As a trauma psychologist, I find that my greatest challenge in working with survivors of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) is contending with my automatic bias that the “happily ever after” includes my patient leaving his or her perpetrator. When my bias arises, I reflect on three truths I learned from my undergraduate employment at a battered women’s shelter.
- Most people go back.
- If he or she goes back, and you made it clear that you thought it wasn’t a good decision, the patient can’t return to you the next time.
- It will happen again.
And there are a couple truths I’ve learned since I worked at the shelter.
- Basic decisions become complicated when you consider all the repercussions.
- Leaving might not be the best decision.
- If he or she does leave, the resources often aren’t available, and there is no referral for “make someone feel safe and free.”
These last three are challenging because I am much more comfortable with the patient who decides to flee the abusive situation or engage in the legal fight.