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Managing Dissonance: Implications for Therapeutic Practice With Partner Violence

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In the United Kingdom, "domestic violence" services are predominantly segregated and therapeutic interventions offered mainly to either female "survivors/victims" or male "perpetrators." Semi-structured interviews were carried out with 20 U.K. practitioners with the aim of deconstructing their understandings and approach to therapeutic practice using a thematic analysis. Their practices were found to be mainly informed by the gender paradigm, reflecting assumptions that men's abusive behavior was instrumental and chosen, whereas women behaved aggressively primarily in retaliation or defense. When negotiating sensitive, potentially dilemmatic issues, such as women revealing abusive behavior or men speaking about victimization, participants differed in the extent to which they experienced, or showed awareness of, cognitive dissonance. Those participants who took a gender perspective tended to scapegoat male "perpetrators" and excuse the behavior of female "victims," whereas those who took a gender-inclusive approach were more likely to speak about the motivation of both partners and other contributory factors maintaining the problem. The findings support the view that domestic violence services in the United Kingdom have been slow to respond to calls by researchers to bring more psychological theory and relational awareness to understandings of intimate partner violence (IPV) and its practices.
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Keywords: DISSONANCE; GENDER-INCLUSIVE; PARTNER VIOLENCE; THERAPEUTIC PRACTICE

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2014

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