Steve Halley, LSCSWSteve Halley, LSCSW

The Battering Intervention Facilitator’s Tool Box

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Welcome to our blog. These posts share some of the many tried and true tools, skills, and techniques that the Family Peace Initiative has found to be valuable through the years. We hope that this Facilitator's Tool Box will become a resource for you in your own quest to be the best facilitator you can be. We will be adding new blog posts monthly. Enjoy!

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Thoughts on Sexual Respect

82056351 sIf you have been paying attention to the news lately, you have heard many women who have been sexually assaulted speaking out publicly. If you are familiar with the #METOO thread, you know that nearly 1.5 million women have acknowledged that they have been victims of rape, sexual abuse and sexual harassment. This should not be a surprise, as research has indicated this prevalence for a long time. Dr. Mary Koss completed a study at Kent State in the 1990’s that showed almost one third of American women, by the time they reach age 25, will have experienced rape, or attempted rape.    What often goes unspoken is the number of men—likely millions, who are sexually assaulting women. Some of these men who sexually disrespect women walk into our BIP classes each week.  Sexual respect is a topic BIP programs can't afford to ignore.

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Interns Experience the FPI Orientation

Welcome to the first edition of the Family Piece Initiative (FPI) Intern’s Blog. This blog will be written by Katie Z. and Anna K., both social work interns, who will be spending the next nine moths learning how to intervene with those who batter. It is our pleasure to share with you some of our learning experiences as we pursue the knowledge and skills to become facilitators for a batter intervention program (BIP).

The first significant lesson we learned at FPI was through an orientation class. Orientation is the first class that participants attend during their 27-week program. We were invited to engage in the class alongside participants who had been court-mandated to the program. Shortly after this class began, it became obvious that we were going to be asked to become vulnerable and take ownership for our own cruel behaviors, exactly what we ask of our participants.  Somehow, in what seemed like just a few minutes, the facilitator had all of us sharing things about ourselves that we wouldn’t normally share in every day conversation. Her approach seemed so natural, but we are still not sure how she so easily got us to open up.  It was sobering for us to participate in a process that asked us to examine our own beliefs, attitudes, and adverse emotions. It became clear that the FPI journey to becoming a skilled facilitator begins with the ability to look at ourselves.

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A Motive to Consider in the Case of Stephen Paddock

                                                                                                                                                                         

11074700 sTen days after the horrific event, the answers to so many questions about Stephen Paddock’s motive for creating death and destruction in Las Vegas remain unknown.  USA Today: October 11, 2017, when referring to Sheriff Joe Lombardo, reported: “Lombardo told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that investigators have interviewed Paddock’s entire family, including his two ex-wives. He said the investigation is progressing, but that a motive for the shooting has not been determined.  We may never know,” Lombardo said, “All those things that you would expect to find, we have not found.”  
 

As we watch the news unfold, there have been many predictions, not the least of which is that Paddock must be a batterer.  Some have seized the opportunity to declare that almost all of those who are terrorists battered their partner. The challenge with this thinking is that we haven’t refined our approach—it is as if every domestic batterer is prone to mow down others without provocation.  We know that domestic violence is common while murder is rare.  It is a mistake to think all murderers have the same motive, just as it is a mistake to think all batterers have the same motive.  

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The Man in the Mirror

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One of the men who completed the Family Peace Initiative program made a statement a while back that has really stuck with me.   He said, “I always thought that my job was to protect my family from monsters who might hurt them.  I will never forget the day I looked in the mirror and realized that the monster was not outside the house, but living inside the walls of our home. I realized for the first time that the monster was me.”  How is it possible that this man could be completely oblivious to the fact that he is “the monster” his family needs protection from?  

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It is All in the Message

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In our approach to trauma-focused batterer intervention, we ask people to become responsible for two things:  1) The first is to be accountable for the cruelty that they have used against others; and 2) The second is to become responsible for healing the impact of the cruelty that was done to them long before they could do anything to prevent it.  The cruelty they experienced as a child can never be their fault, but they must take on the responsibility to heal the impact of those experiences. To show how these two components are linked, let me give you an example of how it plays out in routine conversations in our group room.

