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The missing half of domestic violence services: RevCore’s unique approach

May 24, 2024
A woman lying in bed with her hands covering her face, appearing distressed. This image illustrates the emotional toll of abuse and the importance of domestic violence services for support and recovery.

The missing half of domestic violence services: RevCore’s unique approach


The missing half of domestic violence services: RevCore’s unique approach

Everyone agrees that domestic violence services should be offered to survivors. Treatment helps survivors overcome their trauma, gain strength and resilience, and stay safe. But what about the other half of the equation… the perpetrators?

It’s understandably difficult — even shocking — to consider domestic violence treatment being offered to perpetrators. But the fact is, no matter how much therapy survivors do, perpetrators will continue to do whatever they are doing if they are not helped as well. Of course, offering services to perpetrators requires a very careful and strictly safety-first approach. We at RevCore are one of the few organizations in New York City to successfully take on this challenge and attempt to reduce the recidivism rates of domestic violence offenders legal circumstances. 

How does this unique treatment work while ensuring the safety of all those involved? What philosophy shapes our approach? When are these domestic violence services most effective — and what hinders them? 

We have invited our Clinical Director, Keisha Taylor-Glanville, to shed some light on these questions and several more. 

Q: When it comes to domestic violence, friends and family members are usually concerned with getting their loved one out of the situation at all costs — and assume that mental health organizations are here to do the same. But is that necessarily the case? Can you discuss what is the goal of domestic violence services from RevCore’s perspective?

The first thing we do is we make sure that we meet the clients where they are. We never want our clients to feel pressured or forced, because they are already experiencing a sense of powerlessness within the realm of the domestic violence relationship. We operate from a person-centered perspective, where clinicians have an understanding that our patients are the experts of their lives. Being in a domestic violence relationship does not negate that expertise. 

Our goal is not to forcefully extract them from the situation or shame them into leaving. Our goal is to support and empower them. We provide them with the necessary tools and skills that they may utilize when needed. Because having those accessible resources will aid survivors with safely separating themselves from the situation when that time comes. 

Silhouette of a couple arguing, with one person raising their hands in distress. This image underscores the need for domestic violence services to support individuals in abusive relationships.

Q: So it is always up to the client whether or not they want to leave the relationship?

Yes. One of the things we always remember is that our patients have the right to self determination. Domestic violence comes with a lot of shame and that shame is often internalized by the survivors. So survivors are sometimes immobilized by the fear of being judged. This often leaves them with anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and a myriad of other mental health and social issues. It is hard to live in a space where judgment is being assigned by family members, friends and society as a whole; where you contend with the disapproving stares and the questions regarding your decision to “stay”. That’s why it is crucial for us at RevCore to create a safe, non-judgemental space for our patients. When they enter our doors, they will feel heard and safe.

A woman sitting on a couch, hugging her knees and looking distressed. This image highlights the emotional impact of domestic abuse and the importance of accessible domestic violence services.

Q:  Can you elaborate on the psychological impact of domestic violence? How does RevCore help survivors recognize and reframe their thinking?

I want the audience to understand that there are different types of abuse. However, there are some key components that are ubiquitous to domestic violence relationships. These are power and control. Sadly, some survivors have been brainwashed into thinking that the perpetrator of the abuse is their only option and that they are unable to independently maneuver their way through life. They have become so dependent on their abuser that they subscribe to the belief that the perpetrator is their only hope — something similar to Stockholm Syndrome. If a person continuously tells you that you are worthless, inadequate, incompetent and that you cannot survive, you tend to start believing it. Our domestic violence services are to help our clients recognize these cognitive distortions and reframe their thinking. Our job is to disrupt the maladaptive thoughts and behaviors.

A person coming to treatment doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re ready for the treatment process. But the fact that they are here of their own volition is a humongous feat, because the first step into treatment is one of the most difficult to make, and arguably the most important. Whatever the stage of acceptance or readiness a person is at, we meet them there. The goal, however, is to not leave them where we met them.

