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Safe at Home (Part 2): Stopping men who batter

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month
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October is Domestic Violence Awareness month

October is domestic violence awareness month. At Michigan Radio, we are taking a look at how domestic violence impacts our communities.

What support and intervention programs are in place to assist those impacted by domestic violence?

We have already spoken with the Director of Safe House Center in Ann Arbor, which provides assistance to those impacted by domestic violence or sexual assault.

Now we want to look at the other side of the equation. Jenn White, host of Michigan Radio’s All Things Considered, speaks with David Garvin, Senior Director at Catholic Social Services of Washtenaw County.  

Garvin manages the Alternatives to Domestic Aggression (ADA) program, a 52 week batterer intervention program that specializes in changing the behavior patterns of men who abuse their intimate partners. Typically, men who participate in the program have been court ordered to do so.

Garvin says the first step in behavior change is stopping the bad behavior—domestic abuse.

“We [then] take it one step further and work towards the presence of good behavior. Of respectful behavior. Behavior of integrity.”

The key to maintaining that positive behavior is, according to Garvin,

“Coming to the acceptance that sometimes they won’t get their way. Now we’re looking at your having to have a reciprocal relationship that has give and take in it. And most of the men that come into our program are actually staying in their relationship.”

Garvin says there is a cultural basis for the violent behavior of men who batter, but it is important to note:

“Although most batterers are male, most men aren’t batterers.”

External factors are not to blame. Garvin explains that,

“There isn’t any specific hook that we can hang this on and say, ‘If only this didn’t happen.’ There isn’t any one thing where we can say, ‘Who can we blame this on?’…The community wants to say that it’s because of alcohol, it’s because of drugs, it’s because of unemployment, it’s because of anger. And while it’s true that those may be concurrent issues, they’re not causal issues…if you sober up a drunken batterer, you have a sober batterer.”

The solution, according to Garvin, involves many actors and agencies beyond the criminal justice system. He argues that the clergy, schools, and the media have a responsibility to advocate year round.

“It’s great. We’re doing that during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, but domestic violence happens eleven months—in addition to October—out of the year. We need to find the weak links in our system and help them to be stronger links.”

-Meg Cramer


If you are or if someone you know is a survivor of domestic violence, please call:

  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
  • Safe House Center 24-hour help line, Washtenaw County: 734-995-5444
  • S.A.F.E. PLACE 24-hour crisis line, Battle Creek: 269-965-SAFE (7233)
  • Alternatives to Domestic Aggression, Washtenaw County: 734-971-9781 Ext. 430


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