Posted by: joshjasper | May 6, 2009

Respect Yourself…and the rest will follow

Last night I spoke to 40 men convicted of rape and domestic violence.  This is a presentation I do every 3 months at the Stephenson County Courthouse for a Victim Impact Panel.  The process is such in that 2 survivors speak about their harrowing experiences, a 7 minute 911 tape is played that has a little girl screaming on the phone to the operator while in the background the listener hears her step father physically abusing her mother, and then it’s up to me to wrap it up all up.

My message is unique in that I am not sharing a story of personal abuse, nor am I coming from a place of judgment.  My message has to do with a discussion of understanding violence for what it is; learned behavior.  By the end of presentation, my hope is that these men actually feel empowered.  Now, I am fully aware that this is not a popular concept held by many, especially those that are in my line of work.  Why would we want to empower those that have done wrong?  For me, that answer is simple.  If there is ever an audience that is need of empowerment or prevention strategies, it is those that have already perpetrated violence.

I also shared with this group that I strongly disagree with the popular belief of “once a perpetrator, always a perpetrator.”  How could I, the person that employs 5 people to do nothing but violence prevention work, believe such a thing?  There is no doubt that recidivism rates are high within the crimes of rape and domestic violence, but I assure you that those rates have nothing, or little to do with the fact that a person cannot control their own behavior.  The last portion of my presentation I believe is crucial because although empowerment is found throughout, I end with a discussion on the importance of taking responsibility for your actions.  This is a big one for this group.  Denial and excuses run deep when you start talking about why they landed themselves in a room having to hear me speak.

Of the group last night, I think a reached a few.  And isn’t that what it really is all about?  If at the very least a couple of guys left thinking differently about the choices they have made and felt like they had more control over their own lives, maybe the need to control others through force will soon dissipate….or so that is my hope.



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