Havre Daily News
Seven years ago, the man who leads group sessions in Havre for men with violent behaviors thought rehabilitating such men would be an impossible task.
Ron Belcourt now sees things a little differently. He's had successes. He's seen men change.
“This is not an easy thing. What (the courts) asked us to do is almost impossible,” he said. “But there are guys learning. All I have to see is one recovery and all the rest of the time is completely worthwhile to me.”
Two programs at the District IV Human Resources Development Council seek to break the cycle of domestic abuse, perpetrated by both men and women.
When men are first referred to the program, Belcourt gives them an anger evaluation. Then the member has to tell him exactly why the court ordered them to the program. He also makes the member talk in front of the rest of the class and tell them why he was sent. Belcourt said this isn't used to make the member feel bad, but to make him aware of why he is there. Belcourt also said there are rules when participating in his program. Everyone will respect each other in class - and what is said in class, stays in class. Confidentiality, courtesy and respect are taken very seriously, he said.
“I treat everyone there with respect, and I want them to treat each other with respect. In seven years I've never had to kick anyone out for rule infractions,” Belcourt said.
He said he has 20 to 35 men in his classes. Some men join because they have been ordered to do so by a judge, and some volunteer to take the class. Belcourt said he has had as many as seven volunteers in the class at once. He does not charge those men a fee, he added.
The men referred to the class are sent to him for 40 hours total. The classes are two hours long. Sometimes, though, the classes aren't enough.
“Some men do need personal counseling. If they have a problem I usually refer them for counseling. Anything that we recommend is only a recommendation. The court who ordered the classes has the final say.”
A few men don't want to recover from anger, Belcourt pointed out.
“If someone doesn't want to recover from anger, then they won't. They usually drop out after four or five sessions,” he said.
Belcourt reports the dropouts to the court.
Men's intervention has come a long way, he said. Belcourt said the program wasn't perfect when he took over, and that he's had to do a lot of tweaking to it.
“The more experience I get, the more successful the men are. As time goes on, I am starting to see what is effective and what isn't. The experience is important,” he said.
He said he's worked to add the concept of forgiveness to the program. He also tries to get the men to let go of their resentments.
He said that holding resentments and blaming someone else becomes a health-and-wellness issue.
“Most men who come into my program want to blame someone else for their problems,” he said. “When we really get into not blaming someone else for their problems, they really begin to change - when you realize that who you are and where you're at is your choice. The more we work on those things, the more recovery I see.”
Power and control are also very powerful issues in his groups right now, he said. He said he's trying to get the men away from “one-upping each other.”
Belcourt said there needs to be total communication between men and women. He wants his men to get to the point of recovery where they can say to the woman in their life, “Tell me what hurts you and I'll tell you what hurts me,” he said.
His program has had successes.
“When guys come back after graduating, that shows me that they're really sincere about making the changes,” he said.
Roxanne Ross, program director of the Domestic Abuse Program at HRDC, on Tuesday said that domestic abuse is a cycle of learned behavior, and the aim of the program is empower offenders to break the cycle. “We teach understanding of the power that men and woman have to make changes,” she said.
The entire course, she said, is about “understanding the roots of the domestic violence.”
Men and women's groups are similar in that they are education based, and they follow the same curriculum guidelines, she said. The classes have clear differences, she added. For example, both courses include a segment that covers parenting issues and how violence affects children, and that coursework differs for men and women.
“We really place weight on how their violence as parents affects their children and we empower them to break that cycle,” Ross said.
She was quick to point out that the classes are not anger management classes, though there is a portion that covers the issue. The segment discusses understanding the changes in your body that anger causes.
Ross said there are several types of violence, including battering, situational, reactive, and pathological.
Most - 90 to 95 percent - of battering consists of a man abusing a woman. The intent of violence in a battering situation is control the other person, Ross said.
The intent of situational violence is an attempt at control. Situational violence is found in both men and women's cases. Ross described one possible situation: “Maybe a man or woman walks in on their significant other cheating on them and proceeds to beat or use other violence. This is situational violence.”
In reactive violence, most often women are the offenders. Ross said the perpetrator in this situation usually intends to use violence as a means to stop other violence.
“It could happen when someone has been traumatized by violence and it's not addressed and then it comes out almost misdirected at someone else,” she said. “It's a type of post-traumatic violence.”
In cases of pathological violence, the offenders often are women, Ross said. Typically, offenders of this type of violence are bipolar, schizophrenic or possibly alcoholic, she said. Pathological violence is different than any of the others.
“It usually is not typically part of a power and control system,” Ross said. “[The attacks] are usually sporadic” and unpredictable.
Alcoholism is not an excuse for violence, she added.
The men's class is held Monday nights for two hours starting at 6 p.m. The women's group meets Thursdays from 2 to 4 p.m. The entrance used by both groups is the north door of HRDC.
On the Net: http://hrdc4.havre.mt.us/DAP/domestic_abuse.htm