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"Situational Violence" Rarely Is

wolf in sheeps clothingRuss arrived at my office for his initial domestic violence assessment.  He had been arrested for domestic violence, and was seeking a diversion agreement with the district attorney.  As a condition prior to the diversion being granted, Russ was asked to complete a DV assessment with me.  He was a business owner in a small town.  He did not want this situation going to court because it could certainly heap embarrassment on him and his family, and impact his business.  

I interviewed Russ for nearly two hours.  He began his assessment by telling me that he was completely embarrassed that he had hit his wife.  He explained that Bethany had an affair with a co-worker.  Russ confronted her shortly after he had found pictures of Bethany and the co-worker on her phone in a compromising situation.  The confrontation turned to yelling, and during the yelling, she stood up and pushed Russ.  Russ slapped her in the "heat of the moment", and Bethany called the police.  

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The Completion Letter


57106146 sLearning styles vary among those who attend BIP classes.  The more activities used that relate to different learning styles, the stronger the BIP curriculum. One activity that we use is the Completion Letter. As the name describes, this is a letter that is written and presented by the participant to the class at the end of the program. This assignment carries with it the expectation that it will be a demonstration of what was learned throughout the 27 weeks.  The following example was recently read in class as part of a completion process. Of course, the names have been changed: 

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Domestic Violence is Child Abuse

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"Bob” sits in class talking about the cruelty that he used against his wife.  He acknowledges yelling at her, calling her names, and on several occasions, punching and pushing her down.  The rest of us sit quietly, listening to his effort to take ownership of his violence.  As he gets close to the end of what he wants to say, he makes a comment that I have heard far too many times among those who use violence in their families.  Bob says, “as bad as I have been to my wife, at least I have never been abusive to my kids.” 

I can’t think of a better example of denial than what “Bob” just said.  As if he can separate out his violence in the home and play like it only impacts one person.  Whenever there are children, abusive behavior towards “my wife”, is child abuse.  It is impossible to abuse a partner without abusing the kids. A parent is not a “good parent” if they are abusing their children’s other parent.  Period.

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The "Mantra of Shame" in Domestic Violence Intervention

 

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If you have been doing work with those who batter for any length of time, it is likely that you have heard the “mantra of shame”.  It usually comes unexpectedly. The mantra normally begins with a sigh, and then the eyes shift toward the floor. There is a pause and then the words come, barely audible.  “I promised myself…… I swore that I would never become… I vowed that I would never be… like my dad… and look…I am just like him.”  Tears often follow.

I have heard this mantra of shame numerous times.  This mantra is loaded with the emotional energy of sadness, fear, anger and profound grief for both the suffering of the past and the reality of present day.  It is a humbling moment when those who batterer realize that they have recreated the horror and trauma of their own experience. They have found themselves face to face with their own “River of Cruelty”.

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Handing off the Football: Fear in Batterer in Batterer Intervention

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I remember playing “tackle the man with the ball” during recess in 5th grade. I hated this game. I didn’t mind “tackling the man with the ball” but I was terrified of being the one getting tackled. I did not want my classmates to know I was afraid, so occasionally, I would muster the courage to grab the ball and run. The blood thirsty mob would join in pursuit, and just as I was about to be tackled, I would throw the football over my head, high up into the air, and someone else would pick up the ball and run.  I had effectively given my fear away to someone else.

My work with those who batter reminds me of “tackle the man with ball”.  Many who batter go to great lengths to look brave, courageous or manly, but when the façade wears thin and fear becomes intolerable, anger, violence and threats are useful tactics to hand off the fear to others “like a football”. This need to give adverse feelings away to others is a direct result of growing up in “The River of Cruelty” where fear is considered weakness. 

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"Only When I Deserved It": Those who batter and corporal punishment

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Here in Kansas, everyone who gets referred to a batterer intervention program undergoes an assessment prior to engaging in the program.  One question we ask is how they were disciplined as a child. A few questions later, we ask about experiences of physical abuse.  The answers that people give to these two questions says a lot about how cruelty is passed from person to person and from generation to generation.

Commonly, when the question about discipline is asked, the answer goes something like…

“Oh, I was a bad kid growing up. I got whoopings all the time when I got in trouble.”

I follow up with a question like…

“What did a ‘whooping’ look like in your experience?”

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