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How to Get Help for an Abusive Husband

By Ralph Heibutzki ; Updated June 13, 2017

Getting help for an abusive husband is a common response in domestic abuse situations. It's natural to believe that the abuse will stop if your partner just enters the right program. However, you must put your safety first -- starting with an honest look at whether your husband really wants to change his behavior. Even if he says "Yes," you must ensure his accountability throughout the counseling process.

Prepare for Emergencies

Find spaces at home where you can temporarily leave an abusive situation. The best option is a room with a phone, and outside door or window, the HelpGuide website states. Otherwise, keep a cell phone handy. Avoid enclosed spaces -- such as closets, or bathrooms -- where escape is less likely, and also avoid areas where abusers can access weapons, such as your kitchen.

Create a safety plan for leaving the abusive situation. Identify friends or neighbors who can help you escape or where you can stash clothing, emergency funds and key documents, according to HelpGuide.org. Choose code words to alert anyone that you will need to contact for help. If you have children, practice escape plans with them, too.

Call the police, if you feel endangered. Give the officers all the facts -- which can lead to your husband's removal from the home. If this is his first offense, the court may impose a protection order to keep him off the premises and for him to attend counseling until he fulfills all his legal obligations, states the Center for Domestic Peace. Don't yield to any pleas from him for you to modify these requirements.

Seek Professional Help

If your situation hasn't progressed to the legal stage, ask your husband if he'll enter a batterer intervention and prevention program that focuses on reflection and accountability. If you're taking legal action, ask him -- with help from the court, or from a social worker -- to enroll in such a program.

Require your husband to attend counseling alone. Resist offers for joint counseling -- which may allow him to recast the situation as a "couples problem," or may prompt false reconciliation offers that make your exit less likely, states the PsychPages website. Couples counseling only works if the batterer accepts responsibility and conditions for ending therapy -- such as a "relapse" of previous behaviors that would require him to go back into counseling.

Avoid making any commitments until you see what your husband is doing in therapy. Make sure he fulfills any intermediate requirements, such as a contract against physical violence -- which includes any threats of physical violence -- between both parties. Abusive behavior takes years to unlearn, so don't accept assurances that your husband has changed after only a few sessions.

Seek therapy for yourself and your children. Therapy for you and your children is a separate process from the one your husband undergoes. Such help is essential to move on and heal emotionally from the trauma of domestic abuse -- regardless of whether your relationship with your husband continues or not.

Tips

Evaluate a therapist's understanding of domestic violence. If the therapist characterizes it as "mutual combat," ask for someone else to work with your husband.

Warnings

Don't accept anger management as a substitute for entering a batterer intervention and prevention program, as these programs are more likely to focus on power-and-control issues in abusive relationships -- rather than having him working on his behaviors.

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