Psychological Interventions for Victims of Intimate Terrorism

Mwaka Mwandwe:

In my last two articles about Intimate Terrorism, also known as Intimate Partner Violence, we looked at the dynamics of this type of abuse that mainly affects women especially the marginalized or poor. Psychological concerns are placed mainly on the damage or impact that Intimate Partner

Violence may leave on the victim. These consequences range from psychological or cognitive disturbances to behavioural r emotional difficulties in many victims of IPV.

Some of the related psychological concerns are that Evidence suggests that women who are abused by their partners suffer higher levels of disorders such as depression anxiety and phobias than non-abused women, (Garcia-Moreno et al, 2012). These disorders such as depression are accompanied by feeling of worthlessness, suicidal ideas and/or behavior.

Anxiety on the other hand is characterized by feelings of apprehension and can lead to inability to function well in the society, these range from specific anxiety to generalized anxiety. Phobia, which is extreme fear that the victim may undergo as a post effect of expose to IPV, is sometimes experienced.

Victims of Intimate Partner Violence are also predisposed to suffer from what is termed as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This encompasses the preoccupation of replaying flashbacks and relieving the traumatic experience, in this case IPV. It should be noted that PTSD causes social withdraw, distress and dysfunction. Hence, victims maybe unable to function normally as expected in that particular context and experience emotional detachment. In extreme cases, this stress may lead heart disease, high blood pressure and ulcers, (Durand and Barlow, 2004).

Source: Onedio

Behavioral disorders such as sleep and eating disorders are also common among victims. Eating disorders such bulimia, may take full swing on an individual causing them to over eat then induce throwing up or the opposite, Anorexia Nervosa, which involves starving oneself because of a distorted body image that may have been caused by emotional abuse. Other behaviors tend to be more risky such as substance abuse or unprotected sex, (, 2008). Some may even go as far as causing self harm to themselves inform of body mutilation.

In terms of sleep disorders, one may experience insomnia, the inability to sleep even when the body is tired. Consequently, this may lead to fatigue and impaired interest in things that previously rousing.

Other concerns include the total beliefs about oneself being viewed as negative, in other words low self esteem. This is hampered by mistrust of others, fear of intimacy and isolation, (, 2008). Additionally, some victims may suffer poor physical health such as headaches, chronic pain and activity limitations, (Garcia-Moreno et al, 2012). Hence, Intimate Terrorism is very damaging to the victim.. It also affects children involved, firstly it might lead to poor performance at school or conduct disorders in them. Consequently, this may lead to development of an anti-social personality further continuing the vicious circle of IPV onto a new victim. Children also seen to suffer anxiety, depression, truancy, delinquency and even childhood schizophrenia, (Kelly and Johnson, 2008).

 Psychological Interventions

Psychologically a number of things can be done for people who have experienced Intimate Partner Violence. What is called cognitive behavioral therapy, (CBT) is known to be an effective way of dealing with disorders associated to traumatic experiences, (Durand and Barlow, 2004).

Thus, there is still hope for victims to get their lives back on truck and function as a normal person again. This therapy is also seen to help people with aggressive or violent tendencies, especially males.

It has two aspects the cognitive part, in which perceptions, attitudes, beliefs are changed, and the behavioral aspect which is modified to pro-social behavior due to changes in one’s cognition.

Anger management and communication skills are part and parcel of CBT. Psychotherapy is also an effective way of dealing with IPV consequences that are emotionally based such as trauma, depression or anxiety. The same can also be implemented for children who have been exposed to seeing violence between their parents.

The reason for this is that this can help reduce child conduct problems and later violent behaviour, which has been associated with Intimate Terrorism perpetrated by abusers, (Garcia-Moreno et al, 2012).

This is basically controlling the start of Intimate partner Violence from the grass root and encouraging a healthier future generation.

Another intervention is to change the psychology or thinking patterns of people in the society through educative programs that promote equality in all sectors. Females should be given equal opportunity as males to employment and education, (Baumeister and Bushmen, 2008).

Public awareness of the ills of violence in intimate relationships and further, advocating for the reports of this ills. In operant conditioning, vices which often have negative consequences are seldom repeated. This kind of conditioning is explained in my last article.

Thus, strengthening the laws on Intimate Partner Violence may contribute to its incidence (, 2008). Educating judges and the police about partner violence so that they understand the severity of IPV, will be much more effective when judicial justice systems are executing the appropriate decision to be given.

 Intimate Partner Violence is understood as all physical, emotional, sexual abuse and controlling behavior that a partner exhibits on another. IPV is believed to have begun around 1970’s and 1980’s. this was due to the number of reports women made of experiencing violent behavior by their spouses.

As can be expected, IPV is more prevalent among females than males whether in rural areas or urban areas. That is, 22% of males and 17% of females reported abusing their spouses in urban areas while in rural areas it was 20% and 11%, respectively, in 2006. It should be noted that information on male experience of IPV is hard to find because often times women are the one who make reports of violence. this could mean males really are more violent than females or that males under-report instances of violence because they view themselves as the stronger ones.

Intimate Partner Violence is more is seen to frequently high among people from lower social status, females, adolescents or young adults and those who are dependent on drugs and alcohol.

It’s prevalence is seen to be higher in urban areas than rural areas. Additionally, psychological explanations are rooted in drives of aggression that motivate violent behavior exhibited in IPV.

Other theorists view it a learned behavior due to previous exposure to it. Intimate Terrorism draws a lot psychological concern due to its disabling consequences in some people, e.g. it may lead to depression, self injury, anxiety, sleep disorders and post traumatic stress disorders.

However, psychological interventions such as cognitive behavioral therapy and psychotherapy help the victims recover as well as can change behavior of abusers. Stiffer punishments as consequence for violent actions would aid in some people desisting from being abusive to their partners, either emotionally, sexually or physically.

The first step to healing and prevention is understanding the problem. If you’re in an abusive relationship or have survived one some time in your life, it is important to seek professional therapy in order to understand how it continues to affect your life and then get professional help to create a better future that you deserve.

Mwaka C. Mwandwe is Volunteer Manager at SAFIGI Outreach Foundation, Safety First for Girls. She is an activist for women’s rights, gender equality, and socio-economic development. Mwaka graduated from the University of Zambia, and has since been actively working in various NGOs at a grassroots level in Zambia, to advance the interests of marginalized girls.
To learn more about SAFIGI visit

This is the third and last installment of the series of articles by Ms Mwandwe on Intimate Partner Violence.

To read installment 1, Click Here

To read installment 2, Click Here



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