Risk Assessment for Lethality in Domestic Violence Cases
- Leaving an Abusive partner
- Leaving an Abusive partner for another partner
- Stalking: One Study indicated that 76% percent of female intimate partner murder victims had reported being stalked to the police.
- Rape or other forms of Forced Sex
- Intimate partner physical assault
- Threats to Kill
- Prior Attempts to Strangle
- Escalating Physical Violence over Time
- Threatening partner with a knife or a gun
- Multiple forms of abuse
- Presence of firearm in the house
- Threatening to shoot pet or person the victim cares about
- Cleaning, holding, or loading a gun during an argument or during time when tension is high
- Firing a gun during an argument
- Short Courtships
- Male abuser not the father of children in the household
- Abuse during pregnancy
- Use of Illegal Drugs
- Estrangement from a controlling partner
- Separating from an abusive partner after living with them, especially If abusive partner is highly controlling
- Highly controlling partner
- Injury to family pet 
Risk Markers for Severe Injury
- Alcohol or other drug use
- Intermittent Employment or Recent Unemployment
In all domestic violence cases, there is a significant overlap of domestic violence and other criminality, both violent and non violent.
- Under optimal conditions, with prompt response by officials and continued oversight, a prior arrest for a domestic violence charge can have an inhibiting effect.
- Having never cohabitated with partner.
- Electronic Monitoring of Abuser
 McFarlane, J., J. Campbell, and S. Wilt. “Stalking and Intimate Partner Femicide.” Homicide Studies 3(4) (November 1999): 300-316, NCJ 179872. http://www.ncjrs.gov/App/Publications/abstract.aspx?ID=179872
 National Institute of Justice. “Practical Implications of Current Domestic Violence Research: For Law Enforcement, Prosecutors and Judges.” (Published April 2009): http://www.nij.gov/topics/crime/intimate-partner-violence/practical-implications-research/pages/toc.aspx
 Jacquelyn C. Campbell, PhD, RN, et al. “Risk Factors for Femicide in Abusive Relationships: Results From a Multisite Case Control Study,”(2003 July; 93(7): 1089–1097, Am J Public Health. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1447915/
 Danger Assessment, http://www.dangerassessment.com/Publications.aspx
 Connecticut restores a program that used GPS to track high-risk domestic-violence offenders http://articles.courant.com/2012-06-13/news/hc-domestic-violence-gps-0614-20120613_1_gps-device-alvin-notice-tiana-notice.
A big part of healing is Changing the Focus. One of the challenges of responding to Emotional Abuse and recovering from Emotional Abuse is that Verbal abuse and other forms of emotional abuse focus the mind on the negative. In psychological terms, the emotional abuse orients the brain toward negativity. Some of the goals of emotional abuse are to throw you off balance, stun or shame you, or transfer blame. The solution involves reorienting, whether it’s responding differently to an emotional attack or recovering from a history of emotional abuse.
In this blog, I’d like to focus recovery by giving a few tips for Creating Shift from a history of emotional abuse. (A ToolKit for Healing covers responding to Verbal Abuse in detail.) Yes, the brain Is wired to respond to dangerous signals. It is also wired toward advantage and, in social creatures, toward sharing with others to benefit the whole, although the later habit usually also involves socialization. These brain habits can be diminished through lack of recovery from emotional abuse and repetitive emotional abuse.
Reorientlng from emotional abuse involves recovering the habit of wellbeing, of being at ease in one’s skin. When one is able to reorient, one recovers at sense of self-esteem and self-confidence. Here are some activities to practice on a regular basis:
Cultivate the habit of breathing deeply and evenly.
- Make a list of all the positive things that anyone has ever said about you. Update it regularly. “Take it out and review it whenever you feel stuck or down. Ask yourself, “Which one of these attributes would be most beneficial for me to embody now?” “What is the best way for me to embody this attribute(s) now?” “What essence(s) are revealed in these comments?” (Essences are qualities like Love, Peace, Wholeness, Joy, Serenity, Value, Truth, Power, Wisdom, Intelligence, Clarity, Creativity, Awe, Courage, Freedom and Presence.)
