Intimate partner violence in Utah continues to climb above national average

The recent deaths of Russel Smith, his wife Shawna, and their two young children in Roy, Utah are being investigated as a murder-suicide officials say. Experts contend that domestic violence homicides such as these are far too common in Utah, a grim fact the death of the Smith family has illuminated.  Reporting for Fox 13 News Tiffany Demasters highlights the following:

  • Adult homicides make up 42 percent of domestic violence cases in Utah since 2000, experts say. The national average is 30 percent.
  • Each month at least one woman is murdered by her intimate partner in Utah.
  • This is the second case of an apparent murder-suicide this month. The first occurred in Murray on June 7 when Johnathon Reeves reportedly shot and killed his fiancée, 34-year-old Jaimie Salazar and their 2-year-old son, Jordan Reeves, before turning the gun on himself. 
  • According to Utah Department of Health numbers there are three domestic violence related suicides each month. 
  • State numbers also show roughly 80 children every year witness their mother’s murder or attempted murder.

  

Dangerous Myths About Domestic Violence

The arrest of WNBA stars Brittney Griner and Glory Johnson sparked a much needed discussion around shortcomings within the fields of domestic violence theory and practice. In her article, The dangerous myths about domestic violence that are putting LGBTQ people at risk, Eesha Pandit notes how the narrow empahsis on "battered women" has marginalized victims, perpetrators, and relationships that fall outside of the heteronormative mold. Pandit urges readers to seriously examine myths such as those she outlines below in order to more effectively help those struggling with domestic violence.

Myths rooted in gendered assumptions about controlling and violent behavior--while having particularly devestating outcomes for LGBTQ folks--harm all victims of domestic violence by rendering certian victims and certain forms of violence invisible.

For those of us whose relationships don’t fit a heteronormative script, our communities and institutions fail us when we need support, when we need to be seen the most. Traditional, and woefully limited, perspectives about who can be a perpetrator and who’s more likely to be a victim do a great disservice to queer and trans people. Assumptions that perpetrators are male, more masculine, physically bigger/taller/heavier, and that women who are smaller, or more “feminine” (defined by a very narrow definition of femininity) are more likely to be victims, create lazy assessments of relationships where violence can be emotional and have severe psychological and social consequences (threatening to out someone, for example), as well as physical ones.

Pandit's full article can be accessed here

Criminal Justice System, Domestic Violence, Intimate Partner Violence

Paid Leave for Victims of Domestic Violence

The Australian Congress of Trade Unions (ACTU)–a union body representing 2.5 million trade union members–has recently come out in support of domestic violence leave for workers struggling with family violence. The current proposal would allow for 10 days of paid leave for permanent workers. The ACTU has taken up the issue of domestic violence for a number of reasons. ACTU president Ged Kearney highlights that a “significant number” of Australian women who experience domestic violence are union members themselves, making paid leave a key issue for working people and thier unions. Domestic violence leave could also help to combat the isolation that many victims experience, with Kearney noting that “…employers are helping send the message that family violence must not be tolerated or swept under the carpet”.

ACTU’s proposal comes months after Telstra, a large private sector employer in Australia, announced they would begin providing their employees 10 days of domestic violence leave per year.

Paid leave for workers experiencing domestic violence is a major step in the right direction with regards to domestic violence policy and workplace practices. This policy ensures that victims can focus on finding solutions that end the violence in their lives without risking their jobs and financial security. This unprecedented move is a positive addition to the web of services and responses to domestic violence that currently exist in Australia and should be placed on the agenda for advocates and professionals working in the field in United States. 

Oakland ends suspensions for willful defiance, funds restorative justice

Reporting for EdSource, Susan Fray details Oakland Unified’s recent decision to eliminate the suspension category of willful defiance, making them the fourth major California school districts to remove the controversial category. Willful defiance suspensions make up a large number of the total suspensions in public schools and have disproportionately impacted Black and Latino students across the state. In addition to this disproportionate impact, willful defiance suspensions have been criticized for being a catch-all for a range of negative school based behaviors including not completing a homework assignment or talking back to a teacher.

In conjunction with this decision, Oakland Unified has pledged to invest $2.3 million dollars to fund restorative justice disciplinary alternatives throughout Oakland public schools. Commenting on the Board’s bold move, superintendent Antwan Wilson stated, “If we are to ensure that success for Oakland children is not determined by cultural background or neighborhood, it means that we must build strong relationships with our students at school and invest deeply in restorative practices. This is about re-integrating students into the classroom rather than excluding them from learning.”


To learn more about the restorative justice work underway throughout Oakland public schools, click here.

Restorative Justice, Rehabilitation, Schools, Community-Based Intervention, Violence Intervention, Youth

Restorative Justice: How it’s redefining what it means to be a man for Santa Ana’s troubled Latino youth

Known as restorative justice, it’s being used in schools across the state to create accountability and unity through community building circles – a model that traces its roots to indigenous societies.

