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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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Dear Adriana thank you for sharing your story. There is a healing power in sharing our stories, as you wrote, "sharing is caring!" 

As a latino man of color your story touched my heart and reinforced the destructive nature of intergenerational trauma that lives in us...........a deep "wounding" that was perpetrated on us and has fragmented many of us on a spiritual as well as psychological level. "Soul wounding" is a the term coined by Eduardo Duran a Native American researcher.

He studied the effects of intergenerational trauma on Native American communities through a legacy of colonization, enslavement and genocide, how that trauma has been passed on and how it has led to the loss of traditional Indigenous belief systems, customs, identity and languages.

These are some of the effects of intergenerational trauma on five generations of native peoples:

  • Loss of cultural identity; diminished self worth leads to substance misuse (alcohol/drugs)
  • Gov’t response directly and indirectly exacerbates traumatization (removal of children; incarceration of men)  
  • Increased prevalence of spousal abuse and other forms of domestic violence.
  • Trauma begins to be reenacted and directed at spouse and child/ren; indicative of serious challenges to family unit and societal norms of acceptable behavior.
  • Cycle of violence is repeated & compounded;
    •Trauma begets violence;
    •Trauma enacted through increasingly severe violence & societal distress.

A cycle of trauma and abuse that will not be stopped by just focusing on perpetrators or victims!

What we need to do as you so insightfully wrote and intuitively understand is embrace the whole family. Meet each person in the family were they are and embrace them with love not judgement and provide them with the tools, practices, skills that lead to  new ways of being. What we need to do is "soul tending."

I live in NZ. I am Maori. My husband is Maori. So we are burdened with intergenerational racism and all that comes with being Maori - the high statistics of mental health issues, poverty, underachievement in education, high domestic violence rates, high suicide rates etc.  Our family went through domestic violence. I I was diagnosed with PTSD not just due to domestic violence but due to a whole raft of trauma BEFORE I faced domestic violence. My husband carries unresolved trauma from his childhood. He is Maori too. So we got together. When we faced adverse experiences that is when the domestic violence started. We also had children. My husband was working with mental health services with his team. I was working with mental health services with my team. My husband and I were both seeing the same doctor at different times. In hindsight, the fact that the two mental health teams and our doctor did not get together and share resources to get counselling for all of us, is unbelievable. I was diagnosed with PTSD by 2 psychiatrists under Accident Compensation Corporation (a government agency in NZ who provides support for NZers who have accidents) and I was diagnosed with Bipolar Affective Disorder by my psychiatrist at Mental Health Services. My brain was fogged up from all the medication. Then one day one of my children had a traumatic event and it "pulled me out of myself". That is the day I decided to stop taking my medication (tapering it off slowly) and searching for an answer. That is when I heard Dr Hessel van der Kolk say "Trauma is when your reality is not seen or known". So I went through the process of going to Mental Health and getting my diagnosis reviewed. At first, they would not but then I got a second opinion from an independent psychiatrist. Then I got a health and disability advocate and we had a meeting with Mental Health Services and got my diagnosis of Bipolar Affective Disorder changed to PTSD. I only discovered the two previous psychiatrist reports that diagnosed me with PTSD when I accessed free counselling from Accident Compensation Corporation. The counselling has been very effective because it provides me with a safe and supportive environment where I can talk, where I am seen and heard. Since I have started work on myself, I am able to provide more support for my children. I have been able to say "No more domestic violence" and I can start healing. My husband and I are still together. I don't know where our journey will take us but I know I am on the road to recovery and I am supporting my children on their road to recovery. Domestic violence impacted on all of us. Me, my husband and my children. I cannot understand why my GP and ALL the psychiatrists who worked with my husband and I did not THINK to come in and work with us ALL. To stop domestic violence requires the healing of the family unit. It is NOT with the intention to keep the family unit together but rather it is to put each member on the road to recovery so that they can heal. One member may want to break away from the family unit and that is ok because that is their choice. Ultimately all members shared the same experience of domestic violence and every member needs to share their perspective so that the others can understand that their perspective was not the reality of all. I believe it is part of healing to face reality not to remain in your head with your perceived reality. I have discovered that part of my trauma is that I have carried erroneous core beliefs which have been detrimental to me. Hope this makes sense. If not you are welcome to ask.

Thank you for your thoughts and comments Adriana!

If you get a minute can you please elaborate on your thoughts on how to heal all family members individually and then as a whole. I couldn't agree more and am curious and open to new insights, tools and practices that would lead to interfamily healing.


Thank you for your link to family peace initiative. 

Thank you for making me think:

"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.”

I would just add that if we are to end the cycle of domestic violence we must heal all family members, individually and then as a whole

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