Domestic Abuse Counseling – Accountability
and Collaboration Versus Verbal Abuse

Dr. King


by Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D.


Accountability is a core concept to integrate in domestic abuse counseling. However, at first, it can be hard to wrap one’s brain around its meaning when it comes to feelings.

Verbal abusers are notorious for spewing their verbal rampage upon their partners to get them to own how they are falling short. For example, in his/her eyes, you are the “lousy housekeeper,” “fat slob,” “filthy pig,” from time to time when he comes home and things are not as he desires.

Lack of Accountability Underlying Name-Calling

In this example, you can see how the finger is pointing right at you. Your partner wants you to know that you are the negative element, which is the cause for his negative feelings.

But the fact is you can’t “cause” anyone to feel anything whatsoever. The negative feelings your partner was experiencing upon walking into the home were his feelings. While it is true that these feelings may have been inspired by his disturbance over the messy house, they are indeed in him.

Your partner’s disenchantment, disgust and escalating rant arise from within him. His negative experience is as such because he feels out of sorts when things are not neat, organized and in the orderly fashion he desires.

Accountability for Your Experience

The moment your partner recognizes that his experience is truly his, and he is willing to publicly identify it as such, then a door opens for collaboration and cooperation. Instead of you being the responsible agent for his negative experience, he steps up to the plate...assumes responsibility and full accountability for his feelings, and a new encounter ensues.

He can tell you how the mess is “unsettling for him after a long day’s work.” And in the moment, you are not the bad defective deficient person, but rather a neutral party with the potential to help him in his dilemma.

Through his accountability for his negative experience, he is in a better position to campaign your cooperation in helping him feel better. You can be his “partner.” You can offer your compassion, and from here, can become his alley in helping him amidst what he experiences as the negative environment.

Collaboration through Accountability

When we own—become accountable for—what is truly ours and let others know, we open a door for collaboration. Whereas, when we blame others for our negative experience, we fail to inspire collaboration. Instead, the blamed partner can become defensive shielding his or her own inward hurt. Whether you are the verbal abuser or the one more commonly abused, always know your relationship has other options.

And lastly, be mindful that this article is not gender-specific, nor always one-way. You could be the female or the male in this example, and you could be the verbally abused or the one externalizing your negative experience.

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© Jeanne King, Ph.D. — Domestic Violence Prevention and Intervention

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Dr. Jeanne King is a licensed psychologist and domestic abuse consultant. Feel free to contact us if you need help with physical and/or emotional pain, stress-related illnesses, or relationship abuse issues at home or in court. Contact Us to reach Dr. King.