Domestic Violence

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In this continuing education course, massage therapists learn their special role in the lives of people who experience domestic violence. Bodywork is all about touch, and one in five therapists will encounter a client who is a victim of domestic abuse. Learn how to offer a safe haven for clients and to gently navigate this topic in your therapeutic practice.

Domestic Violence Course Outline (5 CEUs):
  • Chapter One: What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence is defined as “behaviors used by one person in a relationship to control the other. Partners may be married or not married; heterosexual, gay, or lesbian; living together, separated or dating.”i The behaviors can be violent and criminal, but are not necessarily either. Psychological, emotional, and financial abuse may be neither criminal nor violent, but can often lead to violent behaviors from the abuser.ii

  • Chapter Two: Who are the victims?

Domestic violence can happen to anyone. It is not gender, race, age, religion, or sexual-preference-specific.iii Someone is a victim of domestic violence every 15 seconds in the United States. One out of four high-school romantic relationships involve abuse.iv

  • Chapter Three: Who are the abusers?

In the majority of cases, abusers are men who abuse women. They are often unidentifiable in public. They may have low self-esteem.v One myth is that domestic abusers often abuse because of alcohol or drugs; however, studies have shown that once abusers stop using alcohol or drugs, the abuse usually

  • Chapter Four: Manipulation and Control

Committing domestic violence is a choice the batterer makes. It is not simply because he or she has lost control of his emotions or actions. This is evident in the subtle actions the batterer takes to manipulate and control the life of the victim, actions which may or may not be used in concurrence with physical or sexual violence.vii

  • Chapter Five: The Cycle of Violence

The cycle of violence is a three-phase cycle that repeats over and over again in abusive intimate relationships. The phases are tension building, explosion, and the honeymoon phase.

  • Chapter Six: Common Myths

There are many myths surrounding domestic abuse and this chapter clarifies some of these misconceptions. For example, one myth is that if the victim doesn’t leave then it must not be that bad. However, there are myriad reasons why a victim cannot leave an abusive relationship (to be discussed in the next chapter). Often times, trying to leave escalates the violence. The moment a victim tries to leave is usually the moment she is in the most danger of violence.viii

  • Chapter Seven: Why Doesn't the victim leave?

The victim may not leave an abuser due to numerous reasons. Most importantly, the victim may be concerned for their safety. The well-being of their children, religious influences, fear of isolation, and financial issues are factors as well.

  • Chapter Eight: Warning Signs

How do you know if someone close to you (or a client) is being abused? What warning signs should you look out for? It can be difficult because the abuser's isolation may not give you time to assess the victim's possible abuse.

  • Chapter Nine: Domestic Violence and Health Care

Domestic violence has health care tolls beyond just caring for the immediate injuries. Domestic violence also plays a part in the transmission of sexual transmitted diseases. It can be a factor in alcohol and substance abuse. It can impact a victim's ability to manage chronic illnesses like diabetes and high blood pressure.

  • Chapter Ten: Domestic Violence and Massage Therapy

Massage therapists play a special role in the lives of people who are victims of domestic violence. Since bodywork is all about touch, it is possible that the therapist may encounter areas the victim doesn't want you to touch. You may notice bruises, marks, or emotional issues in the client.

  • Chapter Eleven: Domestic Violence and the Health Care Worker

The huge numbers of domestic violence incidences in America mean that many health care workers come face-to-face with it while doing their job. When some women tell someone about the abuse, it is often a member of their health care team. The goal of the health care worker is to provide a safe, supportive and understanding environment where the patient does not feel threatened or judged.

  • Chapter Twelve: The Conversation with the Victim

Whether you're a health care worker, massage therapist, family member, or just a friend, there are a few guidelines to follow when having a conversation with a domestic violence victim about her situation. The most important attitude you can project is one of belief. Don't question the victim or express doubt. Don't start laying blame, judging, or pushing the victim to leave if she resists.

  • Chapter Thirteen: Domestic Violence and the Legal System

The legal system can be a confusing and intimidating system, a fact which can prevent some victims of domestic violence from using it. There are three basic ways that a victim can use the legal system to battle abuse: getting a divorce or legal separation, getting a civil protection order (restraining order), and criminal prosecution of the abuser.ix

  • Chapter Fourteen: Breaking Free

Finally deciding to leave and abusive relationship is a monumental and life-saving decision, but it is complicated and difficult. If you know someone (or have a client) who you know has decided to leave, there are things she should consider. Rule number one is never, ever tell the abuser that you are leaving or give any details about where you are going. Abusers are at their most violent when they think they are losing control, and the victim leaving is the ultimate loss of control.






i, “Definition,”


ii Ibid


iii Noelle Nelson, Dangerous Relationships: How to Identify and Respond to the Seven Warning Signs of a Troubled Relationship, Da Capo Publishing, 1997.


iv David L. Bender, Domestic Violence: Opposing Viewpoints, Greenhaven Press, 2000.


v, “Who Are The Abusers?”


vi K.J. Wilson, When Violence Begins At Home, Second Edition, Hunter House Publishers, 2006


vii Help Guide, “Domestic Violence and Abuse,”


viii, “Common Myths,”


ix K.J. Wilson, When Violence Begins At Home, Second Edition, Hunter House Publishers, 2006



Continuing education units (CEUs) are provided via electronic download in PDF format. Review the course work at your own pace and then take the included test online. You can print your certificate immediately after passing each test! All coursework is NCBTMB approved (NCBTMB # 451897-12). NOTE: Each state has different requirements. Please be sure to check our state requirements page and contact your state to verify your requirements.