Officials study domestic violence


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Department of Corrections employees from all over the state met in the University of Iowa’s Iowa Memorial Union for a two-day training session based on developments in domestic-violence research.

The program utilized experiential learning, which includes using metaphors and talking through experiences with offenders, rather than trying to change their thinking.

The program was developed at the UI by Erika Lawrence, an associate professor in the Department of Psychology, along with her students and the Iowa Department of Corrections.

According to the Iowa Legal Aid, domestic violence accounted for 21 percent of all violent crimes that occurred between 2003-13 and is the leading cause of injury to women with more incidents than car accidents, muggings, and rape combined.

Fred Scaletta, assistant director of the Iowa Department of Corrections, said the department approached the UI and Lawrence about the domestic-violence program and what they can do to make it better. The training program was what came from these discussions.

“We implemented evidence based practices over our system for several years,” Scaletta said. “We took a look at our program, see what works best, put our resources there, and built on it.”

Lawrence said previous tactics focused on changing the emotions of the abusers, encouraging them not to become angry.

But that didn’t work.

Lawrence then began developing a program six years ago. She said the department has been training correction employees for the past five years with a different technique, and she thinks it reduces violence and arrests compared to what's normally done.

Andy Winkelmann, one of the pilot facilitators of the training program, taught the curriculum to the corrections officers after working in the department for over a decade. He said the curriculum focuses on trying to help the men understand themselves better.

“We’re trying to get them to notice what they’re thinking and feeling,” Winkelmann said. “And how they can work towards new values in their life.”

The program seeks to see if abusers can still be angry, but choose to behave in a way that is consistent to what is important to them — whether it be their marriage or freedom.

“We really slow them down so they can see that in the moment, they just react,” Lawrence said. “And show them they can make choices about how to behave.”’

Winkelmann said after this weekend, he thinks the corrections employees came away with a better understanding of the material they’re going to use.

He said as well as teaching them the lessons over the weekend, he will coach them and give them feedback on how they’re going to introduce this to the domestic-violence offenders.

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