The practices take different forms. In Long Beach, for example, programs have catered to second-generation Southeast Asian youth, reeling from their parents’ trauma of the Cambodian genocide.

Here in Santa Ana, coordinators are hoping to reach Latino youth by instilling a “rites of passage” curriculum, or Joven Noble, that challenges the myth that manhood is defined by physical dominance and sex. Manhood, the practice says, is about honor, generosity and respect.

Read the full article here.

Research, Intimate Partner Violence, Healing, Domestic Violence

Connecting the Dots: An Overview of the Links of Multiple Forms of Violence

The following is a summary of Connecting the Dots: An Overview of the Links of Multiple Forms of Violence (Center for Disease Control, 2014). The aim of the report is, firstly, to highlight the often overlooked connections between various forms of violence including child abuse, intimate partner violence, bullying, and community violence. The report goes on to urge service providers to break down the walls that currently exist between specialized fields in order to more adequately address the harms created by violent behavior and to prevent continued perpetuation.

“Professionally we have silos, and we operate in these silos we’ve got to break down. Across the country, people working to prevent child abuse are right across the hall from people working on violence against women, and they don’t work together. As we go into communities to bring everybody to the table, don’t let people say, ‘I work on child abuse, but this is about gang violence.’ Don’t let people say, ‘I work on violence against women, and this is about child abuse.’ This thing, all this violence, is connected.” -Deborah Prothrow-Stith, MD, Adjunct Professor, Harvard School of Public Health

Risk Factors and Protective Factors

Violent behavior is incredibly complex and is influenced by a myriad of risk factors–the things that put an individual at greater risk for experiencing and perpetrating violence–and protective factors–things that increase resiliency and decrease the likelihood that someone will engage in or be victim to violence. The CDC has identified the following risk and protective factors with regards to violent behavior:

Examples of risk factors are: rigid social beliefs about what is “masculine” and “feminine,” lack of job opportunities, and family conflict

Examples of protective factors are: connection to a caring adult or access to mental health services

The Impact of Violence on Development

-Children who grow up in safe and nurturing environments “learn empathy, impulse control, anger management and problem-solving—all skills that protect against violence”
-Children who grow up in persistently violent, unstable, and/or unsafe environments often interpret situations to be threatening and are more likely to respond violently (fight) or to avoid the situation together (flee)
-These responses, termed fight-or-flight, “are survival skills that people are born with and often override other skills that enable non-violent conflict resolution, such as impulse control, empathy, anger management, and problem-solving skills”

Community Context and the Co-Occurrence of Multiple Forms of Violence

-Low social cohesion within communities and lack of economic opportunities are associated with higher rates of intimate partner violence, child abuse and maltreatment, and youth violence
-Individuals who lack adequate support from friends, family members, or neighbors, have been found to perpetrate partner abuse, child maltreatment, and/or elder abuse at rates higher than their more socially integrated counterparts
-Witnessing community violence is a risk factor for being bullied and for perpetrating sexual violence
-Access to mental health and substance abuse services in addition to coordination of resources and services across community agencies increases communities’ resiliency to violence

Shame and Batterer Intervention

Shame is a highly complex and potentially dangerous human emotion often associated with intolerable feelings of humiliation, disgrace, and embarrassment (Mills, 2008). In contrast to guilt which focuses on behavior, shame refers to a particular state of emotionality where an individual’s entire sense of self is targeted for critique (Tangney, 1996 cited in Kivisto et al. 2011).

Understanding this difference is hugely important to the study of violent and aggressive behavior–and thus to the field of domestic violence–primarily because of the differential impact guilt and shame are thought to have on the promotion of violent behavior. Whereas guilt has been found to deter aggression, both towards ourselves and against others, shame tends to promote anger and violence (Tangney, 1996, cited in Kivisto et al. 2011). Shame is experienced as such an intensely painful emotion that it is suppressed at all costs. It eventually and inevitably erupts though, displaying itself in harmful behaviors that can include self-mutilation, substance abuse, and suicidal ideation (Mills, 2008). Shame can also result in the externalization of this pain, manifesting in violence directed at other people (Mills, 2008; Gilligan, 1999).

This fact holds particular relevance for the domestic violence field. Specifically, research on the link between shame and aggression provides often overlooked insight into the etiology of partner violence in addition to shedding light on why traditional models of intervention and treatment–exemplified by Duluth-style programs–have failed to break the cycle of violence and keep victims safe.

Shame and Partner Violence

It is well established that one of the single greatest predictors for the perpetuation of partner violence is having witnessed physical aggression between parents in one’s family of origin. Dutton, van Ginkel, and Starzomski (1995, cited in Kivisto et al. 2011) found however, that when parental physical violence was controlled for, shaming experiences were more strongly correlated with adult perpetuation of partner violence. To be sure, direct shaming of children can co-occur with parental physical violence, and further, physical violence against children is shame-inducing in that such experiences communicate to children that they are unloveable (Gilligan, 1999). The importance of Dutton and colleagues findings however underscore the powerful and potentially dangerous role of shame in the promotion of violent acting out.

