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CounselingNH E-Zine, Issue #020 Domestic Violence Classes: Taking Responsibility
March 17, 2009

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March 17, 2009

Volume 1, Issue #020 Domestic Violence: A Culture of Responsibility

A Note From Jim

Feature Article: A Culture of Responsibility

A Note From Jim:

Hi, Jim here - bringing you the next in our series of e-zines. In this issue we’ll discuss the philosophy and goals of our male domestic violence program. During the last several months there has been a rise in the number of domestic violence calls being placed to the police. Currently we’re seeing those who have been adjudicated and are seeking to honor their agreements with the Courts. During their appointments the men make it abundantly clear that they expected to give their version of the events that led up to their arrest and then be excused from any programs, follow-through or consequences for their actions. These men are upset and angry when informed that they are recommended to attend a domestic violence intervention class for male offenders of domestic violence. They are provided with a start date and informed about the expectations of the program. On their first day of class the men are typically apprehensive, defensive and stand-offish. Over time a transition occurs.

A Culture of Responsibility

As a Domestic Violence Group Leader one of the activities that I find most meaningful is the welcoming of new members. This is usually done by asking the regularly attending members to explain “what we do here.” The meaning I find comes from my having an opportunity to see how the other members characterize their experience. It also gives me a chance to see if I need to adjust the program or instruction in order to achieve the program goals. The prioritized program goals are: 1) to protect victims, 2) promote participants to accept responsibility for their own behavior, and improve the general quality of family life. The key to the accomplishment of these goals is the group member’s acceptance of responsibility for their own behavior. There are a multitude of lessons exercises and strategies employed that are designed to enable the participant to make changes. The pinnacle concept is responsibility. So, when I ask the class to explain to the new member “what we do here,” it’s my method of checking the efficacy of the class and program as well as a welcoming gesture. Lately, I’ve been hearing senior members of the program eloquently describe the program goals in very clear and succinct ways. Some of these statements are paraphrased here to protect the confidentiality of the members. Members inform newcomers that everyone in the room is an expert at telling a story or thinking about an event in such a way that the speaker or thinker is blameless. However, they’ve come to believe that their only real hope is to find their responsibility in their interactions so they can figure out how to change. This is the only way they can focus on themselves constructively. Individuals “check in” on a weekly basis regarding their misuse of power and/or control towards another person. Initially, this sounds like a negative presumption about the members. However, over time the men come to see this as a central part of their learning. The employment of a power and/or control tactic is a decision that many of the men don’t even realize they are making until their actions are problematic. They come to understand that the program approaches violence like a cancer and do not want to wait until it’s dangerous before intervening. Rather, we want the participants to eventually learn to approach it when it’s in a pre-cancerous state and fully remove it. The culture we have developed is one in which men are heard and encouraged to accept responsibility in a respectful manner. Men are not treated harshly for not fully participating. They do watch their peers benefit from the program and eventually may be suspended from being allowed to attend if they don’t make efforts towards accepting responsibility. They, however, will not be degraded, humiliated or ridiculed for their beliefs or positions. If you would like to know more about our domestic violence intervention program, please contact our office at (603)668-7744.

All the best, Jim _______________________________________________________________ Recommendations:

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All the Best,

Jim Foster

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