The book Black and Blue is a novel telling the story of Fran Benedetto and how she is trapped in an abusive relationship. There are many points at which Fran could seek help or use an intervention, but the very best point would be when the physical abuse and mental manipulation from Bobby first begins. Fran says she meets Bobby at the age of nineteen, but does not mention how soon after first meeting that Bobby begins physically abusing her. She does say that Bobby first hit her at the age of nineteen, so the abuse evidently began not too long after their first meeting. According to Fran, Bobby once grabbed her arm because he had caught her dancing with another man. Bobby’s justification for the abuse was “…so that I (Fran) couldn’t get away, because if I got away it would be the end of him, he loved me that much” (Quindlen, 1998, p. 4). She then continues, “The next night he pushed back the sleeve of my blouse and kissed each mark…’Oh, Jesus,’ he whispered,’I am so goddamned sorry.’ And I cried, too. When I cried in those days it was always for his pain, not for mine.'” (Quindlen, 1998, p. 4). Right from the beginning, Bobby demonstrates his ability to manipulate someone into believing that he really loves those he physically beats. He was also a master of making someone feel guilty for things that were not their fault. Fran says on page three,”Sometimes Bobby even made me believe that I was guilty of something…that I made him slip and bang his knee…That I made him beat me up, that it was me who made the fist, angled the foot, brought down a hand hard, hard” (Quindlen, 1998).
The manipulation and control is blatant and obvious from the beginning. My personal belief is that it is best to stop things before they start, so I would say that the best thing to do would be to intervene right at this point. My guess is that it would be a rare sight, if ever, to see someone seek help this early on in the relationship, so this is probably not very realistic, but it would be the best point at which to intervene.
The model that I think will work best is the Humanistic Perspective. This perspective states that
“(1) each person is unique and has value, (2) each person is responsible for the choices he or she makes within the limits of freedom, (3) people always have the capacity to change themselves, even to make radical change, (4) human behavior can be understood only from the vantage point of the phenomenal self-from the internal frame of reference of the individual, (5) people make psychologically destructive demands on each other, and attempts to meet those demands produce anxiety, (6) human behavior is driven by a desire for growth, personal meaning, and competence, and by a need to experience a bond with others” (Hutchison, 2003, p. 81).
This perspective goes on to emphasize the person’s search for meaning, as well as an individual’s ability to engage in free action (Hutchison, 2003, pgs. 80-81).
When working with someone who has been abused, and being a male myself, I would be very careful to ask questions in a non-threatening manner so as to minimize the chances the client will hide useful information. My experience has been that women find me comfortable and safe to be around, so I really think that the initial engagement and continuing interaction would go quite well. I would use open-ended questions that begin with what and how, and I would make sure not to use an intimidating tone when confrontation is needed. The kind of information that is most important to gain during assessment is Fran’s life as a child and how that deviates from what a healthy childhood experience would look like in relation to the Humanistic Perspective. Specifically, Fran is never allowed to establish her own identity during childhood or adulthood, showing her dysfunction in relation to the second principle; she also is unable to experience much growth and healthy bonds with others because of her family’s and Bobby’s control over her, which shows her dysfunction in relation to the sixth principle. I am sure there are also many other unrealistic and unhealthy beliefs floating through her head, and as she admitted before, she did say that sometimes she believed she was the one who caused Bobby to beat her. In sum, the questioning will be probing just how far from a healthy level Fran is in relation to the principles of the Humanistic Perspective (Quindlen, 1998).
The actual structure of the interview would involve the helper asking Fran questions to see how closely to the six principles of Humanistic Perspective Fran adheres. The interviewer is responsible for taking the lead, and the interviewee would fill in the details. Overall, there will be a balance of talking and discussion between the helper and client.
