Domestic abuse . . .

. . .is a learned behavior. It is at the same time a legal, social, moral and mental health problem. It occurs across all ages, incomes, educational levels, religious affiliations, and cultural backgrounds.

Abusers have learned to use violence or the threat of violence in order to establish and maintain control over others. In spite of the fact that assaultive behavior is illegal, our society in significant ways endorses the use of aggression to resolve conflicts.

Historically, our culture has also encouraged men to believe that they are superior to women and entitled to power and control over them. More recently, there has been increasing social acceptance or encouragement for women to behave aggressively.

On an individual level, men and women may also have developed unhealthy attitudes that are expressed in their behavior, sense of self, and ways of coping with life.

When they feel vulnerable or powerless, they may act out to defend against these feelings or exploit others who seem like easy targets. In either case, they lack the skills to deal with stress and conflict in healthy ways. These skills can be learned.

Treatment . . .

Group treatment is the core of our therapeutic programming. In these groups, men and women learn to take full responsibility for their own behavior, and to develop a greater sense of empathy and compassion for others.

This happens as they share the details of their aggression with their group and explore the effects of their behavior on others. They are challenged to look hard at problems in their family of origin that contributed to their attitudes and behavior, and to evaluate the impact of domestic abuse on their children.

Groups are staffed by licensed therapists, small enough to allow for individual attention, large enough for good group process. Sessions include lecture, group discussion. role-play, videotape materials, and homework assignments.

Because these are therapy groups, clinical staff have the skills and resources to individualize treatment as necessary. This may involve individual treatment, couples or family work, or referral to other mental health resources.

FYI . . .
Some of the Minnesota Guidlines for court-ordered domestic abuse treatment:

• 24 sessions or 36 hours of group treatment is standard, unless probation officers recommend otherwise, or group treatment is deemed to be inappropriate.

• Every program must conduct an individual intake session.

• Programs must collaborate with victims and court services to hold offenders accountable for their behavior.

• Marriage, couple, or family counseling is not appropriate until an abuser completes court-ordered treatment, or until all violence, intimidation, and coercion end and the victim feels safe to participate.