Taken together, findings such as these highlight the powerful effect that shame has on the developing child’s personality and on the likelihood of adult perpetration of aggressive and physical forms of partner violence: “Early shaming experiences contribute to the formation of the ‘abusive personality’, characterized by high levels of chronic anger and an attributional style of externalizing blame, and parental physical abusiveness provides the modeling of behaviors to express anger characteristic of this type of personality”.

Unfortunately, advocates and professionals working in the domestic violence field have strongly resisted the inclusion of psychological factors in theories of causation (Corvo & Johnson, 2003). The traditional paradigm favors instead, an ideologically based explanation that conceptualizes partner violence as culturally sanctioned behavior, deployed consciously and strategically by men against their female partners, in order to exert their (men’s) perceived right to power and control (Corvo & Johnson, 2003). Attempts to expand the etiological parameters established by feminist discourse in the field are dismissed as making excuses for a perpetrator’s violent behavior or worse, as victim-blaming. Critics of this rigid framework contend however, that seeking to understand why someone behaves the way they do hardly justifies the bad behavior. In the end, disrupting the cycle of violence is only possible to the extent that we accurately identify the root causes of such behavior.

To date, the ideological stranglehold that posits a singular theory of causation for domestic violence has prevented the development of more accurate and precise etiological theories; stunted scientific inquiry into more effective interventions and treatment models; and given birth to federal and state policies which rely almost exclusively on punitive, criminal justice-based responses to domestic violence. In spite of a growing body of research which challenges the efficacy and safety of Duluth-style programs, it remains the treatment of choice for domestically violent individuals (Corvo & Johnson, 2003).

Implications for Treatment

If early experiences of direct shaming put children at risk for adult perpetration of partner violence, then it is no wonder that current interventions have have failed to meaningfully address abusive behavior. Besides failing to target the root cause(s) of violent behavior, interventions that rely on punitive, anti-therapeutic responses can be seen as shame inducing themselves and thus might contribute to continued incidents of partner abuse. Corvo and Johnson (2003) contend for example that much of our legal, clinical, and social responses are rooted in the ‘vilification of the batterer’: “The popular, policy, and ‘scientific’ designation of perpetrators of partner violence as being appropriate targets for dismissive, degrading, and stereotypical characterizations”. Such a response is likely to activate the perpetrators trauma history and could reinforce, rather than uproot, maladaptive behaviors.

Advocates who ascribe to the Duluth Model assert that if domestic violence perpetrators could just unlearn their patriarchal socialization, they could stop being abusive. The above cited research indicates that partner violence is far more complicated than that though, often–although not always–having roots in a abusers own long and painful history of victimization.

This is not to say that we should adopt a universal policy of addressing partner violence solely through a psychological lens. We should however, investigate and develop theories of causation that identify all of the social, psychological, and biological factors that potentially contribute to partner violence. Interventions should be tailored to the unique needs of each victim and perpetrator rather than the one size fits all approach of Duluth-style programs. Finally, professionals in the field must resist conceptualizations of perpetrators as treatment resistant villains who are undeserving of help and should utilize intervention models that are responsive, holistic, and that affirm the humanity of all those involved in the treatment process.

Healing, Empowerment, Domestic Violence, Intimate Partner Violence, Restorative Justice, Transformative Justice, Violence Intervention, Women

Creating Victim Centered Responses to Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault

We are very excited to share the following information on upcoming events taking place in New York and in California! Both events focus on beginning a dialogue around the creation of more sensitive and victim-centered responses to partner violence and sexual assault. Please see below for more information.

Addressing Victims’ Needs: Creating Holistic Models of Support for Victims of Intimate Partner Violence

Hosted by NYU Center on Violence and Recovery
Kimmel Center, New York University, 60 Washington Square South, Room 905, New York, New York, 10003
Thursday, April 16 at 3:00pm – 5:00pm EST

Community experts, Dr. Faye Zakheim, Billye Jones, Priya Chandra, and the Reverend Dr. Donna Schaper, will discuss the creation of holistic models of support for victims of intimate partner violence. Participants will gain insight into the commonly overlooked needs of unique populations and the challenges of building comprehensive services for victims. They will also learn how spiritual life, community integration, and support groups can play a role in the healing process. Light refreshments will be served.

To RSVP, visit CVR’s Facebook page.

