Community Alternatives To Violence offers program for batterers
Community Alternatives To Violence of the Common Purpose of the Panhandle maintains that programs for batterers are a critical part of the solution to ending domestic violence. Women are the most common victims of domestic violence. The majority of batterers are men. Domestic violence is a crime.
Community Alternatives To Violence provides licensed intervention programs for area men and women who are batterers. The agency's vision is a violence-free community. Their mission is "to provide healthy alternatives to violent behavior by educating the community about family violence." The program's primary goal is victim safety, said executive director Carolyn Zdziera.
Community Alternatives To Violence accepts court-ordered batterers and volunteers referrals to their 32-week domestic violence intervention program. The men that are involved in their program are usually first–time offenders, said Zdziera at a Morgan County Commission meeting where she spoke about their program.
Morgan County Prosecuting Attorney Debra McLaughlin said that typically women don't want to report incidents of domestic violence, but that she does get domestic assault cases. McLaughlin gives sentences ranging from 30 days to six months or a year. She suspends the sentence for batterers that enroll in the Community Alternatives To Violence batterers intervention program. They are put on unsupervised probation for a year.
Finish program or it's jail
McLaughin said of two Morgan County cases where the batterers had been required to take the program that she hadn't seen either back in court. Some batterers don't complete the court-ordered program. If they don't finish the program, they go to jail, said Morgan County Sheriff Ronald McIntire.
The Community Alternatives To Violence program has had a 96% success rate for the 55 individuals that have completed the 8-month program, said Zdziera. Only two batterers had reoffenses of any kind, she said.
In the Community Alternatives To Violence program, batterers learn about the power and control issues that fuel all forms of domestic violence. Weekly groups meet in Morgan, Jefferson and Berkeley Counties. The program uses videos, role-playing and a lot of discussion about participants' behaviors and beliefs, said Zdziera.
Two facilitators lead the weekly sessions for male batterers that are held in Morgan County. Facilitators receive 30 hours of training a year and are licensed by the state Family Services Board, said Zdziera. Both Morgan County facilitators have extensive backgrounds and training in group work, she said.
During the sessions, it's the first time that participants are talking with other men about the issues of violence and power and control. Some batterers are also required to go to the 12-step programs for alcohol or drug abuse.
Zdziera noted that their program is not counseling, coddling or anger management for offenders, but an education curriculum. The Community Alternatives To Violence program is designed to establish a safe place where batterers can discuss their behavior non-judgmentally, examine their belief systems and work on their personal dynamics, said Zdziera.
"Until you involve the men—the perpetrators the women keep going back to—it's going to keep going on," said Zdziera of domestic violence.
If the women don't return to the same man, many find another man who has similar power and control issues.
Power and control
The Community Alternatives To Violence program's intervention and conflict resolution strategies are from the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project from Duluth, Minnesota. The program teaches batterers about the power and control wheel of physical and sexual violence and the behaviors that are generally seen in domestic violence situations.
Perpetrators of domestic violence use coercion, threats, intimidation, emotional abuse, isolation, denying and blaming, male privilege and economic abuse, said Zdziera. They also use the children in power plays or threaten to take them away.
Offenders will put the victim down, call them names, scare them with looks, gestures and actions, say they'll leave, threaten suicide, make light of the abuse or say that the victim caused it. They may also prevent the victim from getting or keeping a job.
In the program, batterers learn about non-violence and equality by focusing on strategies and traits such as negotiation and fairness, non-threatening behavior, respect, trust and support, honesty and accountability, responsible parenting, shared responsibility and economic partnership.
Specific strategies include being willing to compromise, listening non-judgmentally, agreeing on a fair distribution of work, making financial or family decisions together, supporting the other's life goals, admitting being wrong, communicating truthfully, respecting the other's feelings, opinions, activities and friends, sharing parental responsibilities and being a positive non-violent role model for the children.
One man's story
"Mike," a local man who has been participating in the Community Alternatives To Violence intervention program, admitted that he went to prison for what he did wrong.
He is no longer in the relationship in which the domestic violence occurred. Sometimes that happens when the relationship was already going downhill, said Zdziera.
"It takes two to get along. You just have to try and work things out," he said.
Mike was more than halfway through the 32-week program for batterers at the time of
his phone interview. He felt
that his involvement in the program would help him 100%. Mike noted that he couldn't go to a "redneck buddy" for help with his domestic violence issues.
"Sometimes your buddy is the last person you want to talk with. It's talking to straight people that will help you out," he said.
Before he held in his feelings, Mike said. Being able to talk things out with the group has really helped him the most, he said.
Communication with others in the same situation helps domestic violence offenders to open up. A lot of batterers feel isolated and it just adds another layer to the problem, said Zdziera.
One of the issues that Mike felt he needed the most help with was decision-making.
"Instant decisions are the wrong thing to do," he said.
Promises to finish
Mike said he would finish out the program since it was one of the conditions of his parole. He hoped to take what he has learned from the Community Alternatives To Violence intervention program into future relationships.
"I feel I need the group to learn more about relationships. I'm hoping it will do me a world of good," said Mike.
For more information about the Community Alternatives To Violence program, call 304-262-4424 or send an e-mail to email@example.com.