Friday, March 13, 2009

Mental Health of Batterers and Effectiveness of Protective Orders

One reader wrote that she wanted the court to order some mental health services for her husband, that she sincerely believed he was in need of help in this area, but the court refused her request. It is a sad fact that most batterers score normally on mental health assesments, and judges know this. This is but one of the symptoms of the patriarchal influence that has governed the laws and "norms" of our culture.

Subject Change: Protective orders are commonly denegraded as being of little to no value as far as protection goes. But I would ask readers not to under estimate the effectiveness of protective orders. It is true, they are not truly "protective" in the midst of a crisis, but without one the police will not answer a call for help until "after" the crisis occurs--by which time the victim may be severely injured or even dead. With a protective order, a potential victim can call for help the moment she sees the batterer coming--before the crisis. This is quite a protection in and of itself.


Barbara said...

Interesting comment Jocelyn. I'd know that most abusers are assessed as 'normal' in a mental health assessment. I'd never thought that this might mean that mental health assessment criteria are wanting.
I wonder how mental health assessment criteria should be changed, to make them more indicative of domestic abusers. I wonder if that is possible? (Two very different questions.) It might happen one day. I know that psychiatry is much more cognizant of the effects of traumatic stress than it used to be, and PTSD is now a recognised diagnosis whereas it never used to be.

Dana said...

It seems like a bit of a catch 22, since the effects of abuse leave many abused women squarely in the middle of a mental health diagnosis, which is easily twisted by the abuser to "prove" her incompetence to care for the children.

I guess I don't think the answer is changing the mental health assessment so that it is more precise in pinpointing abusers. It seems like it just ends up making "mental health" an issue when the real problem is not the husband's mental health, but his abuse, and once "mental health" is on the table, that's a table that's way too easily turned back onto the woman, who does, likely, struggle with depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc. because of the abuse.

I think there are times when mental illness drives abuse, but even when there is a mental illness, when combined with an abuse dynamic, I think the abuse dynamic "uses" mental health issues, in the same way that an abuser "uses" any parts of his reality to further add to and justify the abuse. I would suspect that it is more common that the abuse drives the mental illness, rather than vice versa...

I think it can seem like mental health services will help an abuser, because a "mental health problem" makes sense, and getting mental health services is something we can DO. But abuse doesn't make sense--that's what it's all about (the confusion and all). And an abuser on regulated meds, I don't think is any less of a threat than one on regulated meds and with required counseling (you've never seen anyone so skilled at twisting a counselor's mind as an abuser).... I'm not against mental health services, but I think, often, things that look like mental illnesses in abusers, are at root, an out of control entitlement, and treating for mental illness doesn't eradicate that. Or even make it more manageable. In some cases, I think it just makes the abuser "smarter" (because he's got more self-control, etc.)

I think if a person needs mental health services and gets them, that's great, but if he's an abuser, I would not trust him any more, under psychiatric care, than without, for a very long time...