Thursday, October 15, 2015

AJP Commentary Explores Challenges Associated With Domestic Violence

Mental illness can both arise from and increase a person’s risk of becoming a victim of domestic violence, but psychiatry and clinical psychology “are largely absent from domestic violence research and intervention,” wrote Anna Chapman, M.D., a clinical instructor in psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College, and Catherine Monk, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychiatry, behavioral medicine, and developmental neuroscience at Columbia University Medical Center in an article in the current issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

In the commentary, which was released to coincide with Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October, Chapman and Monk noted that “[d]espite its prevalence in the general population, domestic violence is underrepresented in our consulting rooms in part because victims, and especially perpetrators, rarely voluntarily self-identify or seek treatment.”

The authors go on to describe the challenges associated with treating individuals in domestic violence relationships—including safety planning and patients’ minimization of abuse—and several targeted treatment programs for domestic violence intervention, though they noted “few psychologists and psychiatrists are trained in them.”

“Evoking deep, psychological concerns, we retreat from domestic violence, drawing a line in the sand between ‘our’ behaviors and ‘theirs,’” concluded Chapman and Cook. “We tend to pity and disdain the victim, and vilify the abuser, abdicating our roles as clinicians and researchers. It is the mandate of the criminal justice system to punish people for violent actions and of social services to support victims. As the leading fields in mind, brain, and behavior, it is our mandate to understand and rehabilitate all human behavior, without prejudice.”

For more in Psychiatric News about domestic violence, see “Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Clinicians May Be First Responders.”

(Image: Lena Lir/