New hope in the fight against domestic violence

Resolve to Abolish Violence Everywhere confronts male dominance one man at a time.

Published February 3, 2006 8:08PM (EST)

Women's eNews provides an interesting account of an innovative program for rehabilitating batterers. Rather than focusing on the man's anger management and isolated outbursts, the prison-and-probation program takes on "his own sense of superiority over women and his choice to use violence against them." The program, determinedly named Resolve to Abolish Violence Everywhere, is in Austin, Texas, but is based on the Resolve to Stop the Violence Project, a similar initiative begun in San Francisco in 1997.

What's exciting about this approach to combating domestic abuse is that it tackles the institutionalization of male dominance, looking at the offender's action within a larger system of violence. Women's eNews reports, "Staffers [in Austin] say this program assumes that violence arises from a decision based on deeply-held beliefs of male dominance, not a flash of 'uncontrollable' emotion." Whereas most anger management classes are just three or four weeks long, this program works with the offender for an entire year after his release.

In a country that seems increasingly content with locking up our undesirables and forgetting about them, Resolve to Abolish Violence Everywhere is refreshingly committed to both sustained, intensive counseling with the offender and community involvement. Often this means having domestic-violence survivors pair up with offenders to share their stories of abuse and of how they're rebuilding their lives. But perhaps even more effective is that the counselors these men work with are ex-offenders themselves.

Speaking at a criminal justice conference, Sheriff Michael Hennessey said, "In my experience, you can't beat the credibility of an ex-offender when trying to show offenders how their lives can be different." And rather than being abandoned at program's end, men who see it to completion are paired with community "mentors" responsible for helping the men find employment and housing and to reinforce the message that "violence will not be tolerated."

By Sarah Goldstein

Sarah Goldstein is an editorial fellow at Salon.

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