An essential support for men overcoming violence is back up and running strong
The COVID-19 crisis is forcing all of us to put much of our lives on hold for a time. But some things are too critical to defer or interrupt. For essential services like GLIDE’s Men in Progress (MIP) violence intervention program, new ways of accomplishing the same ends need to be found. We’re glad to report that, after a short hiatus following the shelter-in-place order, MIP is once again up and running and going strong—online. We want to thank Saundra, the lead facilitator and case manager for GLIDE’s 52-week court-mandated Batterer’s Intervention program, as well as the program’s courageous and committed participants, for allowing us to join a recent weekly session to learn firsthand how the new format is working.
Saundra starts the Zoom call with the same check-in question each week, “Any new violence or police contact?”
“Only in my dreams,” shares one participant. Others are pleased to report their success in learning to practice accountability and control over their behavior.
After this brief check-in, the group takes a moment to close their eyes and be silent. Saundra calls this a “grounding practice” that helps men arrive in the present moment in a state of calm awareness.
Today’s class is about power and control. Saundra goes around and asks everyone to share their thoughts on what male privilege looks like, encouraging them to use examples from their lived experience.
The answers are as diverse as the group of faces that lines the top of the computer screen.
One participant shares how male status in the Chinese culture he was raised in taught him that only men are allowed to handle the finances of a family. As a result, he witnessed the way his father used money as a form of power and control over his mother.
Another participant shares his own life lessons from growing up in the American South, where he describes the culture of his childhood as “hostile towards attitudes and actions that challenge traditional gender roles.”
Various group members nod in understanding and support through their computer screens.
The MIP meetings may be virtual, but the degree of depth and vulnerability of this work is rooted in real lives committed to understanding and change.
In the session the participants explore themes of intimidation and dominance and definitions of violence, always with an eye toward accountability and the impact on one’s self as well as one’s partner, family and community. Saundra calls this chain of influence “the ripple effect,” and constantly encourages men to think about the long-term impact of their actions.
“Imagine if someone said or did that to your mother, your sister or your daughter?” she asks the group.
One participant insists that his children have never seen the domestic disputes he has had with his wife.
“Your kids may not see everything that is going on,” Saundra replies, “but they know. Children can feel when violence is in their home.”
Violence intervention classes like Men In Progress are all the more crucial in the midst of COVID-19.
Every year, more than 10 million Americans experience domestic violence, and advocates fear that the isolation necessary to combat the coronavirus pandemic could make violence in homes more frequent and more severe. While shelter-in-place measures are aimed at improving the health and safety of all, for many they could be having the opposite effect.
GLIDE’s MIP remains the only free program of its kind in the Bay Area, and thanks to Saundra and other dedicated staff at GLIDE, the program is still offering four group sessions each week online.
“When I get frustrated with everything feeling out of my control, I return to the main lesson I have learned from this group,” shares one man, when asked about the impact of quarantine on his aggressive tendencies. “It’s not okay to be violent just because I am angry.”
By Erin Gaede