Telling Our Story

At Community Alternatives to Violence, we realized that an important piece missing from our work was personal stories from clients about their experiences in our domestic violence prevention program. Did you know that we serve both men and women, adults and teens, and have clients that are both sentenced here and also come as volunteers? We know, more than anything, that it is imperative that we separate the person from the behavior and recognize each individual’s ability to make a change in their lives, in their thinking, and in their relationships.

These stories were recorded during group and individual interviews with clients. Some are just starting in our program, and some are getting ready to complete our program and move on. We wanted to capture the range of beliefs that we encounter, and highlight how the change process has affected them and their relationships.

We are proud to reveal our first blog post, featuring a few of our client’s stories about their journey so far. We hope that these stories start to reveal the depth of the work we do, and our ability to empower people to make a difference in their lives. More than anything, we hope that you can see that with CAV, violence stops and respect starts- with all of us!

Respectfully Yours,

Brooke

 

Interview #1 “Jake”

Jake came in just recently, as part of a recommendation from Child Protective Services.

  • What brought you here?

So, my reason for being here is actually part of a CPS case, they actually thought it would be good, or educational for us, because me and my partner admitted that we might have domestic disputes, so there’s no charges against me for domestic violence, this is just meant to be educational and helpful in our relationship as we work to get our kids back.

  • What were you feeling when you first learned of CAV?

I thought oh God here we go, I get to do another thing now. I got a lot of things I got to do, I work sixty hours on top of this, and I was a drug addict for 10 years and I’ve been clean for 8 months now but I’m doing a lot of different things trying to stay clean and trying to get my kids back. I come here once a week, I’m the sole provider for my family and it’s really important that I keep my job, I go to counseling for neurofeedback, I go to AA meetings, plus I go to a drug counselor. A lot of the things that I thought when I first came in here were blaming my partner for all of this, at first I didn’t feel like I was in the wrong totally, I didn’t feel like  it was all my fault, and I thought I was going to come here to express myself. But there are some things I’m learning in here like tools I can use to make myself better and not blame everyone else for my own actions.

  • What, if anything, did you expect to get out of the program? What did you want to change about your relationship or your behavior?

I didn’t know what to think. I mean I figured I was we could make the best of it and then I thought of it as a way to listen to others, for once. I guess I hoped that they would give me some tools to be able to work on my marriage so I figure I will just try to come in here and try to speak as honestly as I can.  We get different perspectives and I get to kind of see how I could handle something differently, or get to see other guys handling things either the way I usually do or worse and I can learn from it. Hearing different perspectives has helped me to see that I can relate to my partner in a more positive way, but that my behavior needs to change.

  • Can you think of one thing that stood out to you in the classes so far that has helped in your relationship, or has helped to shape new beliefs?

For me I think the “I messages” help so much with the communication part. I’m a step parent to her kids, and then I have kids, so we have a bunch of kids between us and it’s helped me to understand boundaries, like what I can and can’t do, what I should do or ways to communicate better. A lot of our arguments before were usually about the kids, and I’ve been able to better understand how I come off as attacking her verbally or during an argument in front of the kids. I don’t need to start stuff in front of the kids, and I don’t need to make her feel defensive about her kids by seeming like I’m starting a fight, we started talking behind closed doors and not fighting in front of the kids because we realized how bad that is for the kids. We have a lot of issues because we are a blended family, she’s got her kids and I’ve got mine and I’m realizing I have to make a choice about how I’m acting in front of my kids and with my partner.

  • Do you think your perspective or belief system has changed since being in the program? When did you first see your beliefs changing?

So at first for me, I didn’t think I needed to change my thinking, I wasn’t sentenced here or anything, because CPS just sent me here because they thought it would be good for me, like in an educational way, they recommended it for me. I think it was when I got here was when I started changing my thinking, when I started blaming myself a little bit and thinking I could at least take advantage of what’s been offered, at least get a different perspective. I was pretty argumentative my first class, but the second and third class was when I started to see a little more. I like being oppositional, and standing my ground, but I’m learning that in some things it’s just not necessary. I can hear someone else’s perspective on something and try to see the value in it instead of just trying to make my point and explain myself in a more respectful way.

 

Interview #2- “Daniel”

Daniel is also relatively new to the program, on domestic violence charges and for a case that started over a year ago. Having just been back to court for such an old case proved to be stressful for Daniel and his new partner, but he said that he was glad to be moving towards a solution and was happy with the sentencing alternative offered through the courts and CAV.

  • What brought you here? What were you feeling when you first learned of CAV?

I didn’t want to go to jail so I was already trying to get a plea agreement. They offered this and I just remember I told him (the judge) I’d do anything, they started talking to me about unsupervised probation and some stupid classes and I just thought “I’ll do it,” and I was only happy because I wasn’t in jail. Since it was over a year ago that this happened I wasn’t happy to be here at first, but it’s part of the consequence.

  • Do you think your perspective or belief system has changed since being in the program? When did you first see your beliefs changing?

Well with my situation, over the past year before I even came here I was already doing a lot of reconstructing my mind because I knew I needed to change something, my girlfriend now has helped me a lot with it and she is really supportive of me changing and it helps to have a supportive partner. The classes are also kind of reinforcing and helping me to understand things I’ve realized over the past year that I needed to change about myself, I don’t want to hurt my partner or any person ever again.

