The thread that unites our women’s groups is prior abuse. Women rarely use scare tactics to control or have power over an intimate partner. Instead, women rise up against past abuse from former partners, or they fight back in self-defense. Often, women use a weapon—whether a knife, gun, or the first thing available—to have a better chance at physically hurting their partners. The weapon is known as “an equalizer” because women typically have one chance to render their partners incapable of retaliation
There is a certain magic in our women’s groups, which explains how the women become bonded. As they are learning about domestic violence, they are becoming resources and cheerleaders for each other. Through empathy, they support and empower each other.
Our male groups, too, become supportive. The men offer each other jobs, give rides, and provide feedback. It is powerful to hear a man say, “I’m sorry you lost your kids, man. But it’s not over. Stay focused.” When men recognize that violence is a learned behavior, they become more insightful about parenting children as well as loving a partner. They begin to understand that American boys are raised to be strong, tough, and brave. They begin to understand why it is difficult for men to show weakness, vulnerability, and emotions other than happy or angry.
As more men emerge as Victims, our facilitators challenge them to review which red flags they ignored and how long they ignored them. The men are taught that they always have choices, and that they are responsible for their choices. Choosing to do nothing is still a choice.
Our Groups in General
Our facilitators instill hope in clients who come to us feeling angry, hurt, and/or broken. We do not judge the alleged crime; we do not judge the person. Instead, we treat our clients like human beings who have made one or more poor choices. We teach clients that they are personally responsible for everything about them—from their thoughts, to their feelings, to their actions, to their beliefs—and everything in between. We teach clients that life is about choices, and that each choice has consequences, whether good or bad. When our clients see the advantage of changing their thoughts, feelings, actions, and/or beliefs, and they practice those changes consistently, outcomes for families are improved. Victims are safer. Clients are challenged to reflect on what they need to change in themselves in order to stay out of the judicial system or DCFS. Clients are encouraged to make the changes necessary in themselves for a healthy intimate relationship. We are not in the business of repairing relationships. Instead, we focus on helping each client become a better partner, a better parent, and a better human being.
Accountability is paramount in our program. Group Interventions expects clients to
adhere to our strict attendance policy and contract.
Consistent attendance helps clients
they may set for themselves. Some notable client goals from the past include deleting the verb “bitching” from vocabulary, stopping smoking and using cigarette money for children’s gifts, and obtaining a General Education Degree.
A second factor in accountability is our progress report. This carbonless form accommodates DCFS caseworkers, who can quickly see progress or lack thereof. Counselors fill out the form and provide an instant copy to clients. Counselors also provide narrative progress reports to Caseworkers.
In addition to consistent attendance and progress reports, each client is expected to write a letter to his/her Victim(s) and read it to the group on his/her last night. The letter is never delivered to or shared with the Victim(s). It is a therapeutic process to write the letter and present it verbally to the group because the letter typically expresses remorse and addresses accountability for the events that have occurred. Besides a letter, a nonviolent plan must be written and read aloud to the group. The nonviolent plan summarizes the client’s time in group and answers the question: How will you remain a nonviolent person going forward?
Through accountability, education, self-reflection, encouragement, and acceptance of their humanness, our clients become aware of the consequences of their choices. They develop insight into who they are and who they can become. In the words of Maya Angelou, when they know better, they do better.