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  • Writer's pictureClaire Timmermans

Time-out procedure: STOP domestic violence

Home should be the safest place. However, for people where domestic violence occurs in the home situation, home is far from a safe place. Domestic violence is violence by someone in the victim's domestic circle. The word "domestic" says nothing about the place of violence, but about the relationship between the aggressor and the victim. However, people are not so quick to say that there is domestic violence in their home. Often there is shame, fear, guilt and/or a dependent position in which people find themselves.

How often does it occur

The seriousness of the problem becomes clear when we look at the figures. Every month in the Netherlands, a child or adult dies from the consequences of domestic violence. Police record about 84,000 incidents of domestic violence each year. And those are just the incidents that are known to the police. The research shows that in families known to Safe Home, a domestic violence and child abuse hotline, regular violence occurs. There are an average of 71 violent incidents per family per year, prior to the report to Safe Home (Veilig Thuis).

Consequences of domestic violence

The consequences of domestic violence are diverse. You can develop a negative self-image, lose your resilience and self-confidence or experience depressive feelings and stress complaints. Children who grow up in an unsafe situation can feel sad, anxious and powerless. The survey found that 4 in 10 children have traumatic symptoms. They suffer from depression or anxiety problems. It is noticeable to parents that many of them have been victims of violence themselves in the past. They grew up in a family where there was partner violence or they were abused as children.

Breaking the spiral of violence

Taking a time-out often proves to be an effective means of preventing escalation in the event of arguments. In the event of an argument, both partners can ask for a time-out. This technique is effective because it allows the rational part of the brain to determine the best response, rather than letting the more primitive part hijack our thoughts and leave us with a limited, fight-or-flight response. Timeouts cause the adrenaline to decrease, allowing you to think more clearly. A time-out thus ensures that the excessive emotionality calms down.

By calming excessive emotionality, both partners are given the space to think about a more constructive way to resolve the existing conflict. To succeed in a time-out, appointments are required that are recorded. This is important to prevent time-outs from failing, for example, because they are taken too late, because the other party does not respect the time-out, because the other partner tries to prevent the timeout or names the timeout as "run away" or "lose".

Taking a time-out, how do you do that? The following is a step-by-step example of a time-out procedure between partners:

time-out procedure aanleren en inzetten met behulp van online therapie

- Both partners can request a time-out.

- Request a time-out if the level of anger, aggression, "tightness" (feeling pressured), sadness or fear is too high (in your own judgment) to be able to talk further in a constructive way, when in other words you feel that things are going wrong.

- Focus on signs of anger building: physical, in thinking, in doing, in feelings, in thoughts,...

- A time-out is requested by saying the words "time-out", possibly accompanied by a pre-agreed signal, gesture or sign; other agreements can also be made about this. Avoid having to negotiate this at the time of the time-out.

- Do not hesitate to request a time-out; better to request a time-out too early than too late.

- Taking a time-out is not the same as losing or running away. It's a breather for both partners. It is also a good opportunity for both of them to think about how to resolve the existing conflict.

- Requesting a time-out must be respected by both parties; the partner may not challenge the request.

- Indicate a request for a time-out by making clear agreements with which gesture, word, character, and how to do so. The most well-known example is this: but it may also be another sign or signal, as long as it is clear in advance what will be used or said.

- A timeout lasts at least 20 minutes and a maximum of twenty-four hours. When the time-out starts, both partners physically distance themselves from each other. For the first 20 minutes, they are not in the same room and do not contact each other. The time-out applicant goes away first and clearly indicates how much time he needs. This gives the other person the foothold that the other is coming back, and when.

- During (part of) the time-out, both partners undertake a distracting activity (which they may have agreed in advance). Make a list of activities you can do during the first half hour of the time-out in advance. It must be a relaxing activity.

- During or possibly afterwards, both partners take the time separately to think about a constructive way to resume the conversation.

- The person who requests a time-out has the responsibility to take the initiative to restore contact. He approaches the other party with a proposal to resume the conversation. This should be done between 20 minutes and twenty-four hours after the start of the time-out.

- If the other partner indicates that they are not yet ready to resume the conversation, the time-out applicant respects that. It will be agreed together when the conversation will be resumed. When the time-out applicant does not feel able to resume the conversation in a constructive manner twenty-four hours after the start of the time out, the time-out applicant approaches the other partner to indicate this. An appointment will be made together for the resumption of the conversation.

- There are no restrictions on the number of time-outs that can be requested.

- A time-out remains in effect until both partners cancel the timeout and resume the conversation about the conflict.

Anger/aggression can lead to impulsive actions that can have very negative effects on our relationships. Learning to control our anger and manage it more effectively is important for our emotional well-being. Following the above steps to create and implement an efficient time-out strategy can help to improve your relationships and prevent your anger from getting the upper hand from yourself or your partner.

Domestic violence professional help

If anger/aggression is a serious, common problem in your relationship, consider seeking professional help. Professional help can be very effective and helpful in breaking the spiral of violence. At Nostra Forza we have a lot of knowledge and experience in working with emotion regulation problems and domestic violence, with both the victim and the aggressor. For more information can be found on our website see: We gladly offer you a free consultation session to see what we can do for you.

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