- Every night before you go to sleep, list 10 things that you enjoyed and appreciated about the day (or about your life). This practice helps with low grade anxiety that is interfering with sleep. If your mind tends to gravitate toward the problems in your life without finding solutions that trigger a sense of ease, this exercise is especially important for you.
- Learn to appreciate and accept complements. Breathe in the complement, smile, and say, “Thanks!” If there is a detail about whatever was complemented, say it. For instance, if an article of clothing is complemented, you might add, “It’s my favorite color.” Accepting complements is part of getting the good of life. And it’s also about connecting with others. People get stuck on whether they agree with the complement (especially if they are feeling out of sorts), and neglect the fact that receiving a complement means someone is trying to connect with you.
- A way to physical reorient from trauma in general is to look around and focus on physical objects that you find attractive or soothing. Focus on the details of one and then another, and then another, until you feel calm and centered. Your heart has stopped racing, your mind has stopped racing, the butterflies have stopped fluttering, your breathing is easy and relaxed, and your muscles are loose or have at least released their tight grip.
These are just a few ways of Changing the Focus and Creating Shift. What are yours?
What makes highly difficult relationship dissolutions extra difficult?
Protracted. Reasonable people attempt to get through a divorce as efficiently as possible and with as little drama as possible. They often seek mediation. An abusive person often continues to abuse their partner through the divorce process regardless of whether mediation or the court system is involved.
Abusive partners will use the divorce process to punish their partner economically. Examples are delaying signing financial documents, hiding financial documents, sabotaging the sale of the home, pressuring their partner to sign a financial document that is not in their best interests, etc. are a few examples of economic abuse tactics used by abusive partners. Prolonging the Divorce uncessisarily and pecayune tangents is a common way of economically punishing the other partner, even though both suffer.
Protracted custody battles. The abusive partner fights for sole custody of the chidren to get revenge on the other parent, who usually is the more nurturing and constructive of the two parents. Triangulation of the children – putting children in the middle is common. This does not mean that parents who ask for sole custody are abusive – many are legitimately trying to protect their children from physical, sexual, and psychological harm. Nor does it mean that parents who attempt to help their children process feelings about abusive behavior are triangulating. There are ways to do this that focus on the behavior and the child’s feelings, but don’t bad mouth the other parent. These parents usually enlist professional help for their children if they can afford it.
Abusive partners lie about their partners blatantly, but often present better in person than their partner (who may present confused, uncertain, depressed or anxious due to the chronic stress of living with an abusive person). Court officials, counselors, guardians ad litem, etc. can be swayed by the abuser’s charm. Their arrogance sometimes passes as confidence.
Abusive partners stalk their estranged partners, physically or via technology and the court system.
Abusive partners may physically threaten or physically abuse their partners.
Abusive partners refuse to be reasonable and make unreasonable demands in ways that are unusual, even for a divorce.
And of course, when both parties are abusive as a style of relating, a highly contentious divorce will result. Note that when even one party is personality disordered, divorces usually get very contentious. The abused party often has to “fight” very hard for the welfare of the children and basic financial security. A mistaken belief is that if a divorce is contentious, both parties are equally at fault or equally dysfunctional. Abusers can be male or female.
Length of time of the relationship – Gray Divorces usually involved complex separation of property and emotions.
If you are in involved in a difficult divorce, it’s important to assemble a profesional support team, including an emotional support.
(Note: Published originally on http://toolkitforhealing.com/11.html by Noreen Wedman 2008, published now with updates)
Do you find yourself questioning your relationship? Counseling can help resolve relationship issues or help you sort out whether it is better for you to leave the relationship. Although the list is written using the word partner, many of the problems signal serious problems in any significant relationship.
1. There is a pattern of sexual, emotional, physical, or financial abuse. Any sexual or physical abuse in a relationship is a signal that counseling is urgently needed.
