Other Forms of Intimate Partner Violence - Situational Violence71 (i.e., Fights)
A pattern of handling conflicts with violence, on the part of one or both partners.
Fights, arguments, disagreements.
How do fights differ from domestic abuse ?
- Viol ence is situation-specific and often minor, and does not escalate over time.
- One or both partners uses violence to gain control during a fight, but there is no ongoing pattern of coercion or intimidation between fights.
- Either partner may be afraid of the other during a fight, but neither one fears the other on an ongoing basis when they are not fighting.
- Violence may be mutual.72
- Partners may have roughly equal power in the relationship.
- Within a given relationship, situational violence usually occurs less often and with less regularity than domestic abuse does.
Consequences to targets
- Various; situational violence is usually not seen by either party as criminal behavior.
- Targets of situational violence are much less likely to suffer depression and PTSD than victims of domestic abuse.73
Implications for intervention
Resolving the conflict ends the fight – though it may not end a pattern of handling conflicts with violence. Couple counseling may be helpful.
Clinicians should always screen for coercive control in private interviews with each partner before agreeing to any request for couple counseling.
Caution! Both victims and abusers often describe incidents of domestic abuse as ‘fights.” While screening for coercive control, clinicians should not take that language at face value, but should inquire as to what usually happens during fights or arguments, as well as at other times. For the safety of victims, it is critical not to mistake domestic abuse for situational violence.
Questions to ask yourself if you are considering couple counseling
- Do you feel safe being honest in front of your partner?
- How does he/she react when confronted about unacceptable behavior?
- What has happened in the past when you’ve tried to work with your partner to resolve your conflicts?
- Are you afraid for your own safety or that of your children?
- If your partner was abusive in the past, but not currently, how confident are you that he/she has changed for good? How long has the behavior change lasted?
If you don’t feel safe, do not let yourself be pushed into couple counseling against your better judgment.
- You may want to talk over whether couple counseling is a good idea with an advocate at a local domestic violence program, or with your counselor, if you have one.
- If you decide to go ahead with couple counseling, think about making a safety plan that includes those sessions.
- Do not assume that couple counseling will make your partner treat you better.
- Do not assume that the counselor will see through your partner’s manipulation and denial, or that they will see things from your point of view.
- Read a little more about why couple counseling may be dangerous and ineffective.