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The Boundary Hunter, Issue #007 -- Abusive relationships and those who volunteer
October 01, 2008
Hello again!

Do People Ever Volunteer for Abuse

People who are abused often seek out their minister for comfort...prayer...counseling and other kinds of help.

If the minister does not assess the situation accurately...he or she may cross diagnostic and counseling boundaries inappropriately...and intervene in a way that reinforces the abusive relationship.

How does this happen?

When an abused adult...often a woman...calls a minister for help, the minister may make a presumption that the woman is a victim of her abuser (usually a family member).

She may be or she may not be. This is what has to be settled before the minister knows what to do to help the individual.

If the minister acts on that presumption without checking to see if it is right...the help the minister offers may be misplaced and may reinforce self-defeating behavior of the abused person.

Many times a normal adult...man or woman...who is abused by someone else is not a victim in the true meaning of that word.

Instead...they are volunteers.

Anyone who works with adult abuse victims must make sure that the abused person is not a volunteer. A volunteer is someone who could...if they wanted to...get out from under the abuse.

So, how do you check it out?

First, you set up your thinking to have two categories in which you put information as you hear it from the person seeking help...

1. All relationships are either voluntary or involuntary.

2. Abusive relationships are either voluntary or involuntary (we're trained to think abusive relationships are always involuntary on the part of the abused). Does the person have the ability and resources to leave the situation, even if they don't have the motivation?

This is important to understand because ministers tend strongly to be empathetic with troubled people.

The question here is...do abused adults help make their own trouble? or are they genuine victims at the mercy of their abuser? If you work with enough abused people...you will meet both genuine victims of abuse...and volunteer 'victims' as well.

The kind of help you offer true victims will differ from the kind of help you offer volunteer 'victims' (and both need your help).

Second, decide exactly what you will empathize with when dealing with a true victim and a volunteer "victim". You do this so you will be effective in your pastoral counseling of these very different people.

If you treat the volunteer as a true victim...you can easily reinforce self-defeating thinking and behavior in the person who...for whatever reasons...volunteers for abuse.

Click on the link below to read more about voluntary and involuntary abusive relationships.

Especially read about...

Marnie and Nick and how their difference in social status made Marnie a volunteer for abuse rather than a victim of abuse.

As always your comments, questions and experiences are invited by writing us through our Contact Us page.

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