SESSION 19: Victim Witness, Trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Victim Witness/ Empathy
Victim Witness. The goal of this session is to increase participants’ awareness of the devastating effects
of domestic violence on the recipients of violence as well as upon children who witness that violence
and the community as a whole. Note that many domestic violence offenders have been beaten and
If possible this session should be centered upon the testimony of someone who has been the recipient
of domestic violence (traditionally a woman who has left a situation in which she was battered over
many years – but also consider a man in the same circumstances or a couple who have survived
unilateral or bilateral violence).
We have included on the next page a set of questions to give clients as they listen to the victim witness
speaker. Each member must ask at least one of these questions (or another of his/her choosing) to
increase their level of involvement.
If you are unable to find such an individual consider utilizing scenes from movies in order to begin a
conversation among group members. Note: Caution must be taken here not to let participants drift into
“victim blaming.” The focus should be maintained on the damage done to the recipients of violence.
Another issue is “Well, that happened to me too. I was beaten up when I was a kid” or “Well, that
happened to me too. My ex-hit me a lot.” Here the participants should be allowed to talk about what
happened but carefully steered back from “How did that affect you?” to “So how do you think your
aggressive behavior has affected others?”
Included in this unit is a fact sheet derived from the Partner Abuse State of Knowledge (PASK) research
team that examined hundreds of domestic violence studies. Leaders can use this fact sheet as a starting
point to discuss the effects of violence on family members. Since many group members are no longer in
the relationship in which they became violent but still maintain connection with the children from that
relationship it is important to steer the conversation toward the concept of protecting those children
from further damage by minimizing arguing with the ex-partner.
We have two additional goals for this session: 1) to discuss what traumatic events have happened to the
participants; 2) to help group members realize that every time they physically fight or argue loudly with
their partners they may be creating brain damage in their children who are seeing or hearing that event.
Therefore they have a tremendous responsibility to keep excessive anger and violence out of their
homes. They must create a place of safety for their children, a refuge from violence.