By Marie Romeo, Meridian Behavioral Health Services, with the Haywood County Domestic Violence and Sexual Violence Task Force
Six months ago, when Anthony (not his real name) walked through the door at Meridian, he felt as if his life was unraveling. Because he had used violence in his relationships with his wife and children, Anthony’s wife had taken out a protective order (DVPO or 50-B) against him to help keep her family safe. He had to leave his house and was sleeping on the couch in a work buddy’s home. At the DVPO hearing, the judge had ordered him to attend the Domestic Violence Intervention Program (DVIP) offered at Meridian Behavioral Health Services. He was reluctant, but he did want things to be different. In group, there were others there, all men, who had walked the same path. These peers provided support and insight, as did the program’s counselors, as Anthony addressed his use of violence for the first time in his life.
Initially, it was challenging for Anthony to look at his patterns of violence, especially when that violence was all that he knew about how to be in a relationship. Violence in families comes from long-standing beliefs about how men are supposed to treat women, beliefs that have been passed down, sometimes, for generations. In the Domestic Violence Intervention Program, men work on learning how their violent actions impact their loved ones and how to accept responsibility for them. Learning to communicate, in a non-violent, non-threatening way, is a core part of recovery from using violence and is a foundation for treatment in the DVIP.
There are graduates of the program, like Anthony, who are using what they have learned to rebuild their relationships every day. In many cases, these individuals will voluntarily continue to seek support and treatment, recognizing that recovery is often a life long journey. The Domestic Violence Intervention Program sees individuals graduate on an ongoing basis, demonstrating that “recovery is possible for everyone.”
This is one of the values held by Meridian Behavioral Health Services, a Western North Carolina non-profit organization. The mission of Meridian Behavioral Health Services is to create service environments and relationships which instill hope, facilitate choice, foster wellness, promote healing and support individuals on their personal journeys of discovery and recovery. Meridian Behavioral Health Services hosts many community based programs that focus on recovery, through the values of equality, respect, love and self-determination. The Domestic Violence Intervention Program is one of these recovery programs that serves the WNC community.
Meridian’s DVIP is a 6-month intensive program that focuses on providing education and recovery for individuals who have used violence. Group treatment provides an opportunity for accountability as well as developing new ways of interacting with intimate partners. The DVIP is credentialed and certified as a Batterers Intervention Program (BIP) by the North Carolina Council for Women.
Domestic violence happens in all kinds of families and relationships. Persons of any class, culture, religion, sexual orientation, marital status, age, and sex can be victims or perpetrators of domestic violence, although the vast majority of victims are female and perpetrators are male. Meridian DVIP defines Domestic Violence as a pattern of behavior where one partner coerces, dominates, or isolates the other partner. It is the use of any form of power to gain or maintain control over the partner or relationship. This is usually done through fear and intimidation, often including the threat or use of physical violence.
“On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men.” (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence)
It is estimated that more than 3-10 million children in the United States witness domestic violence in their homes every year. Whether or not children are physically abused, they often suffer emotional and psychological trauma from living in homes where violence is present.
People who attend the DVIP are asked to identify their behavior as a pattern in their intimate relationships and how those choices have harmed others, as well as take the responsibility of the abusive behavior off of the survivors/victims. Meridian DVIP works closely with the District Attorney’s Office, the Department of Health & Human Services and The Haywood County DV/SV Task Force to provide these services to individuals who have used and continue to use violence. The DVIP has two groups that are presently in session for abusive partners. While Meridian accepts both male and female referrals, the ongoing groups are for men who use violence against women. These group treatment services are currently being held in both Haywood and Jackson County. The DVIP program serves all of the 7 western counties, including Haywood, Macon, Clay, Jackson, Graham, Cherokee and Swain county, and groups are always in the process of forming, based on referrals. In 2014-2016, Meridian’s DVIP program received over 150 referrals in 7 counties.
The Domestic Violence Intervention Program is a member of the Haywood County Domestic Violence and Sexual Violence Task Force. The Task Force focuses on addressing community safety in coordination with the Haywood County Justice System, REACH of Haywood County, and other local organizations. The DVIP, like all programs at Meridian, is focused on the belief that all people have value and that recovery can be transformative.
For someone experiencing Domestic or Sexual Violence, call the REACH of Haywood County 24-hour Helpline at 828.465.7898 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1.800.799.7233. For more information about Meridian Behavioral Health Services, including the Domestic Violence Intervention Program, call 828.631.3973.