2. Your self-esteem has deteriorated as a result of being in this relationship.
3. Your relationship feels like a contest, battlefield, or some other interminable game.
4. Nothing you do seems to please your partner.
5. You don’t have fun together.
6. You don’t feel respected or don’t respect your partner.
7. Issues don’t get resolved in a way that brings you closer together.
8. S/he maintains that the problems in the relationship are mainly your fault, yet you are usually the one on the receiving end of the abuse or both of you are abusive.
9. Your partner refuses go to counseling or work on his/her issues.
10. You don’t enjoy talking with your partner.
11. Your children are traumatized by your relationship.
12. Infidelity is not a deathblow to a relationship, but it is important to resolve it. It may indicate some problem with the relationship, a sexual addiction, or a childhood trauma/abandonment issue.
13. Sexless relationship. Physical intimacy is important to a healthy partner relationship.
14. Major problems like addiction and personality disorders will destroy a relationship without major intervention. If you have spent years with a person who is chemically dependent or very difficult, and s/he still hasn’t changed, it may be time to consider how much more you are willing to invest.
15. Your child is being abused by your partner.
16. You fantasize about injuring or murdering your partner or wish your partner were dead. You fantasize about Divorce or your spouse threatens you with divorce (whether they seem serious or not).
17. Some life events often require counseling for successful negotiation of the life passage in a way that keeps the relationship intact. Examples include death of a child, serious illness, or loss of a job.Sometimes these issues get resolved. Sometimes, the issues become destroy the relationship. If your relationship has even one of the above issues, you have probably done some serious procrastination. It is time to resolve the issues or move on in as honorable a way as possible (or, in the case of leaving some abusers, with as little damage as possible).
You may wish to see an Individual Counselor to sort out if it is even safe for you to try couples counseling if there is significant abuse in the relationship. Either Individual or Couples Counseling can help you sort out whether the relationship is salvageable, although resolving Couples Issues best benefit by a combination of Couples and Individual Counseling. Resolving problems of interrelating requires couples counseling. Sometimes the problem is that one or both parties have a significant mental health issue, which requires Individual counseling to manage. Couples or Family counseling can help relatives manage and cope with the process of healing to increase the likelihood of success. If there is physical or sexual violence, or a pattern of emotional abuse in the relationship, it is safer and sometimes more effective for both parties to get Individual Counseling until a pattern of safety has been established in the relationship. One big cue that Individual Counseling is warranted is if you answer, “Yes,” to the question, “Are you afraid of your partner or spouse?”
We are taught from the time we are young to share and share alike. We are taught to play fair and negotiate and cooperate so that everyone gets what they need and no one is left out. Somehow, bullies, including emotionally abusive adults, learn another lesson. They learn that if they ask for more than what is fair, more than what they deserve, that they will often get their way if they are adamant. Meanwhile the other person loses while getting some fake token compromise. Meeting a bully halfway doesn’t work because they have asked for way more than is fair and they will still get what they want – often at your expense.
Bullies don’t discuss or negotiate – they control. Besides insisting on more than what is fair, they have other strategies. They may add an innocous exception, which they latter use to justify breaking a part or all of the agreement. Or they may flat out refuse to honor an agreement, arguing the they thought you meant something else or that they remembered the agreement differently. Just the negotiation involved in everyday boundary setting and problem solving with a spouse or partner who bullies is fraught with frustration.
The average person cannot conceive of the extreme need for protection behind the insatiable demands of a bully. It can be demands for anything – power, money, sex, fame, time, etc. They don’t negotiate fairly because they have learned that their strategy works and because they’re terrified of the vulnerability of losing. AND, they recognize your weaknesses: your tendency to assume that the other person has good intentions and your penchant for being overly fair and agreeable, which the bully is highly skilled at manipulating. They also know your penchant for self-doubt and how to manipulate it.
Bullies are also skilled in the manipulation of the public’s idea of fairness. Bullies try to make you look unfair and have no qualms about accusing you of being unreasonable when it is they who are unreasonable. They know your fear of confrontation because relying on your fear has been a survival strategy for them. Survival for the bully means besting others, which is way more effective for getting what they want than the victim’s strategy of just getting by. But you don’t have to have a history of abuse to be cheated by a bully. It’s just worse for you if you’ve haven’t healed your victim strategies. Bullies bully and don’t negotiate because it rewards them immensely. It “works” for them, at least in the short run, but it harms others.