Q: Speaking of stages, is RevCore able to help survivors at any stage? For example, whether they’re in the domestic violence relationship, out of the relationship, coming back into the relationship, etc?

Absolutely. When a person comes in for domestic violence services, we first conduct intake assessments which indicate their needs, level of functioning and readiness for treatment. These are all important factors that inform treatment planning. The sessions with our clients are individualized and encapsulate different modalities that align with the goals of their treatment. 

We also provide services from a holistic perspective, taking into consideratio the multidimensional aspect of the client. This means we ensure that their treatment is culturally and linguistically appropriate. For example a person may enter treatment not understanding what domestic violence entails. And in response the clinician would provide psychoeducation and counseling around healthy and unhealthy relations, the different types of domestic violence, the effects of domestic violence, etc. 

Or someone may have subscribed to the belief that the abuse is their fault. In this instance, the clinician would employ modalities geared at identifying, debunking and reframing the distorted thoughts. 

A third example: a person may enter treatment admitting they are a survivor who wants to leave the abuser. In this case, the clinician would help with safety planning, exploring coping skills, processing the trauma etc. 

It goes back to meeting the clients where they are and tailoring their treatment goals to meet their needs and their current level of functioning.

A woman with "Love Shouldn't Hurt" written on her back, highlighting the message against domestic abuse and the crucial need for domestic violence services.

Q: I want to recognize that we’re using the term “survivor” and not “victim”. Could you clarify this distinction between “survivor” and “victim” and the reason you use the former?

Yes — I do not like to use the term victim. The term “victim” has an innate suggestion of helplessness or weakness and domestic violence survivors are simply neither of those. I prefer to use the term survivor because it encapsulates connotations of strength, power, overcoming  and victory. If a person thinks or believes they are a victim, their behavior will ultimately demonstrate a victim mentality. The word “survivor” on the other hand has a sense of strength embedded in its lexicon. And that’s what we’re all about at RevCore. We help survivors recognize their strengths while providing a physically and emotionally safe environment. 

Q:  Yes, that’s such a powerful difference! And it’s clear how RevCore’s services are so compassionate and perfectly tailored to the survivors. Now one thing that’s very interesting about RevCore’s domestic violence services is that you also provide them to perpetrators. So few organizations do this, and some people are shocked to discover that you do. Could you speak about the philosophy behind this? 

Of course. Simply put: non-discrimination in services is one of the tenets that Revcore emphasizes. We see our clients as people and not their offenses. If a person shows up for treatment, we will work with them and engage them in treatment. We are not in the business of saving people. We are not in the business of condemning or judging people. We are in the business of serving people. And this includes perpetrators of domestic violence.  

I should also note that some individuals who perpetrate domestic violence have also experienced a history of violence themselves, and are walking around with grave trauma. 

They often do not have the opportunity to explore their trauma or participate in treatment. And they may be more likely to recidivate if they don’t get the help they need. So engaging in treatment and committing to the process will hopefully help perpetrators to become better citizens of our society, and also behave better in their future relationships. 

Close-up of two people holding hands, offering support and comfort. This image symbolizes the compassionate care and assistance provided by domestic violence services.

Q: Could you describe RevCore’s collaboration with the NYPD in the Project Resolve initiative?

Project Resolve is a coordinated effort between RevCore and the NYPD aimed at reducing recidivism among domestic violence perpetrators. When NYPD officers respond to domestic violence incidents, they provide alleged perpetrators with information about RevCore’s services and pass their contact details to our team for follow-up. Although this program is not frequently used, it represents a key strategy in our community outreach efforts to address domestic violence.

Q:  How does RevCore ensure the safety of the survivors when you also work with perpetrators?