Justice That Heals: Confronting Gender Violence on Campus & in Communities

Hosted by Restorative Justice Center at University of California, Berkeley
Hearst Field Annex D-37, University of California, Berkeley
Saturday, April 11 at 9:30am – 4:30pm PST


With campus and criminal justice policies under fire for ignoring the needs of survivors of gender-based violence, people are looking for alternatives. This conference brings together academics and activists to explore the possibilities and limitations of Restorative / Transformative Justice in response to sexual violence and misconduct on campus and in communities that experience structural oppression.

Keynote speaker Dr. Mary Koss is the co-founder and principal investigator of the RESTORE program in Arizona, which has designed Restorative processes that emphasize the needs of survivors and responsible parties. She is now applying her expertise to the question of sexual misconduct on college campuses. Workshops and panels will explain RJ / TJ processes and present critical analysis of their capacity to repair flawed or broken systems.

For questions or concerns email: rjcenterberkeley@gmail.com
To RSVP, visit the Restorative Justice Center’s Facebook page

Domestic Violence, Intimate Partner Violence, Research, Uncategorized

Issues in Recovery: Addressing Intimate Partner Violence

DrugScope have been working with London services, commissioners, and academics to examine how the needs of individuals who have experienced intimate partner violence can be better addressed within substance misuse services. Lauren Garland writes about the new briefing published by DrugScope on behalf of the Recovery partnership.

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is an issue which disproportionately affects people accessing drug and alcohol services. Research suggests that women who have experienced gender based violence are 5.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with a substance misuse problem over the course of their lifetime, while anotherstudy suggests that 21% of people who had experienced IPV believed that the perpetrator was under the influence of alcohol and 8% thought the perpetrator had used illicit drugs.

DrugScope have published a briefing paper which considers how substance misuse systems and services can better address the needs of people affected by drug and alcohol problems and…

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How childhood trauma affects health across a lifetime

Pediatrician Nadine Burke Harris discusses the detrimental impact of traumatic childhood experiences on physical and mental health outcomes across the lifespan in this TEDMED 2014 talk. Harris ardently calls on healthcare professionals to take seriously the treatment of prevention of trauma:

The science is clear: Early adversity dramatically affects health across a lifetime. Today, we are beginning to understand how to interrupt the progression from early adversity to disease and early death, and 30 years from now, the child who has a high ACE score and whose behavioral symptoms go unrecognized, whose asthma management is not connected, and who goes on to develop high blood pressure and early heart disease or cancer will be just as anomalous as a six-month mortality from HIV/AIDS


Reconciliation, Rehabilitation, Restorative Justice, Schools, Uncategorized, Youth

New York City preparing to expand restorative justice programs

validus-hallway-e1403307041443 Jackie Schecter reports for Chalkbeat on New York City's plan to expand restorative justice programs throughout public schools.

The head of the Department of Education’s Office of Safety and Youth Development verbally committed to provide new support for restorative justice programs at a May meeting about school discipline issues, according to two attendees. Though few details of the expansion have been finalized, the agreement represents the administration’s first step toward enacting discipline policy changes that Chancellor Carmen Fariña and Mayor Bill de Blasio have both called for.

Click here to read the full article.

Criminal Justice System, Domestic Violence, Intimate Partner Violence, Violence Intervention

Utah above national average for domestic violence homicides; victim advocates seek more resources

Originally posted on fox13now.com:

SALT LAKE CITY — Statistics show domestic violence is on the rise nationally, and in Utah the resources aimed to help people escape threatening situations are stretched to capacity.

According to the Utah Department of Health, at least one woman is murdered by her intimate partner each month. Just last week in Eagle Mountain, a woman shot her husband dead in their living room as their children slept upstairs. The problem is increasing nationwide, but the issue of intimate partner violence in Utah is greater than the national average.

Among those who have died in Utah at the hands of their partners or parents are 19-year-old Mackenzie Madden and 26-year-old Amanda Lee Hoyt as well as Kelly, Jaden and Haley Boren.

“In Utah, when we look at a 10-year trend, we’re looking at almost 43 percent of our homicides are domestic violence related,” said Jennifer Oxborrow, who…

View original 513 more words

Criminal Justice System, Domestic Violence, Intimate Partner Violence, Research, Uncategorized, Violence Intervention

Reducing Rates of Re-offending: What works and what doesn't

Below is a summary of a January 2013 report entitled, What works to reduce recidivism by domestic violence offenders? This report was published by Washington State Institute for Public Policy. All statistics, research findings, and information related to Washington state’s domestic violence laws presented below, were drawn from the Institute's report which can be accessed here..

Following a 2012 legislative mandate, Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP) set out to update it’s review of the literature on the efficacy of domestic violence (DV) treatment programs. In particular, WSIPP focused on treatment outcomes for offenders mandated to Duluth-style programs. According to the institute, Washington State law requires that DV treatment programs adhere to Duluth Model guidelines which conceptualize domestic violence as the following: “...a gender-specific behavior which is socially and historically constructed. Men are socialized to take control and to use physical force when necessary to maintain dominance”. Substance abuse, mental illness, dysfunctional relationship dynamics, and other potentially relevant etiological issues are not seen as related within this model. In Washington State--as well as in states with similar laws--the use of non-Duluth treatment programs such as cognitive behavioral therapy, substance abuse treatment, or anger management is prohibited.

