She's Not Guilty: How They Try To Reeducate Abusers

A life 2023

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She's Not Guilty: How They Try To Reeducate Abusers
She's Not Guilty: How They Try To Reeducate Abusers
Video: She's Not Guilty: How They Try To Reeducate Abusers
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Alexandra Savina

“On the first day here I would say that the blame for what happened, fifty-fifty or sixty-forty is split between me and my wife. But now I understand that I am 98-99% guilty,”says a man in a wide T-shirt with the emblem of a sports team. He is one of twelve men who attended a group session today for those prone to domestic violence. A variety of people sit on plastic chairs arranged in a circle - in sweatshirts, caps, hoodies and T-shirts with the logos of their favorite teams. The topics and direction of the conversation are set by two female coordinators (according to the rules, a man and a woman should lead the lesson, but today there is an exception), but the conversation is built around what the men themselves are ready and willing to tell.

This is not the first lesson of the course, and many already look at partnerships differently - although, of course, not all. Someone from those present stayed with his wife or partner and, with the help of classes, is trying to improve relations; someone has started a new relationship and learns to resolve conflicts without violence; someone is trying to reconnect with the children. Some recall that they themselves were victims of domestic violence in childhood, and now they repeat what happened to them. Many abused alcohol and drugs; one of the participants admits that he goes not only here, but also three or four other support groups per week.

The large hall where I am sitting belongs to the Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs, or DAIP for short. Outside the window you can see Lake Superior - we are in Duluth, Minnesota, a city that many people know as the birthplace of Bob Dylan and one of the locations of the series "Fargo". Here the Duluth model of combating domestic violence was born, the methods of which are applied in other cities of the United States and the world.


Duluth model

DAIP was created in 1980 by three activists - then the organization was called the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project, it was supposed to support a shelter for victims of domestic violence. For the first year, the entire DAIP was located in the kitchen above the free clinic, and only after that the activists managed to move to a larger space. Even in the early years of its existence, the organization came up with the so-called coordinated community response - a model in which the victim of violence would be supported by the whole society, and not just special organizations and activists. The activists began to work with the police and the judiciary and train them on how to better interact with victims of domestic violence, and also lobbied to change the arrest procedures themselves so that the victim would be safe as soon as possible. The process was difficult and slow, but it paid off.

Almost from the very beginning, DAIP started working with the abuser themselves. Initially, the organization's volunteers visited the men arrested for domestic violence the morning after their arrest and talked to them about the consequences of their actions. At the same time, DAIP has always believed that prison sentences alone cannot solve the problem of domestic violence - so in 1982 they launched groups for men who resort to physical violence. At first, the programs were dedicated only to anger management, but by the mid-eighties, the organizers realized that this was not enough - and drew attention to the cultural attitudes that legitimize violence. DAIP group classes are currently twenty-seven weeks long and chargeable. According to the organization, three hundred twenty-seven people passed them last year. DAIP notes that seven out of ten people who take the course are no longer arrested for domestic violence.

Reimagined masculinity

DAIP is one of the first, but far from the only organization working with abuser.The first such programs appeared in the late 1970s, and also in the United States - for example, EMERGE in Boston, AMEND in Denver and RAVEN in St. Louis. One of the oldest European programs, the Norwegian Alternative to Violence, appeared in 1987. In the UK, one of the first such programs was launched by The Domestic Violence Intervention Project (DVIP) in 1992, based on the experience of Duluth, Boston and New Zealand.

Most often, such organizations offer group work - many believe that it is more effective. Some also offer one-on-one counseling or family therapy for the abuser or victim. Groups for perpetrators of domestic violence are not necessarily run by licensed therapists: the facilitators can be former victims of domestic violence or the abusers themselves who have rethought their behavior and want to help others. But this does not mean that the work is not controlled at all: organizations work according to special methods and conduct trainings for employees.

Stanislav Khotsky, a specialist in dealing with aggression, anger and violence, believes that the basis of effective work with those who use violence is a non-judgmental attitude towards the individual. “This is a basic rule for any area of ​​psychological work, but here it is especially important, because the topic is charged and provokes to break this principle. That is why I do not use the words "abuser", "rapist" and the like, replacing them with a non-judgmental "author of violent acts," he says. “I think that the work is effective if the psychologist leaves any moralizing and focuses on the analysis of the client's needs, on why he chooses violence, what consequences it entails and what can be chosen in return.”

We draw parallels with what their partner or partner might feel in a relationship where the rules are set by someone else and the rules are always beneficial only to him

In the US state of Iowa, they are trying the Achieving Change Through Values-Based Behavior (ACTV) course, that is, "Changes achieved through behavior based on high moral principles." The course creator, Iowa State University researcher Amy Zarling, said programs that work with the shame of perpetrators of violence are less effective. At ACTV, abusers are taught to understand their feelings and emotions - and to cope with them and not get angry if those emotions turn out to be negative.

