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Gathering in Topeka, Kansas for the Educators’ Art of Facilitation continued


We can not solve problems from a distance from ourselves or from each other. The way we muster the courage to heal is to walk the journey together. Any effort to create policy change, structural change, or even programatic change will not succeed unless there is an explicit healing perspective. It begins with a deep understanding that we all come hurt and that those hurts often mean that in striving to relieve our own pain we hurt each other. “Hurt people, hurt people.” It is simplicity on the other side of complexity. Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “For the simplicity that lies this side of complexity, I would not give a fig, but for the simplicity that lies on the other side of complexity, I would give my life.”

Grieving is social, and so is healing.

On January 12th and 13th, 2017, I attended a roundtable discussion in Washington, D.C. hosted by the the U.S. Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) and Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). The two day event gathered together directors of domestic violence programs from throughout the country to engage in a conversation around current trends, alternative models, and promising practices in the field of domestic violence intervention. Together we reviewed the history and context of interventions for domestic violence perpetrators, voiced our perspectives on best desired outcomes for interventions with domestic violence perpetrators and shared our insights and experiences with innovative practices that focused on balancing accountability and support for healing. Culture and race were also a relevant topic of discussion given that a good number of us in attendance were people of color.

It was at this gathering that I first met Steve Halley, a genuinely warm, caring, authentic and welcoming human being and the founder and director of the Family Peace Initiative in Topeka, Kansas. He is also someone who for nearly 3 decades has dedicated himself and his life to understanding the nature of violence and cruelty in our world. Two subjects that I am also compelled, you might say consumed with a need to understand. Not long after meeting Steve in Washington, D.C, I reached out to him and we began a conversation that continues to evolve as we share our thoughts on how to best deal with people who engage in violence in their interfamilial relationships.

On November 1st, 2017 almost a year after first meeting Steve, I had the great pleasure and fortune to meet Dorthy Stucky Halley, at the BISC-MI in Detroit, Michigan. Dorthy and Steve were at the conference to give a workshop titled Cracking the Code; Understanding Different Motives of Those Who Batter and the Connection to Risk and Lethality. Also in attendance at the conference was my dear friend and colleague Juan Carlos Areán. Juan Carlos was one of the facilitators of the January roundtable in Washington, D.C. and had been invited to Detroit to give the keynote. In his keynote Juan Carlos built on what Steve and I, as well as many of those at the D.C. roundtable felt had been ground breaking. He spoke of the need for Batterer Intervention practitioners to incorporate a trauma-informed lens, embrace cultural approaches, and engage in deep self-reflection. He invited the conference participants to ponder the meaning of healing in the context of responsibility, the overlap of victimization and perpetration, and the misuse of coercive systems in working with Domestic Violence offenders.

I’ve written about the events of January, 2017 and November, 2017 because these events informed and initiated a series of conversations about how we deal with people that hurt others. More importantly they have led a number of us to question and challenge an existing narrative that believes, “that if we are to end the cycle of domestic violence we must fix those who perpetrate violence and hold them accountable.” The possibility arose that maybe those who hurt others are not in need of being fixed. Maybe what those who have used violence in their families need is “help in healing.”

Fast forward to March Art 21st and 22nd, 2018. At Steves invitation I find myself inTopeka, Kansas at the Family Peace Initiative, for a two day training that Steve and Dorothy have titled "The Art of Facilitation.” An unforgettable learning experience and trauma-based approach using a highly experiential format that focuses on leading by example, introduces us to the Power of self-disclosure in group work, the “River of Cruelty”, the “Shadow” process and the importance of the “Enlightened Witness” in our lives. The two days not only changed me, they gave me a sense of agency and reinforced my sense of purpose. The understanding and insight that those two days brought to light for me was that all of us in attendance, the service providers, were no different than the people that we serviced. No different than those we labelled and put in boxes and then attempted to fix! I was brought to the awareness that if we are going to truly end the cycles of violence in our world, we need to begin with ourselves!

In my next post I will begin to unpack the October 4th and 5th, 2018 workshop in Topeka, Kansas that Steve and Dorothy titled the Educator's Art of Facilitation. A workshop originally designed to prepare their staff to implement a trauma-focused approach with those who had a history of battering behavior in relationships that has evolved over the years into a training ground for professionals from all walks of life who are looking for ways to engage others in a helping relationship.

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My favorite quote and a necessary understanding for ALL of us in this movement: “The understanding and insight that those two days brought to light for me was that all of us in attendance, the service providers, were no different than the people that we serviced. No different than those we labelled and put in boxes and then attempted to fix!”

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