In January 2013, WSIPP released a report outlining the results of their systematic review of group-based treatment for domestic violence offenders. Below are some of the most pertinent findings.

Summary conclusions: “Based on six rigorous outcome evaluations of group-based DV treatment for male offenders, we conclude that the Duluth model, the most common treatment approach, appears to have no effect on recidivism. This updated finding is consistent with our (and others’) previous work on this topic. There may be other reasons for courts to order offenders to participate in these Duluth-like programs, but the evidence suggests that DV recidivism will not decrease as a result” (pg. 12)

Impact on recidivism for “Duluth-like” programs: “We also considered programs to be similar to Duluth if the study authors said the curriculum included “power and control” dynamics, “sex role stereotyping,” or gender-based values. Six of the 11 effect sizes assessed Duluth-like programs. We analyzed separately the results of these six effect sizes and found that, on average, programs using Duluth-like models had no effect on recidivism (see the upper panel in Exhibit 3); therefore, this approach cannot be considered “evidence-based” (or research-based or promising)” (pg. 6)

Impact on recidivism for non-Duluth Model programs: “...when these other non-Duluth models are analyzed as a whole, the combined effects indicate a statistically significant reduction in DV recidivism (the lower “average effect size” in Exhibit 3). The average effect was a 33% reduction in domestic violence recidivism” (pg. 6)

The models that indicate efficacy with regards to reducing repeat incidents of DV offending in Exhibit 3 include:

Cognitive behavioral therapy (Palmer, 1992, and Dunford, 2000b) Relationship enhancement (Waldo, 1988) Substance abuse treatment (Easton, 2007) Group couples counseling (Dunford, 2000a)

Based on their research, WSIPP also suggest that addressing offender psychopathology through therapy aimed at treating Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) could be efficacious. This is particularly promising they note, given that both BPD and PTSD are highly prevalent among DV offenders and both disorders are associated with impulsive and aggressive behavior (pg. 7)

Rethinking our Dependence on the Duluth Model Paradigm

Research such as this is hugely important for the domestic violence field. Data on rates of DV incidents and on rates of DV incidents which end in homicide continues to show that domestic violence remains a major social problem. The development and utilization of evidence-based treatment models which can be shown to reduce recidivism has never been more pressing. In their January 2013 report, WSIPP highlights that 44 of 50 states in the U.S have legal guidelines that stipulate the kind of treatment professionals can legally administer. Furthermore, "In 28 states, standards for DV treatment specify the Duluth model by name, or require that power and control dynamics—central to the Duluth model—must be included in the treatment curriculum".

This mandate is highly troubling. When put to the test via rigorous research standards the Duluth Model fails time and again to reduce rates of re-offending and yet it remains the treatment of choice for professionals engaged in this difficult work. In light of this failure, a paradigm shift regarding our conceptualization of domestic violence, including how we view and work with both victim and offender, is needed. A suggestion such as this which challenges the core assumptions of the feminist-rooted Duluth Model is viewed by many as an anti-woman, victim-blaming stance. We cannot however continue to allow criticisms and challenges such as this to prevent us from developing innovative work in the area of violence intervention and treatment.

Criminal Justice System, Domestic Violence, Empowerment, Healing, Intimate Partner Violence, Restorative Justice, Schools, Uncategorized, Violence Intervention, Women, Youth

Continued success of RJ in schools offers hope for the domestic violence field

Recently released data from the 2013-14 school year reveals that suspension and expulsion rates throughout California public schools continue to decline. This is the second year in a row that rates of suspensions and expulsions have dropped across the state. The report, released by the California Department of Education (CDE), notes that this downward trend has correlated with the implementation of innovative and non-punitive responses to classroom rule breaking. Such responses include the development and broad utilization of restorative justice programs. Lisa Schmidt--a juvenile defense attorney who represents youth in suspension and expulsion hearings--contends that the results presented in the CDE report have implications that extend far beyond student discipline. For example, Schmidt highlights that schools with restorative justice programs not only report lower rates of suspension and expulsion, they also report marked improvements in other areas including graduation rates, absenteeism, and literacy.

Schmidt goes on to say that the efficacy of restorative justice programs lies in the core assumption that students’ problem behavior can be positively changed: “...restorative justice doesn’t simply remove a problem from the classroom. Instead it uses misbehavior as a learning opportunity, teaching students the consequences of their actions and how to make better choices”.

