One approach has governed for decades how many domestic violence cases are treated: Hold the offender accountable. Get him or her treatment. Keep the victim safe by separating the couple. The Salt Lake Tribune says the problem is that the approach lumps together all types of cases and ignores the fact that many victims want abuse to stop, but also want to try to save their relationships. That reality has given momentum to two new models for dealing with low-level situational domestic violence: couples counseling and Circulos de Paz (Circles of Peace). The first approach treats offender and victim; the second brings an offender, family members and other supporters together to resolve behaviors that lead to domestic violence.
This spring, Cornerstone Counseling Center in Salt Lake City and New Hope Crisis Center in Brigham City will join a study comparing effectiveness of batterer intervention programs with the Circles of Peace and couples counseling, the latter a controversial but promising method. The premise is couples who have experienced low-level domestic violence and for whom violence is a learned behavior “can learn other ways,” said Annette Macfarlane of New Hope Crisis Center. “We know that there is a really good chance that they are going to stay together, so if they can learn how to function in a healthy way, not only is their marriage going to be better, but the children aren’t going to be contaminated by the idea that violence is an acceptable way to live your life,” she said. The four-year study is a collaboration between researchers at the University of Utah and New York University, where lead investigator Linda Mills is based.