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Risk Factors in Intimate Partner Violence
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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
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
♦ Negative Impact # 1 - Increased Batterer
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."
your client on medication or with a disability been inaccurately judged and thus
is unable to utilize certain services or resources?
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
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?"
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?"
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 .