Implications for Domestic Violence Intervention

Here at the Center on Violence and Recovery (CVR) we remain committed to the idea that the theory of restorative justice (RJ) offers victims of violence and trauma efficacious ways of ending the violence that has plagued their lives. This includes victims of domestic and intimate partner violence. We are inspired by the diligent work of teachers, parents, and students in public schools across the nation who have fought back against punitive responses to school-based behavior infractions--responses which have wholly failed to address the identified problem behavior. The data released by the CDE should motivate all those who are passionate about the development of more effective and victim-centered responses to crime and wrongdoing.

CVR strongly believes that RJ theory and practice, when used properly, can increase victim safety, help survivors heal, and ultimately decrease rates of repeat incidents of domestic violence. In addition to working with survivors around their identified needs, RJ offers the potential to intervene with perpetrators in a meaningful way by holding offenders accountable for their actions and teaching alternatives to violent and aggressive behavior.

Our belief in RJ as a DV intervention stems from the encouraging research results of CVR’s National Science Foundation funded-study which indicated that RJ-based interventions for domestic violence can be both safe and effective with regards to preventing future violent incidents (Mills, Barocas, & Ariel, 2012). Published in 2012, the research found that when compared to offenders who had undergone treatment in a traditional batterer intervention program, offenders who in the RJ-based model, recidivated at significantly lower rates 12-months post random assignment. This research is currently being replicated in Salt Lake City, UT.

Coupled with the growing support that restorative justice programs are receiving in schools across the nation to deal with problematic, defiant, and sometimes violent behavior, these findings provide victims and advocates alike tangible hope for a violence-free future.

For more information on the exciting and innovative research work underway at CVR, please visit our website here

Full citation for the Center's 2012 study: The next generation of court-mandated domestic violence treatment: A comparison study of batterer intervention and restorative justice programs. Journal of Experimental Criminology 9(1) DOI: 10.1007/s11292-012-9164-x

Criminal Justice System, Domestic Violence, Intimate Partner Violence, Research, Violence Intervention

Arrest of Offender Linked to Victim Mortality

The Milwaukee Domestic Violence Experiment In 1992, results from the Milwaukee Domestic Violence Experiment were published, revealing that the implementation of mandatory arrest laws had failed to decrease rates of re-assault in domestic violence (DV) cases. The experiment compared the impact of arrest and detention, with the offender eligible for release on $250 bail; arrest and detention, with the offender quickly released on personal recognizance; and finally, no arrest, with the suspect read a standardized warning by responding officers.

After comparing results from 1,200 DV cases, researchers found that the arrest of offenders had variable deterrence effects depending on specific offender characteristics. For example, when the offender was white, employed, and/or married to the victim, arrest was found to have a strong deterrence effect. While for offenders who were Black, unemployed, and/or cohabitating with an unmarried partner, arrest increased both the prevalence and the severity of future violent incidents. The study calculated, “….that 10,000 arrested whites produce 2,504 fewer acts of domestic violence a year than warned whites, while 10,000 arrested blacks produce 1,803 more acts of violence per year than warned blacks…” (Sherman et al., pp. 160, 1992). Looking at employment status as a variable, researchers found that “With 958 fewer acts of violence committed against victims of 10,000 employed suspects who had been arrested than those who had been warned, the price equals 2,274 more acts of violence per 10,000 unemployed suspects who had been arrested than if they had only been warned” (Sherman et al., pp. 160, 1992).

Follow-up Study: Increased Premature Death of Domestic Violence Victims from Arrest

Twenty-three years later researchers Lawrence W. Sherman and Heather M. Harris followed up on the landmark Milwaukee Domestic Violence Experiment and found shocking results. After analyzing state and national death data on 1,125 victims enrolled in the Milwaukee Experiment, researchers found that victims whose partners had been arrested and jailed, rather than warned, were 64% more likely to have died prematurely. Heart disease, cancer, and other "internal illnesses" caused the overwhelming majority of deaths. Such illnesses are associated with chronic stress, leading researchers to postulate that the stress of having their partner arrested contributed greatly to these detrimental health outcomes.

As in the original study, race was found to be a significant variable in predicting premature death among victims. White victims whose partners were arrested rather than warned had a 9% higher death rate. Black victims on the other hand, had a 98% higher death rate when their partners were arrested. Employment was, again, an important variable. For white and Black victims alike, victim employment at the time of their partner's arrest was correlated with higher victim mortality (Sherman & Harris, 2014). However, victim mortality among employed Black victims was the greatest. Out of the 125 employed Black victims whose partners were arrested following a DV offense, 14 (11%) died prematurely while none (0%) of the 67 employed Black victims whose partners were warned died at the 23-year follow-up (Sherman & Harris, 2014).

Implications

The results of both studies call into question the efficacy of mandatory arrest policies for addressing the problem of partner violence. Although certain offenders in the Milwaukee Domestic Violence Experiment were deterred by arrest, others were not. This means that while some victims can in fact benefit from the involvement of law enforcement officials, other victims not only experience little reprieve from partner violence, the violence perpetrated against them increases in frequency and severity following their partners arrest.

