Program to counsel abusers

By Kevin Lyons

A new program was announced to curb domestic violence in DeKalb County—treatment for the abusers.

“If we really want to prevent domestic violence, we have to address it at its source,” Pam Wiseman, executive director of Safe Passage, Inc. told reporters Wednesday during a press conference.

With the cooperation of DeKalb County States Attorney Mike Coghlan, Wiseman and the DeKalb County Domestic Violence Forum Abuser Subcommittee have put together a program of small-group counseling for abusers.

Safe Passage, Inc. has been working with victims of domestic violence since 1981, Wiseman said. For the past two years, the subcommittee, consisting of several NIU faculty and staff members, has been working on the counseling program.

Wiseman said about 50 percent of husbands will be abusive at some point. She said a large part of the problem is denial on the part of the offenders.

Coghlan added that abusers often say, “She deserved it,” or “I never used my fist.”

Pushing denial aside and not allowing abusers to place blame will be a major objective of the program, Wiseman said.

“It is a myth that violence is a result of mental illness,” she said. The program will screen abusers for substance abuse and psychopathology.

Wiseman said another common misconception is that solving a drinking problem, for example, will solve a domestic abuse problem.

“Society teaches men to use violence to solve problems,” Coghlan said. He said the county program will teach alternatives to coercion and violence.

Wiseman and Charles Tucker, an NIU communications professor, will counsel groups of four to ten abusers for 26 weeks. The program will be based on a similar program in Duluth, Minn., Wiseman said.

Abusers will pay a not-yet determined fee for the sessions and will be allowed to volunteer, or they will be mandated by court order. There are 76 cases of domestic violence pending in DeKalb County, Coghlan said.