The safety of all clients at Revcore is a key mandate of the agency. Safety is our topmost priority, and we built the program entirely with that in mind. We have two completely separate treatment tracks, and there is absolutely no juxtaposition or intersection between the services to survivors and the services to perpetrators. We are very careful in that aspect. We screen everyone, and schedule the treatment in a way that there is never overlap — whether in hours or location — between individuals receiving services. Moreover, we rarely serve survivors and perpetrators from the same domestic violence situation — unless there are specific cases where they cannot separate and come in for family therapy. 

And let me add to that that we take confidentiality very, very seriously. When a person comes into our program, if they do not consent for any information to be disclosed, we do not disclose it. If a person is mandated to treatment, there’s a general type of disclosure that they consent to, which is the provision of updates on their participation and attendance. But anything else beyond that will need a separate consent via a HIPAA form. We also want to create a very safe space where folks feel comfortable to disclose. And that’s why our clinical staff do not make the legal mandates the focus of the client’s treatment. 

Q:  What is the goal of the domestic violence services for perpetrators?

First of all, it is also meeting them where they are. Most perpetrators come to us because it is a condition of their legal circumstances, and so they may not be very amenable in the initial stages of their treatment. They may have their guard up, and their fear of judgment may result  in superficial and disingenuous responses. We also understand that we cannot impose changes on clients, and trying to do so would not be helpful either. 

So what we do is build rapport, establish trust and be collaborative in our approach. We’re not here to “fix” our patients. We’re here to help them connect their behaviors with their thoughts, and figure out the precipitating factors or causes for certain behaviors. When we build this safe space and a therapeutic alliance, that’s when perpetrators feel more safe to disclose and to work on themselves. That’s when they have breakthroughs where they identify the error of their ways.

Q:  It’s so true that we cannot force change upon a person. But then, does the treatment do something to also promote accountability? 

Accountability is definitely one of the areas in the program curriculum, but we still cannot force a person to take accountability. It is never our job to demand it, or to judge or shame the clients. That said, we also do not condone or minimize their actions. 

We can do is help them identify abusive behaviors and tendencies and the beliefs, maladaptive thoughts and other factors that lead to them. We also help them recognize the negative impact the behavior has on others, removing the blame from the survivor, and teaching them alternative behaviors that they could use in that moment. The goal is to re-educate them to alter future behaviors and possibly reduce recidivism. But at the end of the day this is up to them.  

Four women sitting on the beach with their arms around each other, symbolizing solidarity and support. This image represents the community and assistance provided by domestic violence services.

Q:  And is there a way to know if a client has reached this goal? In other words, that the program has been successful?

We can say that treatment has been effective when a client has completed treatment and their behavior has changed. They’re successful when they have accomplished their established service plan goals. We need, however, to be aware that each individual is different and progress is relative. Additionally, treatment progress is not a linear process. There are going to be bumps, ebbs and flows. Having this understanding and being transparent with the patient about what to expect in treatment will help them to manage their expectations of treatment and trust the process.

Q: Thank you so much for taking the time to shed light on this crucial service and the idea behind it! If there is an individual (whether a survivor or perpetrator) reading this who is in a situation of domestic violence, or a person who knows someone like that, what message do you think it would be important to convey to them?

To the perpetrators, if you are ready for treatment and re-education in a non-judgemental space; we are here to help you — our doors are always open. Your crimes and offenses do not define who you are.

To family and friends of domestic violence survivors, your support, patience and understanding are extremely invaluable to survivors. The journey to healing is not linear and does not have a concrete timeline, so walk beside them at their own pace… not yours. 

And to the survivors of domestic violence: help is available. You are not alone and you do not have to suffer in silence. The abuse is/was not your fault. You deserve healing, support and a safe, non-judgemental space where you can be heard and validated — and that is what we offer here at Revcore. The first step in every journey is always the most difficult, but it is also the most important. 

If you or someone you know is experiencing or has experienced domestic violence and needs support, please reach out to the Revcore Mental Health Program at 718.514.6007. If you are not ready for treatment, please reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233.

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