And if all else fails, the bully will retaliate unfairly. A fear of confrontation is costly when dealing with a bully. Plus, with their relentlessness, for the sake of peace and quiet, many people living with bullies relent more than they know is right. They also pick and chose their battles, which is not an unreasonable survival strategy. In order to confront a bully, you have to steal yourself for the consequences. They will accuse you of being the selfish one. While that feels deeply personal, it is mostly a manipulative survival strategy. They may punish you in a variety of ways, and it is important to be prepared for that reality. It will be unpleasant for awhile and keep an eye out for your long term goals. (Of course, if they are physically dangerous, it is important to plan an exit strategy.)
At the beginning of the Chapter Verbal Self-Defense in A ToolKit for Healing, there is this guideline:
One doesn’t argue. One doesn’t explain. One doesn’t negotiate. It’s about setting boundaries and serving notice that you will not tolerate abuse.
As long as you are explaining yourself to the bully, as long as you are dealing with the literal content and not the context of what they are saying, and as long as you are trying to negotiate as if you are dealing with someone negotiating in good faith, you will be ineffective in dealing with bullies. They will know that you are not wise to their game, which automatically gives them the winning cards. Bullies have to be held accountable.
With bullies, you need to start by calling them on their game – calling them on their tactics and unfairness and manipulation – that is to say call them on exactly what they are doing. Describe the game. Be prepared for their ridicule or to turn and be sweetly or deceptively manipulative. Then you have to be adamant and stick to your truth. This is calling game is up: “We are not playing that game anymore.” When you negotiate with them, there is a line that you must not cross – Insist on fairness. Initially, when you negotiate, you will probably have to ask for far more than is reasonable or that you could hope for. Match their outrageousness with outrage at their selfishness, their brazenness with bravery, their implacability with firmness, and their rigidity with diligence for what is right. In addition to boundary setting, you may also have to make more unilateral decisions than you would wish for in a relationship for your own sanity and well-being. Bullies will accuse you of being unfair. Don’t buy it. It is for your own good and their own good.
Humans have let bullies rule for a long time. We elect bullies to political office and hire them as CEOs, mistaking their brazenness for strength and their cunning for wisdom. They well know how to use the masses. But fortunately, the masses grew up believing in being fair. Bringing the case to the public for goodness and fairness can be used to stem their power. Bullies can be emotionally, economically, sexually and physically violent: Sometimes you have to call for reinforcements because they are difficult and dangerous to deal with alone.
©Noreen Wedman, M.S. 2013
Divorcing after Decades in an Abusive Relationship involves complex grieving. There is deep regret for staying so long, shame for not recognizing the abuse earlier, confusion, and a deep sense of betrayal and rejection. Then there is the incredible stress of divorcing an abusive spouse who manipulates the legal system to further abuse and stalk their partner, even if the abusing partner asked for the separation. These are “difficult divorces,” known as contentious divorces in legal circles. There is deep grief over the long years spent in a painful relationship with little in the way of emotional nurturing. There is deep grief over having much less time to create a satisfying new life and doubt and fear about their ability to create a new relationship that is loving.
Many of the participants have voiced the fear that they were the only one who stayed in an abusive relationship so long. The mirror effect of group is highly effective in breaking down the shame, isolation, and confusion shared by members. Group members sometimes exclaim, “Are you sure you didn’t marry my husband?” Group members benefit by learning ways to cope with abusive behavior during and after the divorce. And group members increase compassion for themselves as they feel compassion for each other’s suffering.
Typically, the abuser has mental health issues – often a personality disorder. The attachment issues of being abandoned, neglected, and abused at an early age fuel the persecutory behavior of the abuser during and after the divorce. People with personality disorders are deeply conflicted about attaching to another person. To the outside world the abuser may look very normal, but inside the relationship, the old terrors fuel abusive behavior. This is of course a sad, unfortunate situation for both parties and any children involved.
