CAN PHYSICALLY VIOLENT RELATIONSHIPS BE HEALED? July 29,
By Mike McManus
WASHINGTON -- Last summer there was a strange demonstration at
the Mall. Women carried 1,500 life-sized, blood-red wooden figures
of women between the Capitol and the Washington Monument, behind
mournful bagpipes. Each figure represented a woman who was killed
by a physically abusive partner in 1997. Her story was typed out
and pinned to each figure.
The demonstration was staged by `The Silent Witness National
Initiative,' organized by Janet Hagberg of Minneapolis-St. Paul.
''Our goal is to eliminate domestic violence,'' she said.
Is that possible? Quincy, Mass. has been murder free for 11
years and Seattle, for three years and Nashville is down 50
Ms. Hagberg points to specific programs that are working to save
lives. One she pointed to was the Compassion Workshop developed by
Dr. Steven Stosny ''that has an 87 percent success rate for
court-ordered batterers.'' A year after his workshops in Prince
George's County, Md., 74 percent of victims report that even verbal
aggression has ended!
Stosny's results are dramatically better than the average
court-ordered intervention. A ''USA Today'' story this week
spotlighted a study of anti-battering programs in Pittsburgh,
Houston, Dallas and Denver which reported that 40 to 45 percent of
men battered again within 30 months of attending a treatment
program. And that is after a 50 percent dropout rate. So the known
cure rate is really not 55 percent, but half of that, 27 percent.
Further, according to the victims, even when physical abuse ended,
verbal abuse increased which can be devastating.
What is the difference between these two approaches?
Rosemary Boerboom in St. Paul who has switched from teaching the
ineffectual Duluth model (which began in Duluth, Minn.) to
Stosny's, told me: ''The Duluth model is a socio-political analysis
of inequality, based on the theory that abuse is a tactic of power
and control men use against women. It is an analysis of patriarchy
and second-class status of women.
''The Stosny model is based on the best learning theory about
how people change. He talks about anger as a defense against hurt.
Participants get a very powerful tool called HEALS, which is a
technique of emotional regulation that really works and is easy.
Instead of trying to change people by shaming and blaming, Stosny
increases their self-esteem,'' said Ms. Boerboom.
Steve Stosny told me, ''Compassion is more empowering than
anger. On the first night, we say, ''Imagine the worst thing you
ever said or did to a person you love. Now imagine a stranger doing
that. What would you do?' Most would have an instinct to protect a
loved one. That is our deepest nature, our core value. Compassion
stops abuse. When they get disconnected from core values, when they
feel shame, they attempt to dominate spouse and children.''
Therefore, he teaches a HEALS model that makes resolution of
anger and depression automatic, once learned and practiced. First
he asks participants to envision a blinking neon sign, when they
feel anger rising, that blinks, HEALS. The H is for Healing. The E
of the word is to Explain to yourself, the lowest core hurts, one
is feeling beneath the anger, perhaps a feeling of being
disregarded, unimportant, guilty, devalued, powerless or
A is to Access your core values, your soul, the deepest part of
you, your value as a child of God, says Stosny. L is to remember to
Love yourself. The trick is to feel compassion first for yourself,
and then for the person who offended you. S is to Solve the
He says, ''If my wife calls me a `brainless twit,' I see the
flashing HEALS sign. At first, I feel unlovable. But am I
unlovable? No, I might have just made a mistake. I know that does
not mean I am unlovable. So I can feel compassion for her core
hurt. When I feel compassion for her, I can't be angry at her. Nor
do I feel hurt anymore.'' Thus, the HEALS model dissipates
Janet Hagberg uses the model daily. Recently her group held a
successful fund-raiser. But the woman who organized it was very
angry and made various criticisms. Janet went home feeling livid.
She flashed HEALS in her mind, and went to her lowest feeling.
Powerless? No, it went deeper to unlovable. ``But am I unlovable?
Absolutely not. What is going on with her? Perhaps she has a tough
marriage, and what we said got close to her own experience. Now I
can be compassionate toward her.''
To learn about Stosny's books, tapes or workshops, call 301
921-2010 or www.compassionpower.com
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