House of Ruth Maryland, which helps victims of violence and also works with abusers, pays great attention to developing empathy for victims in the latter. “We work in poor areas of the city, among those who come to us there are a lot of non-white people with a low level of income. We know that many of the participants in our programs have faced racism or found themselves in situations where they felt helpless,”says Lisa Nietzsch, director of training and educational programs at House of Ruth Maryland. - We ask how they feel when it seems to them that the rules are set by someone else and the rules are always in favor of this person. We ask what it feels like to feel like your work is being underestimated, or when a security guard is on your heels when you shop in a store. They get angry, sad, indignant, feel hurt. Then we draw parallels with how their partner or partner might feel in a relationship where the rules are set by someone else and the rules are always beneficial only to him. " Nietzsch says that in class they talk a lot about prejudice and sexist stereotypes.

House of Ruth Maryland works with both male and female abusers. According to Lisa Nietzsch, each case is individual, but if you generalize strongly, then men to domestic violence are more often pushed by a sense of their own superiority. Women, on the other hand, can resort to domestic violence, since they themselves were victims of it in the past - and do not want this to happen again. Nietzsch stresses that nothing justifies violence, but says these discoveries can help prevent it in the future - by tackling gender stereotypes, creating a new non-violent image of masculinity, and protecting women from domestic and partner violence.


There are also organizations in Russia that work with men who resort to domestic violence. One of the most famous is the St. Petersburg-based ANO "Men of the XXI Century", created in 2007 with the support of INGO, a crisis center for women. The center's specialists offer individual and group consultations to those who feel that they are prone to violence in relationships - the work is based on Norwegian methods. In recent years, the organization has begun to help specialists from other regions - to conduct master classes and supervision for psychologists and social workers.

Psychologists from the Women's Crisis Center in Astrakhan have developed the Reinterpreted Masculinity program, which includes both group work and individual counseling. A similar free program was launched by the specialists of the "Family" center in Tomsk - they also promise to work with those who wish here in groups and individually.

Nevertheless, it is too early to say that such programs have become commonplace in Russia. There is still no law on domestic violence in the country, the attitude to the problem remains ambiguous, and the culture of psychotherapy is just beginning to develop - therefore, these are still isolated experiments.

Involuntary participation

The main question that inevitably arises when discussing methods of working with abusive people is how effective they are at all. Research shows that between fifty and ninety percent of men who have completed the anti-violence program subsequently refrain from physical manifestations of aggression (periods from six months to three years after the end of the course were taken into account). At the same time, it is difficult to assess whether partner violence is actually ending - at least because the data on repeated arrests does not provide a complete picture of the situation. Abusers who have completed the program may simply learn to better hide their behavior or move on to other forms of abuse - psychological or economic violence: for example, controlling the victim's finances or preventing her from seeing other people.

In addition, not all program participants go through them from beginning to end. According to several studies from 1986 to 2001, between 22% and 42% of participants in American and Canadian programs drop out at some stage. Attracting participants is just as difficult as keeping them in the program - and this is also a complaint of many professionals. That is why organizations often work primarily with those who come to them by court order, if the country's legislation allows it. The court can order the aggressor to undergo therapy instead of imprisonment, and also after or during it.

Lisa Nietzsch notes that most of the participants in the House of Ruth Maryland programs sign up for them precisely at the direction of the court; some are directed by children's rights organizations or other social services. “Unfortunately, even in almost twenty years of work, I have never met a person who would come truly voluntarily, who would not have some kind of external motivation,” she says. - Most partners who use violence in a relationship feel justified or blame the victims. They rarely admit that they need to deal with the problem, and if it does, it is unlikely that they will sign up for a long-term program, let alone a paid one."

“Many of my clients were faced with a choice - to go to prison or to me for a course of treatment. And a significant part of them chose prison "

Stanislav Khotsky believes that there are two main reasons that stop men from seeking help. The first is not knowing what psychological work really is. “There is a widespread misconception that a psychologist either heals or teaches how to live.On the one hand, a man does not want to associate himself with a mental illness, and on the other hand, it is unpleasant for him to act as a student in such an intimate sphere as a relationship with a partner,”the specialist notes. The second reason, according to Stanislav Khotsky, is in stereotypes - for example, that a “real” man should cope with problems on his own. “In addition, many believe that it is the woman who is responsible for the emotional climate in the family. Then male violence is the result of her failure. It often seems so to those who come to me,”the specialist adds.

Anna Kornienko, head of the MIGIP Center for Elimination of the Consequences of Aggression and Violence, believes that men who resort to physical violence rarely see this as a problem: “More often than not, they think that they are doing the right thing: she provoked herself, she is to blame, we must not bury ourselves. Why should they go to a psychologist? Estela Weldon, a forensic therapist who works with criminals, says: “Many of my clients were faced with the choice of going to prison or to me for treatment. And a significant part of them chose prison. “Do such men experience sad emotions? Longing, anxiety, grief - perhaps. But they prefer to cope with all adversity on their own. I think if such a man allowed himself to share his experiences with someone, it would be easier for him to calmly talk with his wife."

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