Children should not be exposed to abuse in any household

While recognising why people remain in abusive relationships, I consider it unethical as a counsellor to support them over a long period in such a relationship. The role of the counsellor is for the well-being of his clients, and I think it is wrong to collude with them in remaining in a toxic environment. However, leaving is a long, painful and difficult process. Elaine Weiss’s stories reveal that some women remain for years in abusive relationships. One survivor put it at 8 years, 7 months and 21 days. I believe that my role as a counsellor is to listen to my clients’ story, empathise with their suffering, educate them on abuse, challenge them about remaining a victim, and assist them if they decide to leave. Fortunately, as Sandra Horley reminds us, 88% of abused women leave, following repeated assaults. It would probably be true to say that victims leave when staying becomes unendurable, and it becomes less painful to leave than to stay. Linda puts it well when she says
The decision to leave was the hardest, most devastating, decision of my life. Jack and I lost our home, and our possessions. I lost my husband who despite everything I still loved and cared for. And like I predicted he got worse when I left. He didn’t work at all, but went on welfare, and lost all respect for himself and everything around him.
Yet, however devastating it is, there are good reasons for leaving. It is appropriate to leave if the perpetrator refuses to admit that he/she is being abusive, continues to abuse, and is unwilling to get help. You owe it to yourself to look for some type of peace and happiness outside the abusive home. If you are being devalued, and treated as worthless, life is hardly worth living.
Linda decided to leave when her husband said that he would assault her father, who had confronted him about his behaviour. This threat seemed to make her realise that Stephen did not love her
I am extremely close to my father, and my husband knows that. Yet he was willing to hurt my beloved father, and didn’t care about me, and how that would make me feel, or didn’t care about my dad – a man nearly 3 times his age. I was sick to my stomach when I heard that. How could my husband, who was supposed to love me so much, threaten to physically hurt one of the most important people in my life? I think those few words he said that night on the phone about my father really set things clear in my head. He didn’t care about me. He was just an angry man, ready to inflict that anger on a man who was so good to him in the past. My father often got work for him, when he had none, and helped him out as much as he could. I left him the next day for the first time.
Adapted from Jim O’Shea’s book Abuse. Domestic Violence, Workplace and School Bullying published by Cork University Press

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