The role of the helper in the assessment phase is to ask the client questions in order to aid the helper in determining the level of functioning of the client in relation to each of the six principles of the Humanistic Perspective. The premise behind this is that there is some sort of ideal healthy level of functioning, which is different for every client, in relation to each of the six areas of the Humanistic Perspective. During the assessment phase, the role of the client is pretty passive; all he or she needs to do is respond to the interviewer’s questions, filling in the details and elaborating his or her justifications for a particular set of beliefs and actions.
The first goal for Fran will be to get healthy in relation to the Humanistic Perspective’s first principle: “…each person is unique and has value” (Hutchison, 2003, p. 81). From the book and Fran’s adult life, it is clear that she has very little, if any time at any point in her life to create her own identity. As a child, Fran “…complained about not being able to go away to go to college or take a job at the beach with [her] girlfriends in the summers because then Grace (her sister) would have no one to look out for her[.]” (Quindlen, 1998, p. 25). And after reading the rest of the book, we know how Fran’s life is: she has to constantly worry about not doing things that will upset Bobby, fearing he will beat her. So obviously, there is a great need for Fran to establish her own identity as a person (Quindlen, 1998).
The next goal for Fran would be to get healthy in relation to the sixth principle of the Humanistic Perspective: “…human behavior is driven by a desire for growth, personal meaning, and competence, and by a need to experience a bond with others…” (Hutchison, 2003, p. 81). In the book, Fran feels like a competent nurse, and has a good relationship with her son Robert, but she still has work to do.
In regard to the intervention stage, it is the role of the client to be honest about how he or she is doing and what actions he or she is taking to accomplish the larger goals. It is also about the effort the client puts forth; this intervention is very rigorous and requires much personal effort by the client. The helper, in this stage, serves much like a coach. The helper will be responsible for aiding the client in motivation; he will also provide advice, guidance, or clarification when needed; finally, he will also be responsible for rewarding and acknowledging the client’s progress, no matter how small or large. It will be important for the helper to not make the client feel ashamed for failing to meet the goals; some steps are more difficult than others, and all people will struggle at some point, but the bottom line is that making the client feel ashamed for not accomplishing a goal or struggling only impedes progress. Goals will be set and written down on paper. Goals must have the agreement of both the helper and the client, and are highly flexible depending upon the client. For some, holding down a full-time job is quite an accomplishment, and for others, that goes without thinking. The helper has to sense the client’s potential and help the client realize and attain this potential as best as is possible. Evaluation of whether goals have been attained or not will simply be accomplished by a meeting between the worker and client. They will review the agreed-upon goals set on paper after an agreed-upon time period. If the goals have not been met at the time period, that is not a big deal. The primary function of having an established time period is simply to put a sense of urgency in the client’s head and to motivate him or her to try to accomplish the goal; however, this will not be disclosed to the client so that the motivation is not removed. Rather, when it comes time for a review and the goal is not met, the worker will simply acknowledge what the client has done and work with the client on what might work better to accomplish that goal in the future. The point of all this is that the situation is highly complex because, as the Humanistic Perspective states, “…each person is unique…” (Hutchison, 2003, p. 81).
In relation to the first goal, the ideal would be for Fran to create her own identity as a person. As elaborated upon earlier, from childhood until nineteen Fran has no time to be her self. She is always consumed with worry about responsibility for other people. In the actual meeting between worker and client, the worker would help Fran to come up with a list of twenty things she would like to do in her free time. It would then be Fran’s job to try out those things and report what she experienced. Over time, she would eventually identify several things she really enjoyed doing, which would help her to create her own identity. She would also be reminded that the list could always be changed at any time, per her discretion. Another step that could be taken to help her establish her identity is to establish some healthy friends. Fran and the helper would come up with an action plan for Fran to make new friends. They would agree upon a certain amount of social activity that is right for Fran. For example, they might agree that having one friend who can be trusted as a confidant, and then five others who are regular acquaintances, is an acceptable amount of social activity for Fran. After achieving this goal, Fran would then report her feelings and note if she felt this was good, not enough, or too much. Changes may be made at this point, but they might not if Fran is feeling good and the helper agrees she has a healthy level of social activity. Some people like lots and lots of friends and going out all the time, while others like only a few close friends and staying in most of the time; the important thing is finding out what Fran would be comfortable with and then attaining that level of social activity. The idea behind this is that people function better when they have friends with common values and norms; this helps a person to create and solidify their own identity. The belief is that if these two smaller sub-goals are accomplished, that will lead to the accomplishment of the main goal to help Fran establish herself as a unique and valuable person. People who really believe they are unique and valuable do not allow others to physically, emotionally, or sexually abuse them; therefore, Fran would not find Bobby Benedetto an attractive or acceptable person to be with (Quindlen, 1998).
