From coercive control through to physical and sexual violence
On average, two women a week in the UK are murdered by their partner or ex-partner. While much of the clinical literature focuses on physical violence in domestic abuse (DA), there is increasing evidence that power, control, coercion, and emotional abuse is used to control partners in intimate relationships. This workshop, which would be especially relevant for psychotherapists, counsellors, psychologists, and psychiatrists, aims to enhance our comprehension of DA, its impact and long-term effects on survivors; while explaining how, as practitioners, we can work effectively using the principles of safe trauma therapy, psychoeducation and stabilisation to restore control and to allow for the processing of the DA narrative. It will look at the spectrum of DA, including the dynamics of control and coercion in emotional abuse, and the role of shame and humiliation that silences those who are being domestically abused.
The workshop will consider the use of physical force, sexual violence, financial abuse, spiritual abuse, and revenge porn, and identify those most at risk of interpersonal violence and DA. Emphasis will be placed on understanding the processes involved in DA such as grooming victims, the cycle of abuse, the role of dissociation and thought blindness that supports the trauma bond which binds the couple. The aim is to understand how victims may present in practice, to identify signs and symptoms of DA and how they can be understood and supported, the role of attachment and fear of abandonment that underpins much of DA and how this manifests relationally both for the couple and practitioners working with DA. We also look at the importance of the therapeutic relationship in restoring relational worth, mitigating the de-humanising effects of DA and restoring autonomy and self-agency.
Conceptualising DA within the complex trauma framework, we consider the processing of the DA narrative and the facilitation of post-traumatic growth. By identifying the challenges of working with DA and introducing a range of therapeutic skills, practitioners will feel more equipped when working with survivors of DA and enhance their comprehension of the transformative effects of post-traumatic growth for both clients and practitioners.
Christiane Sanderson BSc, MSc. is a senior lecturer in Psychology at the University of Roehampton, of London with over 30 years of experience working with survivors of childhood sexual abuse and sexual violence.