Domestic Violence

  • Medical Author:
    Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD

    Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

How is intimate partner violence treated?

Getting and keeping the victim of domestic violence safe is an essential part of treating domestic abuse. Many legal and mental-health professionals who work with victims recommend the development of safety plans, both for home and in the workplace. Such a plan includes encouraging the victim to keep a charged cell phone in his or her possession at all times, maintaining active peace, protective, or restraining orders against the batterer, keeping a copy of the order at all times, along with distributing copies of the order to the victim's supervisor, workplace reception area, and security, as well as to schools and day-care providers for children. It is important for battered men and women to realize that abusers sometimes escalate in their abusiveness when first served with a protective order and to take appropriately heightened safety precautions. Other elements of a safety plan may include the victim changing his or her work site, parking, or work schedule, having an emergency contact person, and establishing danger signals to alert neighbors or coworkers that the victim is in immediate danger.

One well-known approach to treating domestic abuse families is the Duluth Model. It is also called the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project (DAIP) and focuses on women as the victims and men as the perpetrators of intimate partner violence. This treatment model takes the approach of empowering women by providing them information, resources, and support, which has been found to significantly decrease the violence in victims' lives over time. It also uses legal resources as a means of keeping women safe and holding males who engage in battering accountable for their actions. Regarding specific treatment for batterers, compliance with multiple counseling sessions may decrease the likelihood that domestic violence perpetrators repeat the behavior but these results continue to require research due to the small numbers of perpetrators studied so far. While there is little research on the effectiveness of support groups to treat victims of intimate partner violence, since this form of treatment has been found to improve the lives of sufferers of many conditions, it is often part of the care for people who have been in abusive relationships.

Having professionals provide victims of domestic violence with information about domestic-violence shelters and other housing, financial, and other service supports in the community has been found to greatly decrease the amount of violence that victims of intimate partner abuse experience after leaving the abuser. For couples with whom alcoholism or other excessive alcohol use is an issue, diagnosis of that illness and marital therapy that has alcoholism as a focus has also been found to be effective.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/5/2016

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