Two Programs Show Promising Results in the Fight Against Domestic Violence

It’s hard to fathom that in 2014, Domestic Violence, or Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), in the United States is still an epidemic. Intimate partner homicides make up around 40–50 percent of all murders of women in the United States. If that statistic didn’t disturb you, The Huffington Post noted the difference between American troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq between 2001 and 2012 and the number of American women killed by current or ex male partners during the same time frame,  6,488 and 11,766 , respectively. IPV homicides are practically double the amount of casualties lost during war.

It’s quite clear that something is seriously not working with how the U.S is addressing domestic violence.  While domestic violence committed by intimate partners has declined by more than 60 % since Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, since then, the numbers have stayed “relatively flat.”

High Point Police Detective J.W. Thompson waits as a person is processed before entering the city’s jail to serve a domestic violence prevention notification to an offender, in High Point, N.C. (AP Photo/Lynn Hey)

Thankfully, programs like the High Point Police Offender-Focused Domestic Violence Initiative and Futures Without Violence’s Coaching Boys Into Men are starting to put a dent in the dismal statistics. Both programs focus on preventing domestic violence by concentrating on the offender and their behavior instead of the victim. Most traditional IPV interventions have been victim-focused, having a “heavy emphasis on helping victims avoid patterns of abuse, on disengaging from abusers, and on physically removing themselves from abusive settings.”

In 2009, The High Point Police Department asked,  “What if, in addition to providing services for the victim, we used very focused formal and informal sanctions against the offender? Can the IPV offender be held accountable with real predictable consequences without creating additional harm for the victims?” Thus, after consulting with researchers, practitioners and community members, the High Point Police Offender-Focused Domestic Violence Initiative was born. The initiative was implemented in 2012 and “targets the offender with a strategy of aggressive deterrence.”

Since the implementation of the program , the recidivism rate for domestic-violence offenders in High Point has been cut to about 9 percent, which according to the police department, is about one-third the national rate.

Over in Pennsylvania, the Coaching Boys Into Men program engages young male athletes to practice respect towards themselves and others by learning how to build non-violent relationships from their coaches. The curriculum based program feeds on the premise that young athletes view their coaches as role models and take their advice seriously.

The  Coaching Boys Into Men curriculum is broken down into a series of “training cards” and addresses issues such as “catcalling and demeaning boasts about girlfriends.”  The curriculum is usually given before practices. Wendell Say, head football coach for 35 years at Aiea High School, has been using the program for over five years before practice.  Say told ABC News, “The curriculum is simple — it just takes 15 minutes at most, unless you let the kids talk…I sometimes take 45 minutes.”

The philosophy behind the program is evident in the pledge taken by players and coaches:

“I believe in treating women and girls with honor and respect. I know that violence is neither a solution nor a sign of strength. I believe that real men lead with conviction and speak out against violence against women and girls. I believe that I can be a role model to others by taking this pledge.”

Offender-based programs are the vanguard in the fight against domestic violence.  As National Hotline CEO Katie Ray-Jones reminds us, “Like all  domestic violence cases, there is one person to blame: the abuser.”

Stark Reminder of Family Violence on Nightly News

whiteWe have a solid evening routine. I blast music while making dinner, and then we sit around the table to eat and discuss the highs and lows of our day. Buzzing underneath the symphony of happy chatter is the invaluable knowledge that we are stable and safe. After the dinner hour, my husband and I plop on the couch, flip on the local news, and my bubble of security bursts on a nightly basis.

We live in Central Florida, where family violence occurs at an astonishingly high rate. Last night alone, reporters shared news of four separate homicides. Joshua Ortiz may have killed his mother, Jacqueline Ortiz, and is currently on the run. Police reports indicate Ortiz battered his mother in the past. A trial began for Dwayne White, the estranged husband of Sarah Rucker, who is accused of stabbing Rucker in the neck and leaving her body in a dumpster. Rucker reached out to law enforcement several times before her murder and claimed she was, “as good as dead.” After a domestic dispute with his wife, David Mohney article-orlando3-1017shot three of his children and then killed himself. Only one of the children survived and recently progressed from critical to stable condition. Bonnie Motto called the police after her son’s father, Ricardo De Jesus Barrera, locked her children in their room and broke toys in a violent rage. The police determined it was not an incident of domestic violence. Barrera returned to the home two days later and killed Motto, along with her mother, Julie Motto, in front of Bonnie’s children.

According to Carol Wick, CEO of Harbor House of Central Florida, 98% of domestic abuse homicide victims in this area are women who have left or are in the process of leaving their abusers.

One domestic violence related homicide story is too many, but the sheer volume of stories that invade the comfort of our home each night serve as jarring wake-up calls that we are not doing enough to prevent these tragedies. Central Florida must stand up to offenders and demand accountability.