The second main goal correlates with principle six of the Humanistic Perspective: “…human behavior is driven by a desire for growth, personal meaning, and competence, and by a need to experience a bond with others…” (Hutchison, 2003, p. 81). To her credit, Fran does have some positives already in place. She does have a good relationship with her son, Robert, some form of relationship with her sister Grace, and she knows she is a good nurse, all of which make her feel competent and connected. However, beyond that, there is nothing else positive in Fran’s life while she is under Bobby’s control. In relation to this goal, there is a problem that needs to be addressed: Fran’s relationship with Bobby. Humans all need to experience bonds with other humans, even if those bonds are harmful. Right now, Bobby is a harmful relationship for Fran, and something needs to be done. Either Fran needs to remove Bobby from her life and take any action necessary to keep him out or Bobby needs to go to counseling so that he becomes a healthy, non-destructive person. Fran’s relationship with Bobby is significantly impairing her ability to lead a healthy lifestyle, and the helper and Fran need to come to an agreement on which action is best for Fran to take. The helper would also strongly encourage Fran to join some sort of battered women’s group so that she could have social support, wisdom, and guidance from other women who have dealt with the same or similar situation to hers; this will also help her on the right path to forming healthy bonds with others, correlating with principle six (Hutchison, 2003, p. 81).
This plan does sound like a lot of work, and it is supposed to be. However, one of the stronger attributes of the plan is that many of these sub-steps are overlapping and accomplish multiple goals at once. For example, if Fran chooses to attend a battered women’s support group, she is establishing her uniqueness and value as a person, which relates to main goal one, and she is also working on main goal number two in that she is bonding with others. Likewise, when she increases her hobbies and interests and starts to find out what she excels at and enjoys, she will again be establishing her uniqueness and value as a person, which relates to main goal number one, and she will be establishing her growth, personal meaning, and competence, correlating with main goal two. The same applies to when she makes friends. Friends help one to shape his or her own identity and uniqueness, correlating with main goal number one, and friends also help with bonding and personal growth, correlating with main goal number two (Hutchision, 2003, p. 81).
The bottom line with all of this is that it creates a unique healthy lifestyle for each and every person, and it can be amended or tailored as needed to accompany a diverse range of interests and situations. This theoretical intervention does sound like a lot of work, and that is precisely what it is intended to be. It takes a lot of work to create unhealthy lifestyles, so it only makes sense that it would take a lot of work to create a healthy lifestyle. But, according to principle number three of the Humanistic Perspective, “…people always have the capacity to change themselves, even to make radical change…,” so while it is difficult, a complete overhaul of one’s life is not impossible according to this perspective (Hutchison, 2003, p. 81). And in the end, after all the difficulties and strife, wouldn’t most people admit it would have been much better to achieve a healthy lifestyle in the first place, rather than going through what they had to go through? What would Fran say after nearly twenty years of bruises, broken bones, and spilled blood? Bobby did not wind up changing in the end, so wouldn’t it have been better to get rid of him in the first place?
Quindlen, A. (1998). Black and Blue. New York: Random House.
Hutchison, E. (2003). Dimensions of Human Behavior. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage