Can Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Help Decrease Episodes of Re-Abuse in Physical Abuse Victims?

Post-traumatic stress is a common issue facing victims of intimate partner violence (IPV) and is more prevalent in victims who flee to shelters than those who do not. “Approximately one in four women reports a history of intimate partner violence,” said researchers from the University of Akron, Butler Hospital, Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University and the Cleveland Veteran’s Administration Hospital. “Consistently, recent research suggests that PTSD symptoms in IPV victims are associated with increased risk of re-abuse.” Although shelters offer safety, they do not usually provide strategies to help these victims cope with the trauma of the abuse. However, a new intervention program, Helping to Overcome PTSD through Empowerment (HOPE), may offer literal hope to these people.

Researchers enlisted 70 abuse victims from two shelters to examine how effects of Hope plus standard shelter services (SSS) compared to the effect of SSS alone. All of the participants met the criteria for IPV induced PTSD, which entailed exposure to violence, recurrence of symptoms and presence of symptoms for a minimum of four weeks. Additionally, each test subject experienced impaired functioning, avoidance and increased excitement as a result of the abuse. After 12 bi-weekly sessions, the participants who received the HOPE had a significantly lower dropout rate, of only 6.67%, than those the SSS group. At three follow up points, one week, 12 weeks and 24 weeks after leaving the shelter, those who did continue the HOPE treatment reported high levels of satisfaction with the program.

The researchers emphasized the importance of the results of their study. “Findings suggest that HOPE may be significantly associated with victims’ increased safety after leaving shelter.” The researchers added, “Women who only received SSS were 12 times more likely to be re-abused relative to participants who received a minimal dose of HOPE. Targeting PTSD symptoms may be one useful strategy in reducing the risk of re-abuse in IPV victims with PTSD.”

Johnson, Dawn M., Caron Zlotnick, and Sara Perez. “Cognitive Behavioral Treatment of PTSD in Residents of Battered Women’s Shelters: Results of a Randomized Clinical Trial.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 79.4 (2011): 542-51. Print.

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Jane Stewart

    Jane Stewart

    August 26th, 2011 at 3:48 AM

    “Women who only received SSS were 12 times more likely to be re-abused relative to participants who received a minimal dose of HOPE.”

    Re-abused?? What is to stop the perpetrator from re-abusing if the victim gets treated,no matter by what treatment technique?

  • Lawly


    August 26th, 2011 at 6:30 PM

    I feel bad for these women, I do.
    But some of them continue to put their own lives at risk by going back time anad again to the one who abuses them.
    Do you really think that this kind of treatment is going to help that?
    Give them some ways to increase their self worth and the value that they find in themselves. That is what will get them out of those situations.

  • Joshua Phelps

    Joshua Phelps

    August 26th, 2011 at 7:23 PM

    Abuse victims are vulnerable to a lot of unpleasant things and to have CBT help them is amazing. CBT seems to be everywhere-it’s actually amazing how the same technique can be of use for so many issues. But I really think abuse victims should get all the support that we can give them. Kudos.

  • May Williams

    May Williams

    August 29th, 2011 at 4:43 PM

    “Approximately one in four women reports a history of intimate partner violence,” said researchers…”

    I’m not sure that one in four statistic is completely accurate. It defies logic. Even if 4 million reports of domestic violence against women happen every year, there are 153 million women in the United States. Meaning that only one in thirty eight women experience it every year, and I am sure that many of them have been subjected to violence repeatedly.

    Am I missing something here?

  • Lizzie Featherstone

    Lizzie Featherstone

    August 29th, 2011 at 5:41 PM

    @May Williams: An excellent observation, May. I feel that the violence against women numbers are severely inflated and exaggerated to just brand as many men as possible as abusers. The accusers are spiteful wives who want out of the marriage and him not to have access to their beautiful children.

    Woman want to run the world now and leave the men out of it. It’s shocking! Be a dutiful wife and take care of your husband. Wives today have forgotten the man of the house is in charge.

    You didn’t hear about this domestic violence nonsense when I got married forty five years ago. We were all good wives and devoted to our husbands. Modern wives could learn a thing or two from us.

  • Lillian Warbeck

    Lillian Warbeck

    August 31st, 2011 at 9:54 PM

    @Lizzie Featherstone: I can’t believe my ears-and from a woman too! Where to start…

    You didn’t hear about this because women’s shelters didn’t exist forty five years ago and domestic abuse for your generation of wives was mostly swept under the carpet! Women hid themselves away until the bruises healed and it was easy to do because so many were homemakers. I know because my mother suffered at the hands of my lunatic father every weekend when he got drunk.

    You seriously think the numbers are made up? What did all those women do: break their own ribs or give themselves black eyes, kick themselves so hard that they left footprints on their stomachs or throw themselves against a wall until they got a concussion? Don’t be so naive. All those split lips and bruises were not self-inflicted.

    As for your “this never happened in my day” remark, you’re wrong. There have been laws against domestic violence in the US since 1871 when marital physical abuse became a crime. It’s nothing new. Go ahead and look it up.

    The numbers you’re casting suspicions over are collated from information gathered via police reports. There are hospital records and court cases to confirm their authenticity. Are you saying the police and the courts colluded with these spiteful wives in some grand plan to undermine the male species? Hope you can see how crazy you sound right now.

    What’s really sad is those reported numbers are only the tip of the iceberg. Many women die first before they can find the courage to do that, so downtrodden are they.

    Shame on you for even suggesting such rubbish. You have an ax to grind, I can tell. Got a son or grandson accused of wife beating, hmmm? You protest too much.

  • Simone Peters

    Simone Peters

    September 1st, 2011 at 1:45 AM

    @Jane The only way to stop an abuser is to tattoo I BEAT MY SPOUSE on their foreheads and throw them in prison so every guy in there knows they they did. Extreme, yes. Well deserved? Undoubtedly. If you hit those who can’t fight back, you deserve to have the tables turned on you. Even in prison, there’s a code of ethics and some inmates sure don’t take kindly to wife beaters.

  • J. Darcy

    J. Darcy

    September 2nd, 2011 at 1:22 PM

    @Lawly– Really, Lawly? All it takes is self worth? What a condescending thing to say. I have bucketloads of self-worth, thank you very much. It’s the one thing I can call my own that can’t be taken from me. I also have nowhere to go, no family I can reach out to and no access to money or transport because I live way out in the countryside.

    How exactly is my self-worth going to free me from an abusive relationship? Explain that to me. Please. I’d love to hear it. Tell me how I can leave and get far enough away to be safe without money, a place to go or transport. Shelters are temporary. You can’t stay forever. So tell me, please.

    Or if you can’t, keep your fingers away from the keyboard instead of offering up glib thoughts that take a millisecond to formulate and are insulting to those women that live this nightmare every day.

  • Eve Thompson

    Eve Thompson

    September 3rd, 2011 at 9:39 PM

    How is this treatment even helping domestic violence if the abuser is still at large? I am going to say that it is completely absurd to think that an abused person can do something therapeutic to stop themselves being abused. I’d be terrified to go back to that home and attempt to apply the techniques. They need to leave- permanently!

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