Dear Michelle:

Is there ever a time when its okay to help the abuser in a domestic violence relationship or should people shun the abuser and only focus their efforts on helping the alleged victim? -Clueless in Seattle

Dear Clueless,

Never one to take things at face value, I try to gather facts from all parties involved when there appears to be a dramatic event whether that event is being told via news media or in family drama.  Sometimes people perceive events very differently and as we have seen in so many situations that unfold in our daily lives, circumstance surrounding events are very often painted differently by different people.

When it comes to domestic violence, situations must be approached very delicately.  In the United States there is a hotline number which is 1-800-799-7233 and there are highly-trained advocates who are available to talk confidentially with anyone experiencing domestic violence.  In my experience both in my personal life and in my professional life which involves counseling and advocating for mutual respect in relationships, I have found that many are unaware of the roles they may take on which might trigger patterns of misuse of power, including what many experts have described as a form of a dance.

Although many would see the abuser, especially when there is physical abuse involved, as a monster who deserves to be shunned, I prefer to look to try to understand the origin of the behavior.  I often find that many in the roles of domestic violence [ whether that violence is emotional or physical ] are playing out unconscious roles that have been described in the drama triangle model known as Karpman’s drama triangle.  This triangle which has been described in, “Fairy tales and script drama analysis” by Dr. Stephen Karpman, MD in 1968, Transactional Analysis Bulltein 26 (7): 39-43 describes a social model involving a victim, rescuer, and persecutor.

Since the psychology of domestic violence and human behavior is very complicated, I think it makes total sense to help all parties involved in a domestic violence pattern, with the help and guidance of professionals who are judgment free and look to get to the core root of the problems.  Of course, its easy to see the female as the victim especially when physical abuse is alleged, because women are very often smaller in size, and its not appropriate for men to exert physical violence on a woman.  Yet, still in my opinion, there should be respect for the complexity of the matter and all parties should be helped in a way that might allow for constructive growth.  Of course, in an ideal world this help would be readily available, and I tend to be idealistic when it comes to matters of the heart. Domestic Violence is no joke though, and what matters most is the safety and well being of the victims and children who might be affected by the violence, and as I shared earlier I would solicit the help of experts to get guidance, especially when you think someone might be in immediate danger.