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You Made Me Hit You! Interventions with Male Batterers

Section 5
Teaching Four Choice Points to Avoid Violence

Question 5 | Answer Booklet | Table of Contents

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After Corey, age 24, was introduced to the concept of Red Flags discussed in the previous section, he stated, "Hitting Wendy was the only way I could shut her upand get her to listen to me!" Corey had been arrested for punching Wendy in the stomach and twisting her arm until it became fractured. This incident of abuse occurred one Friday night after Wendy said she would be going to a movie with her girlfriends instead of staying home with Corey. In the group, I asked Corey what were some ways of Expanding Choice Points to his violence.

As you know, a variety of Choice Points are taught in Group Intervention sessions in general. However, I have found there are four useful Choice Points for batterers. These Choice Points are: Distractions, Rules of Engagement, Roots of Anger, and Cognitive Restructuring. Think for a moment, as I describe each of these four Choice Points, consider whether they might be appropriate for your next session with your physically and/or verbally abusive client.

4 Useful Choice Points

♦ Choice Point #1 - Distractions

As you know, clients can use distractions when a situation is escalating and they need to cool off before acting out. Corey found it helpful to go outside and work on his car. This distraction gave Corey the opportunity to exert some of his energy surrounding issues that made him anxious. For example, this dissipated some of his anxiety regarding Wendy spending some Friday nights out with her friends.

Corey stated, "I just wanted Wendy to know where I was coming from. I wanted to get my point across. I wanted her to know I wasn't going to stand for her ignoring me." By using a distraction, Corey could allow himself to cool down before continuing his discussion with Wendy. I also suggested to Corey that he might mention to Wendy the issues that bothered him right when they started feeding what he began to call his "angry monster." This way, those bothersome issues, or "angry monster feeders," would be less likely to build up and reach a boiling point.

♦ Choice Point #2 - Rules of Engagement
When Corey began to become aware of his situational, emotional, and cognitive Red Flags, mentioned in a previous section, he was able to more readily recognize moments when he would become angry and abusive. He and Wendy began taking steps to avoid abusive situations. In other words, Wendy and Corey came up with some Rules of Engagement.
For example, the first rule of engagement they decided upon was to set time limits for discussions that could lead to arguments.

Another rule of engagement was a "no yelling rule." Corey's awareness of yelling was crucial because he had started to notice that shouting matches between Wendy and himself, like the one on the Friday night of his arrest, often led to his punching and arm-twisting. A third rule of engagement was that they would attempt to discuss problems that could potentially lead to physical abuse in a designated area that offered distance between the two. For example, if Corey and Wendy sat at opposite ends of the kitchen table and did not allow themselves to get up until the conflict was resolved, there was a safety zone between them.

Are you currently treating a client who might benefit from Rules of Engagement such as: setting time limits on arguments, decreasing yelling, and discussing issues across a table rather than face to face? As you know, at first clients put down these suggestions with sarcasms like "oh yeah, I'm really going to look at my watch when we discuss the bills!" However, when reminded of the possibility of jail time, have you found some clients find the motivation to consider using Rules of Engagement dramatically increases?

♦ Choice Point #3 - Roots of Anger
As you know, male socialization encourages men to hide their emotions. However, it is extremely important for men who batter to become aware of the emotions they feel that lead them to abuse. Here is how I handle the problems that male socialization presents in the therapy session. I encourage my clients to identify the emotions that they mistakenly call anger.

For example, Corey stated "I get really pissed when Wendy spends time with her friends!" Corey's next statement showed that the feelings beneath the anger were jealousy and rejection. Corey stated, "Wendy doesn't care if I'm at home alone on a Friday night or not. Only sluts go out at night by themselves!" Think of a client you are currently treating. What do you think his or her response will be when you ask, "What emotion do you feel is under the anger, or at its root?"

♦ Choice Point #4 - Cognitive Restructuring
As you know, cognitive restructuring helps batterers like Corey to begin analyzing and trying to change the thought processes that lead to abuse. Corey stated, "Now, when Wendy goes out, I try not to let myself think about the negative, like that other men are seeing her out without a boyfriend. Sometimes I can remember that maybe she is doing what she said she was doing - just going out for dinner or a movie with her girlfriends." Think of a batterer you are currently treating. Would he be receptive and insightful enough to benefit from cognitive restructuring? If so, what are his cognitions like now? And what would a result of the restructuring be?

In the next section we will discuss the differences between batterers who are overcontrolling and those who are undercontrolling.

QUESTION 5
What are the four major ways of Expanding Choice Points to prevent a battering incident? To select and enter your answer go to Answer Booklet.


Answer Booklet
Section 6
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