Sherman and Harris's follow up study reveals even more troubling findings. Namely, that in addition to more frequent experiences of partner violence over their lifetime, premature death due to stress-related illnesses increased significantly among Black victims whose partners were arrested.

Findings such as these might reveal a reality that is hard to accept, Sherman concedes. However, Sherman continues, "the moral burden of proof now lies with those who wish to continue this mass arrest policy".

Empowerment, Healing, Reconciliation, Rehabilitation, Restorative Justice, Transformative Justice, Violence Intervention

Portraits of Reconciliation

Pieter Hugo’s photo series entitled Portraits of Reconciliation, powerfully documents the ongoing process of healing that has followed the Rwandan genocide. In the photos, Hutu perpetrators of genocide stand next to the Tutsi survivor of their crime who has granted them pardon. Below each photograph is a quote from both perpetrator and survivor explaining their role in the genocide and in the reconciliation process currently underway. The following is one example: Dominique Ndahimana (perpetrator): “The day I thought of asking pardon, I felt unburdened and relieved. I had lost my humanity because of the crime I committed, but now I am like any human being.”

Cansilde Munganyinka (survivor): “After I was chased from my village and Dominique and others looted it, I became homeless and insane. Later, when he asked my pardon, I said: ‘I have nothing to feed my children. Are you going to help raise my children? Are you going to build a house for them?’ The next week, Dominique came with some survivors and former prisoners who perpetrated genocide. There were more than 50 of them, and they built my family a house. Ever since then, I have started to feel better. I was like a dry stick; now I feel peaceful in my heart, and I share this peace with my neighbors.”

This is just one of many examples which are documented in the series. What is most striking about this project—besides the images of victim and perpetrator standing together with some even holding hands—is the theme of forgiveness and healing. Contrasting our own justice system in the U.S for a moment, victims rarely receive the kind of justice documented here. For example, the victims of genocide were empowered with the decision to grant their perpetrators pardon. As the quote above illustrates, it was the victim who identified the harm that required repair, and it was up to the perpetrator to follow through with the difficult task of attending to the needs of his victim. Forgiveness was a major part of this process, but it was conceptualized differently by each participant. Some victims remained close to those who had perpetrated violence against them following the reconciliation process while others chose to grant pardon, and nothing else. The survivors’ testimonies reveal that when a harm is acknowledged in full, requiring complete honesty on the part of the perpetrator to take full responsibility for their actions, healing and reparation can take place.

The bravery and strength displayed by the survivors in the Rwandan reconciliation process is admirable and inspirational. It is imperative that those involved in criminal justice reform activities explore what this work means for us in the U.S as we struggle to develop effective ways of reducing recidivism and meaningful ways of addressing the needs of victims.

Pieter Hugo’s work can be found, here.

Community-Based Intervention, Criminal Justice System, Domestic Violence, Intimate Partner Violence, Restorative Justice, Transformative Justice, Uncategorized, Violence Intervention, Women

Creative Interventions: Community-Based IPV Intervention

The Mission of Creative Interventions is to create community-based options for interventions to interpersonal violence. Creative Interventions provides collective, creative, and flexible solutions, which take into account the realities and resources of each situation and community. By bringing knowledge and power back to those closest to and most impacted by violence, Creative Interventions breaks isolation and clears the path towards holistic, viable and sustainable systems of violence intervention and community health.

Established in 2004, Creative Interventions is an innovative and powerful resource for survivors and advocates who have experienced frustration and failure with current responses to intimate partner violence (IPV). Mimi Kim, founder of Creative Interventions, reports that after working with survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault for over 15 years she began to ask herself challenging questions related to the assumptions underlying traditional intervention strategies.

“After taking hundreds of crisis calls from survivors of domestic violence, I realized that I always asked the questions, Have you thought of leaving? Did you call the police? Why did my solutions assume that leaving was the only option? Why did they assume that the best way to achieve safety was to call the police? Why weren’t there any other options?”

This is an indispensable resource for everyone who works in the domestic violence field. On their website, Creative Intervention provides access to a Toolkit which outlines the community-based model for violence intervention. This toolkit can be downloaded in full, or if more appropriate, the individual intervention tools can be downloaded and tailored to fit victim and/or agency need.

For more information on the exciting work underway at Creative Interventions, please visit their website by clicking here.

To access the Toolkit, click here

Criminal Justice System, Empowerment, Prison, Rehabilitation, Restorative Justice, Schools, Violence Intervention, Youth

Combating the Suspension to Prison Pipeline with Restorative Justice

Jaisal Noor of The Real News Network recently sat down with high school senior, and organizer with the Dignity in Schools Campaign, to discuss the impact that zero tolerance polices have on youth in the Baltimore public school system. Murphy explains that there is a heavy police presence throughout his high school, but rather than increasing student safety on campus, Murphy contends that this over-reliance on law enforcement has decreased students’ perceived sense of safety.

