Trauma & Violence: Working with both the victim & perpetrator

I have recently given a presentation for the BPS South West event Psychology in the Pub on Trauma and Violence. One of the main questions throughout the presentation was ‘Is there ever senseless violence?’ Often in the media and on a political level we talk about the crime of violent offenders but often ignore there background history and why someone would resort to violence. There are some interesting statistics Is it easier not to make sense of their violence – to categories them as inherently bad rather than try and formulate their difficulties? Does this make it easier for us as a society also as it disowns us for any responsibility?

As Psychologists our role is to attempt to understand another individual’s behaviour – to try and understand the communication behind the violence and provide/teach/model to the patient a way of verbalising their feelings rather than acting out on them. A quote I used in the talk which concisely summarises the trauma based theory of violence is:

‘Some of us use the body to convey the things for which we cannot find words’ Hornbacher, 1998

There are some interesting statistics on this topic:

    • Sexual abuse histories and physical abuse histories among 46% and 92% of violent offenders respectively (Beck-Sander, 1995)
    • 48% of women in prison suffered domestic violence (Women In Prison charity)
    • 53% of women in prison have experienced physical/emotional or sexual abuse in childhood (WIP charity)
    • 31% of women in prison have been look after children (WIP charity)

My summary from my presentation – or take home tweets were: 

  • Unless we listen to the communication behind the violence we will not reduce risk
  • Clinicians need to manage their own conflicts working with violent offenders
  • Importance of working with trauma victims – especially in the rehabilitation of offenders.

Dr. Katherine Boucher

Clinical Psychologist