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Section 4
Risk Factors in Intimate Partner Violence

Question 4 | Test | Table of Contents

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In the last section, we discussed Psychological Control and the role it played in leaving related to sexual dominance, social isolation, social humiliation, and a charming exterior.

In this section, we will be discussing mental health issues as a life-generated risk factor to battered women.

As you know, not every risk a battered woman considers when evaluating her abusive situation are batterer-generated. Life-generated risks and circumstances, such as mental health, financial limitations, racism, and other biases, are aspects of a battered woman's life over which she may have little or no control. Have you found, like I, that although battered women have no power over these life-generated risks, the risks still negatively impact her safety and her decisions to leave?

3 Negative Impacts of a Life-Generated Risk
Let's look at three negative impacts a life-generated risk had on Lorrie, a 55-year-old battered woman. After looking at these three negative impacts, I will provide you with a Risk Addressor Technique to help you identify life-generated risks in your battered client who is considering leaving.

♦ Negative Impact # 1 - Increased Batterer Control
Lorrie had been in psychotherapy and taking medication for depression for several years. Lorrie's partner, Phil, had beaten and raped Lorrie for the majority of their marriage and used Lorrie's life-generated risk of mental illness against her for control. In one session Lorrie stated, "One night I called the police, but Phil said to me, 'You had better tell them nothing happened, you crazy old bat. They would never believe a crazy woman anyway. They'd probably just cart you off to the loony bin.' When the police showed up I told them we'd just been in an argument, but that nothing had really happened. I didn't know what else to do."

As with many batterers, Phil was able to use Lorrie's medication against her to further his control over her. He used the threat that no one would believe her to keep her from telling the police what had really happened. As you know, a batterer may also control his partner by using a disability to humiliate her, or to threaten to keep her away from her children. Are you currently treating a client with a life-generated risk factor related to a physical or mental condition? If so, do you need to explore the impact of this risk factor and the impact this control tool has upon your client's decision to leave? Does she need to be provided with added validation like, "You are handling so much," or "I admire your strength."

♦ Negative Impact # 2 - Authority Unresponsiveness
In addition to increased batterer control, the life-generated risk of mental illness can also result in a second negative impact: authority unresponsiveness. Lorrie stated, "A few weeks later Phil was threatening to throw all my pills down the toilet, and when I started to go after them he started kicking me. I called the police again, but this time I told them everything. They believed me, too, until Phil told them that I was crazy. He showed them my prescription bottles and said that I just needed to take my medicine. So then the police just left me."

Has your client on medication or with a disability been inaccurately judged and thus is unable to utilize certain services or resources?

♦ Negative Impact #3 - Court Leniency
Lorrie eventually left Phil. Lorrie stated, "I did everything the prosecutor said. I wanted Phil to do jail time for what he'd done to me. But, the prosecutor decided to plea bargain my case to a lesser charge with a sentence of 6 months probation. He said he bargained because my 'mental history' made me a bad witness."

Using the Risk Addressor Checklist

Here is a check list for you to consider with you mentally or physically handicapped client regarding supporting her decision to leave:

  • Do I understand her perspective regarding her mental or physical impairment?
  • Do I understand how her abusive partner may manipulate such risks to further his control.
  • I ask Lorrie, "Besides the trouble with Phil, what are you worried about now? What do you think would happen to you if you tried to leave?"
  • Are you seeing your client through their eyes? Are you aware of the reality of bias and discrimination she is facing? Do you need to ask you client "When did you feel you were discriminated against?"

Are you currently treating an obese client, for example, who suffers from increased batterer control, authority unresponsiveness, and court leniency because of a mental or physical condition that is out of her control?

The next section will take a different focus regarding battering control technique by examining the role the double-bind or paradox plays in your client's decision to leave.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Ehrensaft, M. K., Cohen, P., & Johnson, J. G. (2006). Development of personality disorder symptoms and the risk for partner violence. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 115(3), 474–483.

Sijtsema, J. J., Stolz, E. A., & Bogaerts, S. (2020). Unique risk factors of the co-occurrence between child maltreatment and intimate partner violence perpetration. European Psychologist, 25(2), 122–133.

South, S. C., Boudreaux, M. J., & Oltmanns, T. F. (2021). Personality disorders and intimate partner aggression: A replication and extension in older, married couples. Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment, 12(1), 70–80.

Taft, C. T., O'Farrell, T. J., Doron-LaMarca, S., Panuzio, J., Suvak, M. K., Gagnon, D. R., & Murphy, C. M. (2010). Longitudinal risk factors for intimate partner violence among men in treatment for alcohol use disorders. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 78(6), 924–935.

Willie, T. C., Powell, A., Callands, T., Sipsma, H., Peasant, C., Magriples, U., Alexander, K., & Kershaw, T. (2019). Investigating intimate partner violence victimization and reproductive coercion victimization among young pregnant and parenting couples: A longitudinal study. Psychology of Violence, 9(3), 278–287.

What are three negative impacts a mental or physical handicap may have upon a battered woman's decision to leave? To select and enter your answer go to Test

Section 5
Table of Contents