Chris Brown and Rihanna just recorded a song together and are reportedly hooking up, but has either of them really changed since Brown physically assaulted Rihanna in 2009? Should they cut all ties, or is forgiveness in their situation healthy?
In my expert opinion, the answer is neither!
Life is rarely that black and white. Truth is found in shades of grey and so it is with domestic violence, which is often cast as a drama involving a victim and a perpetrator. There are times when it is easy to make such distinctions but any police officer who has answered a domestic violence call will tell you that when arriving at the scene of a domestic disturbance, it can be extremely difficult to tell who is abusing whom. In times past, it was fairly routine to arrest the male and assume the female was innocent. But times are changing and more and more women are being arrested for the perpetration of domestic violence along with their abusive male partners.
In reality, domestic violence is a family malady and its treatment requires far more than demonizing the males involved. Patterns of communication and behavior are usually dysfunctional and abusive throughout the family, evidencing a high tolerance for verbal abuse long before any physical violence occurs. But even if the gendered stereotypes hold true in a given case, the correct course of action can be unclear without a thorough examination of the players involved.
Forgiveness is always something you do for yourself. It should not have any bearing on your relationship with another person. If someone who has treated you abusively needs you to forgive them, they are not taking proper responsibility for their actions or their recovery.
Yes, forgive when it is apparent that you are suffering from resentment. But there is no need to take that forgiveness to the offending party. To do so implies that you are giving them “another chance,” showing “faith” in them and otherwise buying into the cycle of violence us domestic violence experts refer to as “hearts and flowers.” Every perpetrator wants to be forgiven so they can do it again.
That said, I am not suggesting that domestic violence perpetrators cannot change. But the courtesy of a second chance should only be extended if very specific criteria have been met: he or she must have enrolled in an extended treatment program, maintained their involvement in said treatment program for the duration of the program and they need to have been free from any relapses for at least a year.
It really is that simple. No forgiveness needed. No self-sacrificing acts of faith. Either he or she has completed the necessary steps to establish entirely new responses to their anger, frustration and control issues…or they have not. You can love them no matter what they do. And you can do it from a distance if they remain dangerous.
Once the perpetrator in treatment has made a full recovery, the abusive patterns of other family members will often become more apparent. My former husband completed a year and six months of treatment for domestic violence and once he was fully recovered, my penchant for verbal abuse became painfully apparent. I then had to seek counseling to change my own abusive patterns.
The most positive outcome in any domestic violence situation is that all the parties involved benefit fully from the various therapies and treatments available, such as domestic violence awareness, anger management, assertion skills, communication techniques and healthy relationship trainings.
Without a huge commitment to positive change, the prognosis for recovery from violence is dismal. One must devote their energies and intentions to removing all justifications and excuses while learning non-violent coping strategies.