Unfortunately, people with personality disorders can be highly resistant to change. Because the abusive partner may look wonderful* to the outside world, the abused partner may not be believed when she* shares her difficulties. This further serves to isolate the abused partner. Inside emotionally abusive relationships, the abuse is relentless (although sometimes subtle) and abused partners can find themselves in a painful, isolating Catch-22. Group breaks down the sense of isolation and helps heal the pain.
Group helps members to see these patterns and break through the confusion and brain washing in ways that are hard to do through individual counseling alone, although a combination of individual and group counseling is ideal for healing. No longer confused, group members can see themselves more clearly, separate themselves from the abuse, and start reclaiming their worthiness and identity.
*Men can be in emotionally or otherwise abusive relationships too. Personality disorders are fairly common among men and women. I see men in my practice who are in emotionally abusive relationships. Sometimes, they join the Circle of Healing group. In some cases, both parties have personality disorders or other complex mental health issues.
*Wonderful: Under close examination, this perception by the abused partner often doesn’t hold out as the abuser often has friends that have serious issues, may have acquired a number of enemies, and be involved in unethical behavior. The abuser is perceived as wonderful by his/her group of friends, which the client sometimes shares and may lose in the divorce.
The loss of a young life is so devastating. We pour such work and love into parenting. Then, to have the gifts that that child held for the future vanish is heart wrenching. The only word I can think of to describe the death of a child by a senseless act of violence is “obscene” – something that should not be seen.
And yet it happened. It is in our awareness. While avoiding excessive trauma exposure regarding the murder of the children and adults at Newtown, it is also important to acknowledge the grief, pain & horror. It is a national tragedy that we live in a culture where we have both inadequate gun control & mental health care delivery that results in daily loss of life and frequent mass murders. As a culture, we have an opportunity to truly grieve the obscene loss of life at Newtown, & through grieving begin to transform. For, without doing the work of grieving the losses, without doing the work of resolving the trauma, Healing & Transformation cannot happen.
I am concerned that we are so focused on problem solving in response to the murder of the children that we don’t do the grieving. Resolutions to do something can trick the brain in thinking the problem is solved. The preoccupation with the horror can result in emotional numbing or be a distraction from deeper reflection. And the intent to change can serve the process of denial, averting attention from the distress caused by the losses. Focusing on resolution at the end of the grieving process is more likely to result in the kind of behaviors that result in real and lasting changes.
In other words, we may inadvertently undermine the intentions we have of effecting change. As difficult as it is to honestly acknowledge the pain, horror, anxiety, and sadness – without the awareness of the emotional distress, the psyche is not sufficiently informed to effect meaningful behavioral change. Without deep soul searching, this terrible event will fade into history with other terrible events, another media event until the next terrible, and often preventable, event happens. Moreover, we “forget” these events happen daily. The number of homicides in 2009 in the U.S. by firearms was 11,493. The number of suicides by firearms totaled 18,735. Countries with stricter gun laws have a fraction of the deaths by firearms. In half of all domestic violence cases, the abuser was depressed.
We can do better. And paradoxically, it starts with grieving.
There are two ways to ask yourself “What did I learn?” One way is ask, “Did I make a “technical” error and how can I prevent that same mistake in the future?” Much practical change & positive growth can come out of this approach.
You will get more satisfaction out of the change & growth if you also ask the second way: Is there was anything from that past experience that I didn’t get that I still want now? And how can I bring it into my life now? The second way also heals old hurts, (including trauma) at a deep level. This way also helps your set a new goal based on an authentic desire. You will be more likely to maniifest your new goal if it involves a state of being like love, joy, power, serenity, clarity, peace, freedom, wholeness, value, intelligence, courage, presence, openness, aliveness, etc.)
Sometimes we miss a window of opportunity for a specific kind of result. For example, there are time and training limited windows of opportunity to become a concert pianist, Olympic athlete, or celebrate 50 years of marriage, or even staying married to a specific person. If you figure out what you wanted to experience as a result of achieving that goal, you will be able to set a new goal that is obtainable now.
