Women beat their husbands too

"Violent men need to recognize their feelings and their responsibilities"

The perpetrators are often partners or former life companions. The result is long-term psychological impairment. The psychologist and violence therapist Stefan Waschlewski from Herne is someone who provides therapeutic support for the perpetrators. In the DW interview, he gives insights into a shadowy world that is known to everyone, but which is often taboo - even by the victims.

Deutsche Welle: What kind of men are they who sit in your therapy sessions?

Stefan Waschlewski: Men from all walks of life come to our therapies. We have clients who come to us as self-payers, who then mostly come from the middle or upper class. Where there are co-payments, they also reach the unemployed or Hartz IV recipients.

Violence therapist Stefan Waschlewski

What forms of violence do we speak of when it comes to violence against women? Where does violence start?

We work with men who hit or kick their partners. This is not behavior that occurs in isolation; depending on the type of perpetrator, this also includes humiliating and controlling women.

How long does therapy last?

Between half a year and a year and a half depending on the severity of the case. Therapy for a young man who practices violence may be shorter than that for a man who has been striking for 20 years.

What is the number of repeat offenders?

You can't really say that. When do we speak of repetition? It is difficult to make serious statements. But I can say: It is a worthwhile job and there are many cases in which the men renounce violence.

How do you go about your therapies?

The violence that a perpetrator exercises is like a language that we try to understand: What is the motive, what is the trigger, how does the perpetrator proceed, what does he do in preparation, what does he do afterwards? From this we deduce how to work with the man. An example of a classic conflict is that the man uses violence to compensate for deficits. He is unable to express feelings. This leads to an internal pressure, a faint, and then these men can no longer take it and strike. These men need to learn to recognize their feelings. From this we then derive a hypothesis on how we can work with them. But in the end it is up to the men to work on themselves. You are responsible for yourself.

How are these men shaped, what are their problems?

Many use violence to compensate feelings and thus end conflicts from their point of view. One guy who sits in counseling a lot is the one who doesn't have good access to his emotions. It is often the feeling of not being able to perceive and not be able to express disappointment, hurt and fear at all. They fail to combine that with their sense of masculinity. This raises questions like: Am I a strong man when I talk about my helplessness? They often have low self-esteem.

But there are also other types of offenders for whom it is important to control the relationship. Who through negative attachment experiences do not believe that there are safe relationships. They do all they can to receive and control love. Therapeutically, one then has to look at where the behavior comes from and what options there are to gradually resolve it. We also have a third type, but that doesn't appear in our work. This is the type who is incompatible with the norms and values ​​of society. But these are more likely to be men who are looked after by their colleagues in the correctional facility.

Are there any similarities between these groups?

One thing is the same for all types of men. They do not see the responsibility for their actions in themselves, but in others. An example: a man comes home and the food is not ready, a conflict arises and the man strikes. He justifies it like this: If the meal had been ready, he would not have struck. He thus hands over responsibility for the act to the outside world. He sees himself as a victim of circumstances. The first step in counseling is that the client realizes that he is responsible for his own actions. Only when this is clear can you continue to work. And only in this way can men regain the lost control over their actions.

Can you put yourself in the shoes of a perpetrator, or how do you manage to approach a case as objectively as possible?

We reject violence, but we do not reject these men. We respect them as a person, as a human being, and value them. But we do not make ourselves accomplices of the perpetrator. We are there for you and work with you. We don't take sides either. Of course, we also see the victims' suffering and victim protection has absolute priority. No counseling should lead to renewed stress for those affected. It is important to have a clear stance against violence, otherwise you cannot work therapeutically. That is the key to why counseling ultimately works.

How do you personally deal with such burdens?

The exchange with colleagues is important. Supervision is very important so that you are not left alone with problems. It is important to practice active mental hygiene in order to get pictures out of your head. So sport, exercise in general and rest. But the most effective is a functioning team that also advises you itself.

Carsten Grün conducted the interview.