Education key to stopping abuse

Few perpetrators willing to complete Batterers' Intervention Program

Posted: Friday, August 02, 2002

Domestic violence is a sinister killer. It destroys families from the inside out. Like a contagious disease, it often is carried from parents to children, perpetuating the pain from generation to generation.

"(Children) model what we learn in our own families," Heather Arnett, executive director of the Women's Resource and Crisis Center, told the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce Tuesday at its noon luncheon.

"Kids are learning what they have seen in their own environment."

This means that even if the only physical victim in a domestic violence relationship is the father or mother, the children often suffer and years later can, in turn, act in the same manner they were accustomed to seeing as they grew up. It can even be translated to juveniles being the perpetrators of abuse.

In 2001, 5 percent of the 351 domestic violence arrests made in the central Kenai Peninsula were juveniles.

"I think a really key part to stemming domestic violence and making it unacceptable (is education). It takes a lot of education. I really think to stem it takes a lot of really good law enforcement, which we have, and a lot of public education."

To this end, Arnett said, through money provided by the United Way, the WRCC goes to schools throughout the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District in an effort to educate youth before they become either the victims or the abusers.

While education in the schools is a solution for younger generations, parents are not as easy to reach, and they play a large role determining how their children will treat others, Arnett said.

Eighty-one percent of the domestic violence arrests made in the central peninsula were male in 2001. However, only 12 out of more than a hundred of the men enrolled in the center's 48-week Batterers' Intervention Program graduated in the past year. This statistic reflects in part the length of the program and the fact that it takes some men longer than others to complete it, but there is still a large number of men who simply don't graduate.

Since the program's inception in 1995, only 75 men have completed the program, five of whom have reoffended.

Nationwide, domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women. But while 90 to 95 percent of all domestic violence victims are women, few men are willing to complete the program necessary to help ensure they do not strike again, according to statistics used in Arnett's presentation.

Twelve graduates a year from the batterers' programs may seem like a small number, but it is on par with national statistics, said program coordinator at the WRCC, Cheri Smith.

Generally, one-third of men will not even start the required treatment, one-third will drop out after a few months and the remaining one-third will complete the entire program, she said.

"One thing we find is that it takes six months for some men to take responsibility for their actions. They are used to blaming someone else," Arnett said after her presentation.

Domestic abuse is a problem on a national level. But, in addition, Alaska's statistics reflect the gravity of a problem closer to home.

The state ranks second in per capita deaths associated with domestic violence and first in sexual assaults.

The ease with which a victim can be isolated in Alaska plays a key role in these statistics, Arnett said.

That is another way the WRCC comes in to play.

The center is both a shelter for battered women and facility where women can drop in for programs. In the last fiscal year for the center, which ended June 30, 119 adults and 96 children used the shelter facilities and 350 women used other services provided by the WRCC.

"We had, unfortunately, quite a busy year. (Those numbers) are pretty high," Arnett said adding that last year's statistics reflect an increase of 35 more women than the previous year.

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