Column: Attacking domestic violence from both sides

By Brandon Ramsey

I received a letter from a reader last week concerning my article. In that article, I stated that I coordinated and facilitated a group for convicted batterers.  This concerned reader stated that he or she did not believe that this group was a good idea.  It was stated that all activities and resources should be directed toward the victim, or survivor of the abuse as it is referred to now.  This is a debate that has been stirring in the helping community and governmental funding agencies for some time now.  

Even as a diplomat for this type of group, I am completely in support of as much funding as possible going to agencies such as D.A.R.T., The Wellspring (formerly the Y.W.C.A.), and churches that specialize in helping survivors of domestic abuse and the effects of this horrible epidemic.  And it is an epidemic!  This is an issue that has so many repercussions in the community and definitely in the family.  Not only in the current family that it might be happening in, but families for generations.  At one time this region of Louisiana (Northeast) had the highest murder rate per capita due to domestic violence in the country.  That is not a typo.  We out-ranked cities such as New York, Los Angeles, and Atlanta.  Doesn’t feel so great to be at the top does it?

It is because of the widespread destruction of this issue that I stand strong that we have to attack it from both sides.  We must inform and empower as many people as possible who are surviving abuse, but we also have to change the behaviors of those who have been convicted or admitted to perpetrating these actions.  Changing these behaviors is so important because of one simple fact.  These men or women, in a small amount of cases, are going to get into another relationship.  They are not going to quit dating or refrain from another relationship because they were either caught or are struggling with these issues.  This means that society just trades one violent situation for another.  Doesn’t make much sense does it?

You would be surprised to know that much of the behaviors that occur during a domestic violence relationship are just that, behaviors.  The best way to remedy these is by teaching new behaviors.  In the five years of running this group, I could not tell you how many times that I heard one of the participants say, “I didn’t know that it could be done that way.  That seems like it will work.”  And through that realization and practice, a new behavior is birthed.  This behavior is one that does not attempt to control or dampen the emotions of their partner.  These behaviors might even repair the relations and emotions of the survivors of the actions in the first place.  Isn’t a better quality of life for those survivors and everyone involved the goal anyway?

To the person who might still be stuck on the notion that once someone has been convicted or admitted of these crimes, they should be ostracized or left out of the realm of rehabilitation, I ask that you do some soul searching and ask yourself if just because someone makes a mistake, they should be ostracized without hope.  Groups and programs like this should definitely be an option if their new behaviors are to be a benefit to others.  A scarlet “DV” is not the answer for anyone.


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