Part of desire to achieve the goal may be the pleasure derived from participation in the event. Using the example of being a concert pianist, it maybe the pleasure of music itself or the experience of expressing yourself musically. You may not have enjoyed the performer aspects at all. If you do enjoy performing, then there may be alternative venues where you can play. Most importantly, where does playing music “take you?” For example, you may experience deep joy, power, vitality, wholeness, peace, or some other quality that feels transcendent.
If you use the experience of regret over choices made that will make it improbable that you will ever celebrate a 50th anniversary, ask yourself, “What did I want out of that experience?” You may find that you wanted security, and been dismayed that the relationships increased insecurity emotionally, physically, or economically. Instead of looking outside of yourself for security, you may need to find ways of being more secure in yourself. You may also need to come to terms with the reality that nothing is permanently secure in life. Developing inner strength to cope with the reality of impermanence in life and a faith in the ways you are able to protect and provide for yourself may become the new goals.
Another possibility is that you desired the experienced of devoted love. While this may trigger some grief about love(s) lost, it also creates a stirring awakening of the opportunities that are still available to you. As you pursue the goal of developing a committed relationship with another person, you may find that the first task in achieving the form of the goal is to actively devote yourself to being more loving to yourself, to learning to tolerate vulnerability, or to being more committed to the gifts that you have to offer.
Viewing Your Life through “Kindsight” allows you to put the past to rest through self-compassion and asking deeper questions about what you truly desire. It avoids the ego traps inherent in focusing on any specific form of a goal by focusing on states of being. And it all starts with self-compassion.
©2012 Noreen Wedman
from being a “Couples Only” Holiday
Who says Valentine’s Day has to be just for couples? I loved Valentine’s Day as a child because everyone gave everyone else a Valentine’s Day card and there was just a tantalizing possibility of a flirtation. Why not make Valentine’s Day a day of celebrating love in all forms? Even, if one is in a partner relationship, the “ship” just might not be in the best “shape” on February 14. With all of the above in mind, I made a list of suggestions to make Valentine’s Day Happier for Everyone.
1. It’s a great day to love yourself better.
2. Make a list of positive things that people have said about you (and keep it for future reference and to make additions).
3. Pamper yourself. Schedule a massage, Reiki session, or spa visit.
4. Make a list of 5 things that you enjoy doing, but routinely deny yourself. Then do as many as you can fit in on that day.
5. Engage in a creative activity: draw, paint, sew, build something, sing, play music…
6. If single and looking, send a Happy Valentine’s Day wish to the people that you have been admiring on the Internet.
7. Contact people who have touched your heart and wish them a lovely day and share something that you have appreciated about them.
8. Gather your single friends together and have a dinner. On one of my more memorable Valentine’s days, one of my female friends reserved a room at a nice sushi restaurant for her female friends and asked us to bring something to read on the subject of love.
9. Do something unconventional, like go for a hike with your partner or with friends, to break through the expectations surrounding V-day.
10. If you have specific wishes, discuss them ahead of time and make plans. Waiting too late invites disappointment. It is almost impossible to get reservations at a decent restaurant the day before, much less on, Valentine’s Day.
11. If you are breaking up or have broken up with someone who is abusive to you or who is not good for you, you risk reopening the door by sending a Valentine’s day greeting. If they are dangerous to you, consider the words of my friend Jim McGregor, who wrote in “I Love You Enough to Let You Go” (a pamphlet on recovering from codependency), “I love you enough to never see you again.”
12. Consider make it an ecologically friendly holiday. I found a lot of sites just by searching “green Valentine’s Day.”
13. Make room for practicing random acts of kindness on Valentine’s Day.
14. If the whole idea of Valentine’s Day annoys you, consider volunteering. The earth and the people on it need a lot of love.
Sometimes, it is not possible to have a Happy Valentine’s Day, so give yourself permission to have a day of solace, and cry, if it helps.
© 2009-2013 Noreen Wedman