“...it made me raise a series of questions, one of which was: is this school safe? Because the first thing that I do when I walk into a new high school is see a police officer. And so that made me aware of, like, do I--should I constantly be alert at all times here?”

In addition to students’ sense of safety being compromised, increased police presence combined with zero tolerance polices have led to sky-rocketing rates of suspension, primarily among students of color and students with disabilities. The New York World reports that during the 2012-2013 school year, New York City public schools dolled out 53,465 suspensions. The New York World reveals further, that more than half of these suspensions targeted Black students who make up just 27% of the student population. Special education students, who make up 12% of the student population, accounted for one-third of all suspensions.

Broken down by borough, Bronx students represent 51% of all arrests, suspensions, and tickets for school-related offenses, followed by Brooklyn (30%), Queens (11.4%), Manhattan (10.4%), and Staten Island (1.5%). A similar trend is found when this data is broken down by race: roughly 50% of all suspensions were of Black students, followed by Latino (33%) and white students (15%).

Pushing Students Out

Faced with this increasing criminalization of public schools and the student body, Jaisal Noor asks the following question: Are we preparing kids to go to jail, or preparing them for a future? Unfortunately for students, teachers, and parents the answer appears to be the former.

The United Federation of Teachers, which represents New York City teachers asserts that punitive measures such as suspensions should be the absolute last resort used to deal with student misbehavior, if used at all. The unfortunate reality however, is that suspensions are the first, and in many cases the only, tactic employed by public schools to deal with minor student conduct infractions. For example, the second most common offense leading to a suspension in New York City schools is “defying or disobeying authority”.

This punitive culture has led to the disturbing and increasing trend that high school senior Tre Murphy described above: namely, increasing reliance on law enforcement officials to handle disciplinary issues that take place on school grounds . A complaint filed with the U.S Department of Justice this past Wednesday against Wake County, N.C., school district and law enforcement agencies contends that the district has failed to “stem the tide of students being pushed out of school into juvenile and criminal court systems".

Huffington Post contributor Saki Knafo details how minor incidents of misbehavior in the Wake County school district—such as cutting in a cafeteria lunch line—have landed students in jail. As with raising rates of suspensions, this trend disproportionally impacts students of color and students with disabilities.

Combating the School to Prison Pipeline

The last few years have seen a strong push back by students, parents, and teachers against punitive responses to school disciplinary issues. Notable successes of this fightback include the recent decision of the Los Angeles Unified school board to ban suspensions for the act of “willful defiance”. This offense has been “criticized as a subjective catch-all for such behavior as refusing to take off a hat, turn off a cellphone or failing to wear a school uniform". Students exhibiting disruptive behavior will no longer be suspended, instead, positive behavior reinforcement and other more effective intervention measures will be used. Indeed, current punitive practices which remove students from schools, and increasingly land them in jail, have been linked with decreased academic achievement and increased run-ins with law enforcement.

Advocates in New York City are hopeful that the election of Bill de Blasio as Mayor will usher in a wave of school-based disciplinary reforms, with a particular emphasis on restorative justice responses to student misbehavior. In June of 2013, de Blasio co-authored a letter calling on the city Department of Education to “expand the use of positive interventions and restorative justice practices, such as counseling, mediation, fairness committees, and restorative circles in lieu of suspensions, except when suspension is required by law". Many New York City schools have already begun to implement such practices and, students report, they have had a positive impact on the student body. Bronx international high school junior and trained peer mediator Jessica Morillo states, “Let’s say we get into a fight…before we had the mediation program at our school, we would have never talked and gotten to a real solution. We would have just got each other suspended. I would be angry and you would be angry.”

Some within the city Department of Education contend that the costs of retraining teachers and hiring additional staff such as school social workers is too high and beyond the shrinking budget of public schools. Advocates however, disagree. Anna Bean of the New York City-based Teachers Unite asserts, “It doesn’t cost very much money. Just 1 percent of School Safety budget would fund all of this". New York World reports that Bean’s comment refers to the $220 million that was spent in 2012 to keep unarmed NYPD officers in public schools. Thus, it appears that the difficulties associated with funding alternative disciplinary measures in pubic schools lies not with a lack of money, but with an unequal allocation of resources.

The advocacy and activist work carried out by concerned teachers, students, and parents is inspiring for anyone who is interested in the development of alternatives to current approaches to wrongdoing. In response to ineffective and harmful school-based policies, those who have been directly and indirectly effected are waging a vigorous fight against the continued criminalization and marginalization of youth within schools. With continued education on the pitfalls of the current system, coupled with the development of responsive, victim-centered solutions, 2014 is bound to see exciting changes in school-based disciplinary measures.