Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Intimate Partner Violence Prevention

So what is intimate partner violence? That was one of the topics discussed in small groups at an all day meeting I went to yesterday. The other tricky question is what is the difference between prevention and intervention? I've been over this territory this year as part of another group of some of the same people who were there yesterday.

Basically, we are talking about domestic violence, plus. Domestic violence would be husband-wife or couples living together, and various combinations of exes. The plus would add to this same sex couples and people who are dating, including those who may not be having sexual relations. So this would include kids who are dating. As I understand this, this plus stuff is intended to increase the types of people who are covered. Violence goes from the obvious physical to verbal and psychological. It includes things like stalking and other controlling kinds of behavior. [WARNING: Don't quote me on any of this. I'm still trying to work it all out in my own mind. You can look up "Intimate Partner Violence Prevention" on google and see what everyone says. Or go to the CDC site and see what they say.

Prevention is a term the CDC is pushing hard. Their intent as I understand it, is to put more money and programs into preventing intimate partner violence before it even begins. The basic strategy is to expose people - younger people mostly - to how to have healthy relationships, particularly relationships that have a romantic or sexual aspect.

So the grant money is not allowed to be spent on intervention. Intervention being actions taken to stop already occuring intimate partner violence. The dilemma comes when you try to separate the two. Some things are obvious. The police coming to arrest a batterer is clearly intervention. Working with the battered spouse to help prevent future incidents as well as doing the same with the batterer tends to be seen, by the CDC, as intervention rather than prevention. They have terms like primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention that tries to make these distinctions. I strongly support the focus on prevention. That is why I'm even involved with this project. For every couple that could turn to violence to resolve their differences but who learn how to resolve those differences in other ways, our community saves a lot of future time and money doing intervention. It also saves a lot of time and money for other family members and friends whose lives are interrupted by such violence. But people who are at the forefront of this issue, almost necessarily are involved with intervention. They have to be doing both. Yes, we want to stop future violence, but if there are battered folks right now, they can't be ignored.

In any case, the emphasis on prevention is wise in the long term. And the debates that the distinctions cause are probably good because they make the participants think about all the implications. What about kids who witness violence at home? Is working with them intervention or prevention, for example. But this is almost a chicken and egg debate and after the discussion, with heightened awareness, the people directly involved need to be given some leeway to make common sense decisions about how the intepret this. Since there seems to be pretty good evidence that many batterers were battered or witnessed battering as children, they are the likeliest to become violent later, and thus the group where prevention would have the biggest long term impact.

We didn't spend a lot of time yesterday discussing this. Most of our time was in small groups determining how we are going to develop a statewide plan to prevent intimate partner violence. Different groups took different aspects of the tasks - getting an inventory of already available resources to document what we already know from existing data about the issue; developing the plan itself; setting up an evaluation protocol; dissemination of the plan and the information in it. I was extremely impressed by the competence and commitment of the 20 or so members of the steering committee. They represent expertise at various levels - from people currently working directly with youth and couples to higher level administrators, planners, and researchers. And while we could have more representation, we did have males as well as females, Hispanics and Alaska Natives as well as whites. And rural as well as urban residents. There was no bickering, even over the definitions. Everyone seemed to understand the inherent problems of defining terms, the importance of working on it, and the need to not worry about resolving all the loose ends. I think this has the potential to be a project that makes a difference in the lives of Alaskans.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Steve,

    I am a Grant Writer in Minnesota. I work for a domestic violence intervention and prevention agency. We do it all from hotline, safe shelter, transitional housing to community based programming for victims living in their homes to a support group for victims aged 50 and over.

    As a grant writer I pay attention to the CDC and have found that unless you are able to do rigorous science (studies etc) their funding is not appropriate for human service agencies.

    It is frustrating because the CDC is the one funding source that truly understands the only way to break the cycle of domestic violence is through prevention (which in our model includes intervention—it has too—people are capable of changing their behavior, especially young people). But our job is not to study violence, it is to stop it in its tracks and help those who have suffered.

    After the Columbine incident, Congress all voted for violence prevention funding and then they turned around and killed the legislation in committee.

    We have a school based program prevention (class room curriculum) and intervention (one to one support and group support that includes a gender class and an anger management class) that is considered a model program by educators.

    If we had the funding to fully staff the program we could put two educators, full time in each of the 30 plus schools (k-12) we serve. Every year this program achieves amazing outcomes and more importantly it changes lives. The curriculum is available.

    We have been at this (working with dv) for 24 years. Philosophically we believe in meeting every victim where ever they are (ready to leave, not ready to leave). We were the first program in Minnesota to offer shelter to male victims and remain the only program in the Twin Cities to do so. We have employed male advocates for years.

    Please send me an email if we can be of any help to you and your group in your quest to understand DV and find programmic solutions for Alaska.

    Cheers, Erin


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