1. Read the Basics section
Interpersonal violence is complicated. Many of us don’t really understand it or what to do about it. Read the Basics about violence section for a clearer picture of what is going on. The Basics about violence intervention section shares lessons Creative Interventions have learned from responding to violence.
Share this information with others who may be in a situation of violence and need resources to help them work out what to do.
2. Focus on what and how, beware of why
It is normal to want to explain away your violence—it was a misunderstanding, an accident, a one-off. Instead of thinking about why you have hurt someone, think about how you can stop, and what you can do to make it better (or at least not worse).
3. Learn from the perspectives of others
Do your assessment with other trusted people. You may learn that you only have part of the picture. You may be able to fill others in on important information. You may be able to step away from emotions that are confusing. You may see how you can work better together. Or you may find out that your differences are so big that you cannot work with each other.
4. Get help
Whether you decided to stop your violence yourself or someone else asked you to do something about it, you need help. It will probably be hard to find someone who will be solid enough to keep you on track, it is unlikely to be a close friend. If there is a group working on an intervention they might have ideas, also check out Who can help and Resources for organisations that might be able to help. It will probably be hard to ask for help—getting what you need to stop your violence is an important part of being responsible for your violence.
5. Look out for danger signs, and get help
Although all forms of violence can be dangerous, there are some signs to look out for that signal higher degrees of danger:
- Availability of guns or other weapons
- Previous use or history of physical violence
- Threats to kill yourself or others
- Use of alcohol or drugs that contribute to violence
- Times when you feel like you are losing power or control (for example, if your partner is leaving you, or other people are finding out about your violence).
You can take responsibility for reducing the risk by getting rid of weapons, staying away from drugs and alcohol, and finding someone you can call in when things feel hard or out of control.
6. The person you hurt knows what you did to them
They are the only person who knows what they experienced and the effect of your violence on them. You may see it differently. You might not be ready to hear how you hurt them. It is a big step to hear their story without making excuses that let you off the hook. Resist the urge to deny, minimise or blame them for what happened. Try to hear what they are saying.
7. Focus on the patterns of abuse or violence
When your behaviour has been called out, it is common to turn on other people’s behaviour. This is especially true if you have been involved in a relationship (intimate, family or other) with the person you hurt for a long time. You may be able to come up with a long list of things they did wrong. Others may too. The problem isn’t whether they were a perfect partner, child, parent or friend. The problem is the harm your behaviour has caused.
Focus on the unhealthy, mostly one-sided patterns of behaviour that cause serious or repeated harm.
8. Aim for common understandings
When working out what happened, people will often come to different conclusions about what happened, including who is more responsible for the harm, who did what, and who is the most harmed. Reading Basics about violence can help build common understanding about violence and interventions, and what has happened.
People can get confused about who is being harmed and who is causing the harm. People often want to protect the person who has caused the harm, so they look for reasons why you aren’t to blame, including what the person you hurt did wrong. They get confused about whether this is simply a bad relationship with equal blame on both sides. You might be confused about that too. If this happens, some questions to help are:
- Who is more afraid?
- Who starts the violence?
- Who ends up getting harmed?
- Who is usually changing to meet the other’s needs or moods?
- Who is more vulnerable?
- Who is using violence for power and control (abusive violence)? Who is using violence to try to be safe in an already violent situation (self-defence)?
- Who has to win?
9. Don’t let your friends do your dirty work
It’s not enough for you to avoid the person you hurt and stop hurting them. Don’t allow your supporters to hurt them, hassle them, talk trash about them or defend you in ways that cause more harm. Make sure they understand that doesn’t help you.
10. Figure out who needs to get what information and for what purpose
Part of What is going on is gathering and recording information. Make sure you understand what the person harmed wants shared and with who. Think about different versions to share for different purposes.
Possible reasons for working out What is going on:
- Being clear about what happened
- Remembering details and sorting out what’s important
- Getting clear on what you want to do something about and how you want to change
- Sharing information with those you want to support you in an intervention
- Avoiding the tendency to deny and minimise violence
- The person who was harmed naming the harms as preparation for giving to you
- Naming the harms as a way for you to start taking accountability
- Recording what happened to share in the future with others who may be at risk of similar harm from you (for example, new partners, friends, employees, etc) or someone else (like the stories on this website).