The role of trauma in DFV | HMA

The role of trauma in DFV

How often have you wondered, “Why does he hurt the people he says he loves?” I know I have. Having spent the past 40 years trying to come up with explanations to that question, if there is one thing I have made sense of, simple reasons don’t consider the vast diversity in the population of men who use violence within their families.  

As we all know, not all family/whānau violence is the same and should not be treated as such. We have a growing body of research that has explored how we are shaped by our lived experience, particularly early exposure to violence and the influence of those around us.  

More recently, I have been paying greater attention to the idea of the narrative of where and when violent ways of responding within relationships have entered the man’s story/life. When did that story begin? How long has this been a story? How has the story changed over time? What attempts has the man taken to disrupt the story?   

There is little doubt in my mind that early exposure to violence (see the research on Adverse Childhood Experiences – ACE’s) shapes how men react and how they process information. Physical neglect, exposure to violence, sexual assault, experiencing physical violence, and psychological violence, all culminate in setting the conditions for a much more challenging life story.  

These experiences impact three aspects of how a person responds: avoidance strategies, sense of threat, and the ability to regulate emotion. When working with men who engage in violence, we see these flowing through into interpersonal ways of relating, particularly managing dominance in relationships. When we explore authority issues, disparagement, and restrictiveness, we see these issues leak out.  

As we say, ‘The best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour’. We know that the story is likely to continue through the man engaging in physical violence within their family/whānau, psychological violence, and sexually coercive violence.  

Taking a trauma-informed lens helps us and the man we are working with unravel the story of violence that has infiltrated his life. We can then explore how early experiences have shaped his way of responding to relationships. From this place, he can then take a position of resistance against the dominant story that has shaped him. He can then more fully occupy the space of supporting family/whānau wellbeing.   

Published on Wednesday, April 6th, 2022, under Family violence, Motivational Interviewing, What Ken thinks

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