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Programs seek to change batterers' ways.

There are programs that help the abused find healing and strength. But there are also programs, usually court-mandated, to stop the batterers from their strikes against their intimate partner. Batterer intervention programs aim to teach offenders better ways of dealing with anger and relationships.

One such program is a 52-week-long program offered by Catholic Charities in Solano, Calif.

"I tell people that when you do domestic violence, you have to approach it from many different angles," said Greg Angan, director of the program. "The reason why people are violent are a whole range of why, so you have to attack it on all kinds of levels."

At Catholic Charities, Angan calls his approach an "integrated system. The first thing we talk about is anger management. Then, after that, you have to ask if there is any substance abuse going on in the house."

"If there's substance abuse, I would actually put anger management on the back burner and treat the substance abuse first," he continued. "If there's substance abuse, you can talk to them and if they're under the influence, they won't hear you."

Because of safety concerns, couples are not allowed to go through couples counseling while the partner is completing the 52-week program. Angan suggests that if a couple is planning to remain together after the program is complete, they should seek couples counseling then.

The program covers topics such as the socialization of men, how we become violent, anger management, building self-esteem, problem-solving, decision-making, parenting, substance abuse and communication skills. It also includes financial management and employment.

"My goal is that by the end of the year, he's a better man when he leaves," Angan said.

Most offenders start in a batterer intervention program resistant to change. According to David Adams, co-founder and co-director of the Emerge program in Cambridge, Mass., abusers feel like the system is rigged against them, until they connect the dots and see how their complaints against the victim were a result of their own behavior.

Angan described a similar process. "Most guys, when they come through the program, they are pretty resistant at the beginning because nobody wants to be mandated. But usually by the middle of the program... you see people start to make a change," he said.

Emerge, which identifies itself as the first batterer intervention program in the U.S., began in 1977, before certification standards.

"One thing that is unique about us is we have pretty extensive outreach to the victims," said Adams. "About half of them are living with their abuser so they are not necessarily wanting to end their relationship and are more interested in wanting him to change."

The victims whose partners are in the Emerge program have a two-hour interview with a victim advocate. The victims learn about types of abusive behavior and as they feel more comfortable with the advocate, the victims will eventually reveal more information about their abusive partner. The advocates use this information to gauge the truthfulness of the offenders in the program.

The classes for offenders are co-led by a man and a woman, and the first eight weeks of the program help broaden the understanding of what abusive behavior is.

"Our definition of abuse is anything that puts you in fear," Adams said. "Beyond that, anything that is undermining of her self-esteem or her dependence. That's an important part because they won't report things if they don't think they are abusive."

In the second phase, they go into problem-solving, making use of others in the group. They work on empathy and listening and are asked to report in each week about listening to and supporting their partners.

"Abusers are naturally adept at spotting other people's abusive behaviors, not their own," said Adams.

Thirty percent of the Emerge participants are voluntary, while nationally only 5 percent voluntarily become part of batterer intervention programs, according to information at www.emergedv.com. The program is about 95 percent men and has smaller subgroups of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and in different languages.

An outcome study completed by the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University found of the men who completed Emerge only 11.6 percent had reoffended. This is compared to 30 percent for non-completers.

The Catholic Charities batterer intervention program is getting similar results. In his 16 years as director, Angan has worked with more than 1,000 men and only 10 to 15 men have returned to the program, he said.

And because, unlike such programs as Emerge, it is a Catholic organization, Angan is free to introduce biblical concepts of relationships.

"A common one that people use and misuse is wives be submissive to your husband," he said. "That verse is always misinterpreted. The concept there is if you do love your wives, treat them with honor and respect, quite naturally she probably would be submissive to you.

"Here in the Western culture when we hear the word submissive, we look at it from a superior to an inferior position," Angan said. "But it has nothing to do with that. It's more of a relational submission and it's out of love."

By ELIZABETH A. ELLIOTT

eelliott@ncronline.org
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Title Annotation:MINISTRY & MISSION
Author:Elliott, Elizabeth A.
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Geographic Code:1U9CA
Date:Jun 3, 2016
Words:863
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