What do you think contributed most to the zero percent recidivism?
I believe that what contributed most to these numbers was that all our clients were exposed to nonviolent communication (NVC). I think this was key because NVC gives you the skills to be able to offer yourself and others empathy. Many participants prior to coming to the group had a pattern of judging themselves and others and I think it was refreshing for them to come to a place where there was no judgment. The group facilitators were all trained or being trained in NVC and modeled compassion. It was important for facilitators to demonstrate integrity in living NVC. Participants were also guided on how to empathize with the recipient of their violent actions. They were able to imagine how the victim felt and what her needs might have been. This is very important because instead of continuing to judge their partner or former partner they were able to view her humanity and empathize and understand her feelings and needs and mourn their actions.
What is different from your program and other programs?
Most programs do not incorporate NVC into their curriculum or facilitation. I think this by itself sets this program apart. I see NVC as a needs-centered approach to life, so when we looked at the violent actions these men did we explored together what needs they were trying to meet when they chose to act violently. We called this the positive intention or value that they were advocating for in that moment. When participants connected with this they were able to see that they were doing the best they could with the strategies they had learned. They were able to empathize with themselves and the value that was important to them. This many times would lead to regret and mourning which led to healing.
I have observed other programs and many times there is a power-over approach and facilitators will coerce participants to see themselves as batterers and introduce themselves this way to new group members. There is also an emphasis on teaching them conflict resolutions skills without getting to the core need. I think it is transformational when an individual understands that they were just trying to meet a need and that there is another way to meet that need that does not cause harm to others. It brings a sense of relief, hope and confidence that they can change and show up in the world in a way that is compassionate and in alignment with their values.
What are some key things that you hope to achieve in facilitating a batterer intervention program (BIP)?
Whenever I facilitate any group I hope that everyone in the group feels welcome and safe. I want to see every participant's humanity and beauty. Meeting as a group is a sacred experience. I believe we are all doing the best we can with the resources we have. I believe that when a person realizes that the reason he or she made a choice was to meet a need it sets them free from judging themselves. The key is finding a strategy that meets the need without harming others. The individual can empathize with the part of themselves that made the choice to use violence. This is key because when we are harsh or violent with ourselves we will be harsh or violent with others. We must experience compassion to be able to offer it to others. My hope is that each participant in the program can see their beauty and experience self-compassion.
I also hope that participants in our groups can empathize with those harmed and can mourn the choices they made that did not serve life. When there is mourning there can be change and movement towards life serving choices.
These are questions that Eddie Zacapa is frequently asked.