  • Can you think of one thing that stood out to you in the classes so far that has helped in your relationship, or has helped to shape new beliefs?

One thing I’ve learned throughout a lot of this is like, there’s a way of saying some things and get your point across like I might have been doing it in a way that added to the conflict, like saying “you” all the time or “you always” when all I wanted to do is get my point across, I just didn’t realize it’s adding negativity and pointing fingers when I didn’t mean to do that. I feel like the “I messages” have really helped a lot, I think it’s a great tool I’ve learned here. Learning to take responsibility for my own actions and how my communication affects our relationship has been big, because I can prevent fights from happening most of the time just in controlling myself.

 

 

Interview #3- “Bobby”

Bobby has been in classes for about 6 months, and was sentenced as part of a plea agreement. He was charged with domestic violence after a physical altercation with his wife.

  • What brought you here?

I came here after my wife and I got into a fight and I got violent, it had never ever happened before. I said I didn’t want to go to jail and I didn’t want the conviction for domestic battery, honestly. And so I just realized that anything they’re willing to give me that prevents me from getting convicted and sent to jail, I’d be down to do. Anything.

  • What were you feeling when you first learned of CAV?

Well, you make the first call in to set up the appointment and find out it was was thirty two weeks and an intake appointment and there’s an initial fee and you get to pay every week…. Yeah I wasn’t I was very happy, there was probably a little bit animosity in the beginning…but the more I’ve been in this class and the more I’ve thought about it the more I’ve realized I did what I did, and I need to learn how to not do it again.

It was my fault too, obviously, because if I hadn’t done anything wrong I wouldn’t have gotten arrested. I think that’s what happened when I realized I needed to change something. Maybe she was a part of it, but ultimately I was the one that did what I did and I needed to change my perspective to get better.

  • What, if anything, did you expect to get out of the program? What did you want to change about your relationship or your behavior?

I didn’t know if it would be like, I thought it would be like anger management maybe.     But I really had no preconceived notions of what was going on here, I just really had no          idea. I think I kind of expected “anger management.” I think the way the classes are  set up is better than just regular anger management,   you know us and the fact is we do have guidelines to follow each week but you know I think the fact that she’s not super strict with it and the re’s not a  stupid handouts or whatever that no one really cares about , but that we get to kind of talk and explore your feelings and stuff.  I think that’s a much more constructive way to do things and we get more out if it, and get to learn from each other. I mean I can’t speak for everyone, but I think I get more out of it than I am learning to see other people’s perspectives, the only perspective I have is mine, so getting to hear other people talk helps me to see the bigger picture about relationships.

  • Do you think your perspective or belief system has changed since being in the program? When did you first see your beliefs changing?

We had just started watching the Mask You Live In movie, and talking about how            men are trained and brought up to be detached from their emotions, and how maybe           that’s not the only way or the best way. I think it was that first class or two when I         realized I might get something out of this, and also that I needed to figure out a way to     take responsibility for what happened and not just keep thinking that it was my wife’s           fault, because thinking of it that way allowed me to continue to act like I was innocent   when I really wasn’t, and me taking responsibility for what happened was what needed           to happen for me and my wife to be able to move forward.

 

 

Interview #4- “Jason”

Jason is close to completing the program, and was sentenced here after a physical altercation with his partner.

  • What brought you here?

This is part of my plea agreement. They offered it, and completion of the program meant they would drop the charges and it would not go on my record, and I wouldn’t do any jail time.

  • What were you feeling when you first learned of CAV?

That’s what I thought too, you know “Oh God, I can’t go to jail, I got my kids still and I gotta be here for them.” I mean I was upset, the court case was a lot of stress not even including the stress in my relationship from the incident, so then I come here and it seems overwhelming with all the stuff  you have to do just to stay and keep the courts happy, I didn’t have a very good outlook on this when I first got here but it was the first time I just had to do, had to accept that this was the consequence, and I figured I need to just make the best of it and maybe learn something. I’ve been here for a while, I’m looking forward to completing it!

  • Do you think your perspective or belief system has changed since being in the program? When did you first see your beliefs changing?

I think for me it was when they took me, and I went to the courthouse and waited for hours. I had a lot of time to think and realize something needed to change, I don’t want to do this again.

  • What if anything has stood out to you in the classes that has helped shape new beliefs?

It has been helpful to hear from different people about different situations, some of them are like situations I’ve been through with my partner. Hearing what they did to make the situation better or worse and then get feedback from the group about whether or not they had the right reaction, or how it could have been handled differently.   Like I know one big thing for me, my thing was always when something would start with us, I’d just get up and walk away when I felt my anger start rising, and not talk until we were both calm but by then both of us have resentments and are still actually angry about it, so then it’s just passive aggressive or wanting it to be over with and dropped. But we never really dropped anything, it just got shoved under the rug, you know? So in here I’m learning how to talk to her in the moment, in positive ways, and answer her questions or just actually have a conversation with her and understand where she is coming from.

  • Can you think of a specific example in your relationship when you could see this working, or see the benefit in changing your belief system about relationships?

There was one night, it was raining so my normal way of just walking away wasn’t going to work because honestly I didn’t want to get soaked and I was tired of things always ending up with me walking away. So I just sat there on the porch and tried for the first time to just hear her out, we smoked cigarettes and I just listened. We figured out a way to just work through it, she was so surprised and even said, “wow, you actually talked to me!” and she was happy and it made it easier to deal with it all.

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