Domestic violence is “the” public health crisis that’s still considered a “private matter” by far too many Americans. One in four women experiences domestic violence in this country. After decades of decreasing rates of intimate partner homicides, the U.S. is now seeing an increase in rates of both men and women killing their partners.

In Galveston County, Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse helps perpetrators find solutions for their abusive behavior through its Battering Intervention and Prevention Program to end the cycle of violence. The Galveston County program was the first in Texas to receive full accreditation status by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice/Community Justice Assistance Division.

The program began in Dickinson in 2010, and in Galveston in January 2016, which currently receives support from The Moody Foundation. Often, abusers are court-mandated to get the help they need, and Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse is one of the few providers of this service in the area.

The program assists abusers to understand their behavior as a means of controlling their partners. Through 18 weekly two-hour group sessions, abusers explore their intents and beliefs and examine the cultural and social contexts in which violence is used against their partners.

The program teaches batterers practical skills in problem-solving, communication, parenting, and anger management, as well as critical thinking, providing an opportunity for belief system change.

Many abusers, like Martin, don’t see themselves as violent. Martin was charged with aggravated assault and acknowledged that he had physically abused his partner, but he was reluctant to admit his abuse in group session, minimizing the severity of his actions.

On his final night, he stated: “When I first joined this class, I didn’t know why I was here. I never saw my behavior as violent, abusive, or controlling. Now I see that my actions and anger have hurt the two people I care about the most.

“Being here has helped me become a better dad and role model for my son, as well as a better man for my partner. I want her to be with me because it’s what she wants, not because she’s afraid of what will happen to her if she ever tried to leave.”

Since 1980, Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse has provided free legal representation for protective orders, divorce, child custody, child support, and adoption for victims of domestic violence in Harris County, and more recently in Fort Bend County. Its Battering Intervention and Prevention Program extends from Galveston to Conroe with 18 groups across the region.

For more information, visit www.avda.org or call 713-224-9911.

Sherri Kendall is CEO of Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse based in Houston.

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(2) comments

Bailey Jones

I wish conflict resolution, emotional intelligence and self awareness were taught in schools. We can't rely solely on a system that only intervenes after the damage is done.

Patricia Smothers

This certified program to reduce family violence is a great value to all of the communities that participate. Learning alternatives to resolving conflict is essential, not just for families involved but for the entire community. The long term effect of violent attacks is damaging for not just for the victims but also the children that are exposed to this type of behavior. Family violence attacks are also the most dangerous situations for police to resolve. Businesses are affected when victims must take time off to recover. This program is a great resource for all.

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