When people talk about domestic violence the person that is abusive is often condemned and judged as evil. I’ve heard many people say, “Lock them up and throw away the keys!” When our clients come to our treatment groups, they are filled with shame because they know society sees them as monsters and villains. This shame leads to isolation and a sense of unworthiness. How many people do you think will reach out for help with abusive behaviour when they know they will be judged and condemned?
Our view of these individuals is quite different. We don’t see monsters or villains. We see hurting people that lack the skills to cope and handle their anger and frustration in a healthy manner. They lack skills! They don’t want to act this way. They do so because this is what they know. Most people that commit acts of domestic violence grew up in abusive homes and learned this behaviour from their parents. They live what they’ve learned. Does it excuse their behaviour? No, but it helps us to understand why it happens. We believe we have a responsibility to help our fellow human beings and that we view them through the statement, “There but for the grace of God go I.”
Part of our mission at The Edmonton Family Violence Centre is to advocate for these individuals and help people understand that condemning these men and women does nothing to solve the problem. The key to prevent further acts of domestic violence is to teach new skills and to provide the support, compassion and encouragement they need to change their behaviour. If we intervene in the lives of these individuals, they can end their abusive behaviour and impact their families in positive ways. They can model a healthy way of handling anger and frustration to their children and break the cycle for the next generation.
Viewing people that commit acts of domestic violence as villains and monsters prevents them from reaching out for help and receiving the support they need. We believe there should be consequences for domestic violence, but we also believe we need to offer these men and women support, compassion and encouragement to help them learn from their mistakes and make healthy changes.