Domestic violence prevention in the community

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — There’s a new push to train men and boys to help prevent domestic violence in our communities. The idea is to teach males to lead by example, and to stand up against violence towards women and girls.

It’s a big idea in the planning stages right now.

Birmingham Police handle eight thousand domestic violence calls a year and hundreds of the people arrested for “dv” are referred to the Project S.A.F.E. program, according to Director Carolyn Adams. Adams says they spend several weeks just learning what abuse looks like.

In every category physical, emotional, the psychological, even financial abuse when a partner withdraws their finances and use that to control that partner,” said Adams.

Many offenders don’t recognize that they have a serious problem in handling conflicts, according to Adams.

She says a lack of knowledge about the warning signs is also an obstacle for victims and those who would step in.

She uses the example of teenage girls who don’t see the red flags of a controlling and potentially dangerous relationship.

“Boyfriends giving them gifts keeping up with them every 5 or 10 minutes, telling them where they can and cannot go simply because the girl may be thinking oh he really just loves me so much, no he doesn’t that’s an issue,” said Adams.

Gateway through its program the Engaging Men’s Initiative hopes to try to come up with a community solution to what truly is a community wide problem, but often remains hidden behind closed doors.

The pilot program would start on college campuses challenging men to take a hard look at their view of masculinity to become healthy relationship role models and then to take an active role in mentoring others, according to Gateway’s Director of Prevention and Intervention Programs, Wes Goodenough.

“Ultimately we would connect those men in some target high schools,” said Goodenough.

Aggressiveness and dominance are rewarded in sports, but Goodenough says the same values don’t translate into a healthy family dynamic.

“The people who rise to the top are those who can be more aggressive, and we value to a great degree the winner. Well these are masculine traits that we learn primarily masculine traits and that they’re valued,” said Goodenough. “When it comes to family life those kinds of values don’t trade over. When we try to want to work with, work in a family with our family where we’re not talking about dominance, well we ought not be talking about dominance, what we’re talking about is a more kind of equality, and cooperative and collaboration kind of relationship.”

“Children live what they see and if you were not brought up in a healthy environment you may not know what healthy looks like,” said Adams. “In order for change to take place there has to be a desire to want to know more. What you can do. But if you don’t have that desire there or even if you don’t realize you need to know, then the lack of knowledge can be a barrier. That’s the simplest way I know how to put that. Lack of knowledge can create more problems for people then they can realize.”

Goodenough says they are still securing grants for the pilot program, but he says he hopes to have it on local college campuses in about a year.

2014 WIAT-TV CBS42

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