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

fox13now.com

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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…

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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.

#StartWithTheBoys

A powerful new ad campaign highlights the role that gender socialization plays in the perpetuation of domestic violence. What are your thoughts on the video’s message?

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

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”.

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.

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

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.

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How Restorative Justice Changed This Colorado Cop’s Views on Prison

Officer Ruprecht continued to feel skeptical about this process, but something was definitely changing. He saw how much money had already been saved by choosing to go down this route instead of jailing the boys and sending them into a lengthy and expensive judicial process. He realized that restorative justice had more teeth than conventional punishment because it imposes real, face-to-face accountability among offenders for their actions, and makes them listen directly to the victims of their crimes. He realized that six young lives might be saved from years of cycling in and out of the prison system. He learned that the human brain doesn’t develop fully until the age of 22 or thereabouts, so punishment and fear-inciting prison regimes have an even bigger impact on the development of young people. He remembered his own children and recognized that more than anything else, they and others deserve the chance to make mistakes and pick themselves back up again, sure in the knowledge of their own inherent worth and value.

Click here to read more about how the power and efficacy of restorative justice diversion programs for youth have impacted law enforcement officials in Colorado!

Long Beach, CA Students use Theater to Promote RJ

Last week, as students rallied in front of the Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) the school board passed a resolution to encourage teachers and administrators to use alternative discipline policies in schools. The week before, students and community members came together to demonstrate what that could look like on a daily basis. Facilitated by the community theatre group, the Cornerstone Theatre, Long Beach youth presented “Tangle”– a play that revolved around problem-solving and conflict resolution using Restorative Justice (RJ).

Read the full story, here