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"But he's their father!" Safe Alternatives for Children
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last section, discussed an intervention for unraveling guilt.
In this section, discusses
an aspect of the guilt related to children.
Case Study: Michelle
Michelle, age 37, discussed
in the previous section, probably is similar to a client you are currently treating.
Like many battered women, she believes that she deserved the physical abuse she
received from her husband, Steve.
Steve's battering of Michelle
did not start until after the birth of their third child. Michelle stated, "Before
our third child Maddie was born, Steve would just shake me really angrily and
walk away. But after Maddie, his rages were worse and he would slap my face so
hard I ended up falling to the floor. When I turned away to protect myself, he
would pound on my back and shoulders. Then, once he had me on the ground, he would
start kicking me. That's how I ended up in the hospital the first time."
I asked Michelle why it was necessary for her to stay in the abusive relationship.
Michelle stated, "I could never leave Steve. He is the father of my children
and he loves them. I can't deprive the children of their own father! I'd feel
terrible keeping them apart."
♦ Three Common Concerns
As I list the three specific concerns
why Michelle felt leaving Steve would be harmful to her children, think of your
"Michelle" to see if she has some of the same guilty feelings.
1. Visitation Rights: Michelle stated, "Steve's violent behavior
might prevent him from getting visitation rights to see the children. I'm afraid
that the children might blame me if they don't see their father."
2. Safety: Even if Steve did get visitation rights, Michelle felt
that she would need someone to protect her when she brought the children to see
him. However, she didn't think it was good for the children to have supervised
-- Concern 3. Court: Michelle stated, "The
children were often the only witnesses when Steve abused me. I'm too afraid that
asking them to testify in court against their own father would be too harmful
to them emotionally."
The more Michelle went over her visitation,
safety, and court concerns in her mind, the more guilty she felt. Michelle confided,
"There are times when I think about leaving and I get scared. So I tell myself,
things aren't so bad here. They could be worse. I have already hurt the children
enough; I feel bad about even thinking of leaving."
♦ 3 Safe Alternatives for Children
As I discussed
Michelle's fears and guilt with her, we also discussed three possible alternatives
she could consider to safeguard her children's physical and emotional well being
if she left Steve.
-- 1. Meet Steve only in public places. Michelle
could bring the children to Steve for visitation in places where there are people
constantly coming and going, or by bringing a friend along. This might make Steve
pause before acting out his anger in front of those who are not family members
and could serve as a witness.
-- 2. Limit the children's involvement
in the court process. By law, minor children cannot be interviewed by lawyers
without a parent's permission. However, Michelle could have the children testify
on camera, meaning that they would talk to the judge alone in his chambers.
Document abusive incidents for evidence. Another way Michelle could avoid
having the children testify is to take photos of her injuries and keep records
of how, when, and where the incidents occurred. This way, she would have documented
evidence without needing the children's involvement in court.
In this section, we discussed three plans regarding visitation, safety and the courts. Do you have
a client who is staying in a battering relationship because they are unclear about
alternatives they have related to visitation, safety and court testimony? In your
next session, do you need to evaluate the need for providing more specific procedural
In the next section, we will discuss the Power House Three that
occur with learned helplessness and result in failure expectancy; as well as the
intervention of Symptom Discovery.
What are three areas you might discuss to alleviate client guilt regarding
her children? To select and enter your answer go to .