|MAAP Graduate Gets His Life Back|
by Eddie Zacapa (originally published in The Center for Violence-Free Relationships September 2013 Monthly Newsletter)
Two years ago Joe* put his hands on his wife and physically assaulted her. Throughout his life he had learned to use power and control to resolve conflicts. It was a common staple for his relationships with others. After the assault his wife left the relationship and filed a restraining order.
"This is how I dealt with people," he says of his use of power and control. "It is what I knew. I lost many jobs because of my behavior and it destroyed my relationship with my wife."
Joe was ordered to complete a 52 week batterer's intervention program. He recently completed the Men's Alternatives to Abusive Patterns (MAAP) program at The Center for Violence-Free Relationships.
The first week that Joe participated in the program he was introduced to the cycle of violence. He says that he immediately identified with the cycle. "I was like...that is me," he recalls, "It was like the facilitator was talking about my story." Joe proceeded to have an open mind to the material presented in the program and started to identify his power-over strategies. By the end of the program he had a greater awareness of the strategies that he employed in his relationships in the past and an ability to empathize with others and his wife.
"I realize that she was really afraid of me," he says when he recalls how he treated his wife on the day of the domestic violence incident. "I feel awful when I think about how my actions caused her to be scared to death."
Through participation in the group Joe has learned a number of tools that he can use to navigate through conflict. He says he now practices positive self-talk, timeouts, empathizing with the needs of others, disengaging and meditation and prayer. As a result he has had better experiences at work and in his relationships.
He shared in group on one occasion that he did not receive his paycheck and said that he would have definitely acted out and been fired in the past when something like this occurred. He said that he instead remained calm and tried to empathize with his boss. He said in the past he would have made assumptions and gotten very upset. By talking to his boss about his feelings and needs he was able to resolve the matter and empathize with his boss.
"Before attending this program I thought that power and control was the only option I had," he says. "Now I realize that I have many options that are not violent."
As Joe's time in the program was nearing its end his wife reached out to him and removed the restraining order. They began to interact with one another again. One evening over dinner she told him that she recognized that he was a totally different person and asked him if he wanted to come home.
"I had tears in my eyes," he says. "I was so moved that she was willing to have me come home and that she recognized the changes I had made. I have been home for some months now and our relationship is healthy and positive. I am so grateful to this program."
Joe is planning to share his story with others because he wants to help others get out of the domestic violence cycle and to be a part of ending domestic violence.
"We do not all learn the tools to have a healthy relationship when we are children," says Eddie Zacapa, Positive Solutions Coordinator. "The good news is that someone's beliefs and behavior can change when they are open to learning and are offered the support and tools that they need."