As helping professional we all have good intentions when it comes to supporting women who have experienced abuse. But if we don’t have specific training in this area, we can unintentionally end up harming a woman. Let me share one example of what I mean by this. One counsellor advised a woman that she needed to have “better boundaries” when it came to her partner. She needed to say “no” to him and be firm about what was okay and not okay with her. The woman went home and tried to implement this advice. The man became outraged by what he perceived as the woman’s “obstinate” behaviour and choked her almost to the point of death. For this woman, and any woman living with abuse, it was not safe to say no to her partner. Perhaps the phrase doctors use as a guide would be helpful here too, “first do no harm”.
Getting proper and full training in this area is a good first step. Also, remembering that the woman is the expert on her life, her kids and her safety is also vital. Stay away from giving advice that might very well be dangerous and instead focus on listening, learning and being supportive to the woman.