, societal norms, and individual psychology. Despite increased awareness, there still exists a significant reluctance to label certain behaviors as abusive or toxic within intimate relationships. This reluctance often stems from societal misconceptions, personal biases, and the complexities of human empathy, particularly when the perpetrator exhibits signs of remorse or struggles with their own mental health issues. In this blog post, we delve into the nuances of IPV, explore the hesitance to recognize various forms of abuse, and highlight the role of trauma therapy in fostering understanding and healing.

Understanding Reluctance

One of the foremost challenges in addressing IPV lies in the reluctance to identify certain behaviors as abusive or harmful. This reluctance is often influenced by societal attitudes that downplay the severity of emotional, verbal, or sexual abuse within intimate relationships. For example, there exists a pervasive notion that unless physical violence is present, the relationship cannot be deemed abusive. This misconception overlooks the profound impact of psychological manipulation, gaslighting, and coercive control, which are equally damaging forms of abuse.

Moreover, there is a hesitance to label an experience as sexual assault or rape, particularly when it occurs within the context of an intimate partnership. Victims may internalize societal stigma or blame themselves for the violation, leading to underreporting and a lack of acknowledgment of their trauma. Additionally, cultural norms and gender stereotypes can further inhibit survivors from recognizing and disclosing instances of sexual violence, perpetuating a cycle of silence and impunity. The pervasive idea that human beings need sex and require it from their partner further muddies the water. Many women will engage in non-consensual sex, not labeling it as abusive because they willingly engaged, hoping it would please their partner. Consent is still in the early stages of being taught in schools, counteracting Judeo-Christian ideals of submitting one’s body to your partner. Many men enter into relationships viewing sex as their right. As long as their partner does not say no, consent has been obtained. Women will not label behavior as harmful and definitely not as assault because they did not say no. They do not believe they deserve a partner who continually checks in, which is the true definition of consent: continual and enthusiastic “yes”. Anything less is dangerous and harmful.

Similarly, emotional and verbal abuse are often trivialized or dismissed, as they leave no visible scars but inflict profound psychological wounds. Victims may struggle to validate their experiences or justify their emotional distress, especially if the perpetrator manipulates them into believing that the abuse is justified or deserved. This gaslighting tactics can erode the victim’s sense of self-worth and agency, making it even harder to recognize the abusive dynamics at play. In this age of better awareness around mental health, women are also more susceptible to excuse the behavior as part of a disorder that cannot be controlled. It’s important to remember that while mental health is a very real struggle that deserves empathy, any abusive behavior that results from those mental health battles is not permissible. It is our job as individuals to ensure we work on our own healing, to not perpetuate harm on others. Weaponized mental health is never okay. As we continue to embrace the light shed on mental health battles, we also have to support those who have been actively harmed when individuals do not address their mental health. To read more about therapy speak being used as a weapon, check out this PsychologyToday article: Are You “Weaponizing” Mental Health Terminology? | Psychology Today.

Empathy and Forgiveness

This is a complicating factor in addressing IPV–the empathetic response towards perpetrators, particularly when they exhibit remorse or struggle with their own mental health issues. It is important to acknowledge that perpetrators of abuse are not inherently evil but are often individuals grappling with their own trauma, insecurities, and learned behaviors. This complexity can blur the lines between accountability and empathy, leading victims to downplay or excuse the abusive behavior in hopes of salvaging the relationship or supporting their partner’s recovery. Just because behavior is abusive does not mean the love goes away. Trying to call out abusive behavior and set boundaries can be agonizing for the injured individual. Furthermore, societal narratives of forgiveness and redemption may pressure victims into reconciling with their abusers prematurely, without addressing the underlying issues or ensuring their safety. This can perpetuate a cycle of abuse and enable further harm, as the perpetrator’s remorse may be transient or manipulative rather than genuine. This also furthers the trauma bond between the two, making the need for space and boundaries all the more difficult.

woman of color in abusive relationship

Role of Trauma Therapy

Trauma therapy plays a crucial role in empowering survivors to identify and address the impact of IPV on their lives. By providing a safe and supportive space, trauma-informed therapists can help survivors navigate the complex emotions, triggers, and cognitive distortions that result from experiencing abuse. Through techniques such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, mindfulness, and somatic experiencing, survivors can gradually reconnect with their bodies, reclaim their sense of agency, and establish healthier boundaries in future relationships. Moreover, trauma therapy facilitates the exploration of personal needs and wants, which may have been suppressed or invalidated during the abusive relationship. By fostering self-awareness and self-compassion, survivors can cultivate resilience and redefine their sense of identity beyond the victim-perpetrator dynamic. Additionally, trauma therapy equips survivors with coping strategies and resources to cope with triggers, manage symptoms of PTSD, and rebuild their support networks. The process of coming back to yourself after engaging in abuse can be lengthy, painful, and confusing, but you deserve to belong to yourself first. Reach out here. Contact | WOC Therapy

In conclusion, addressing intimate partner violence requires a nuanced understanding of the complexities involved, including societal attitudes, individual psychology, and the role of trauma. Overcoming the reluctance to recognize various forms of abuse and supporting survivors in their journey towards healing and empowerment is essential in creating a safer and more compassionate society. Through trauma therapy and advocacy efforts, we can challenge harmful narratives, amplify survivor voices, and foster a culture of accountability, empathy, and respect within intimate relationships.