Counseling and Domestic Violence
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You may experience long-term emotional scars if you are the victim of abuse. While recovering from domestic violence and its effects can be a challenging process, a qualified counselor can go a long way towards helping you to move on with your life in a positive way.
Why You May Need Counseling
Many survivors of domestic violence experience:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Substance abuse
- Mental health conditions caused by stress
- An ongoing feeling of being in danger
- Disconnection from the world
These symptoms are common. They are nothing to be embarrassed about. Counseling can help you to deal with these lingering feelings and the emotional consequences of domestic violence. Counseling can ultimately help you to complete the healing process.
How Can Counseling Help You
Talking about your emotional reaction to domestic violence and about the symptoms you are experiencing can help you to learn coping techniques. It can also relieve the emotional burden you are carrying.
Sharing with friends and family members can be a positive first step in moving past the lasting effects of domestic abuse. However, speaking with a trained counselor is typically the best solution. A counselor will have the knowledge and skill to help make sure the abuser’s actions no longer impact your life.
Counselors who help domestic violence patients are never judgmental. They can listen and help you to work through the things that you experienced as a victim. They can provide you with a safe environment to share your thoughts, fears and feelings. They will keep your discussions completely confidential.
With the help of a counselor, you can learn to recognize and cope with the lingering emotional scars that domestic violence has caused. You can learn to respond to your emotions, work through them and eliminate the fear and sadness from your life.
Your counselor will give you the tools to empower yourself and heal from the abuse you experienced.
Counseling for Victims of Sexual Violence
Domestic abuse often encompasses acts of sexual violence. Remember: You always have the right to say no to a sexual encounter – even if you are married or in a committed relationship with someone. If your partner forces sexual acts on you without your consent, this is a form of sexual violence. It is wrong.
Sexual violence can be a very difficult type of abuse to recover from – especially when a trusted partner violated you. However, counseling can help you to recover from the trauma of sexual violence and put the abuse behind you.
Remember the Survivor’s Bill of Rights if you have been victimized by sexual assault:
- You have the right to be believed and given the same credibility of any other crime victim.
- You have the right to ask for help and receive courteous and efficient treatment.
- You have the right to be treated with respect and dignity and without prejudice based on race, gender, religion, occupation, lifestyle, sexual orientation or age.
- You have the right to ask questions and be given accurate information presented to you in a manner that you can understand.
- You have the right to change your mind and the right to make your own decisions.
- You have the right to get help from others and to ask for and receive support.
- You have the right to heal.
Individual and group counseling can help you to cope with the emotional damage that sexual violence can cause. You can seek help not only from counselors who specialize in domestic violence but also from rape crisis and victim’s services.
Finding a Counselor in Your Area
Many shelters and organizations that provide assistance to domestic violence victims offer counseling services. Group counseling and one-on-one counseling can be beneficial. This counsel generally is available for free to domestic violence victims.
The N.C. Council for Women has information on domestic violence programs for women and on intervention programs for batterers or abusers who are seeking to change their abusive behavior.
You can visit the Interactive Programs directory to find appropriate counseling services in your area.
You can also visit the website Safe Horizon. This is the largest provider of domestic violence services in the country. It provides experienced counselors and a domestic violence hotline that you can call at any time. There are also many local providers, such as Tree of Life Counseling, that help survivors in both heterosexual and LGBT relationships.
It is generally not recommended that you participate in couples counseling with an active abuser. This type of counseling is designed to solve relationship problems. Abuse is not a relationship problem.
Another good resource is A Practical Guide for Domestic Violence Survival located on the Legal Aid of North Carolina, Domestic Violence Prevention Initiative website.