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Spectrum’s Domestic Violence Education Program Aims to Change Harmful Behavior, Beliefs and Attitudes

On average, 20 people each minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. Each year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men who suffer from domestic violence. With one in four women and one in nine men experiencing severe intimate partner physical violence, they are also likely suffering from sexual abuse, stalking, post-traumatic stress disorder, sexually transmitted diseases and more.

We caught up with Maureen Casey, the Program Director for Spectrum’s Intimate Partner Abuse Education Program (also referred to as the Prevention for Abuse and Violence through Education program, or PAVE) for an inside look at how we treat men and women who have engaged in harmful physical abuse towards their partners.

The PAVE program is a 40-week program for men and women who are referred to us through their Department of Children & Families (DCF) caseworker, probation or parole officers or people who sign up on their own. Over the course of 40 weeks, participants are required to attend weekly two-hour group sessions that teach healthy conflict resolution skills, respect for their partner’s rights, feelings and opinions, ways to recognize their own controlling behaviors and how to refrain from abusive and controlling behaviors.

“The goal is to talk about the client’s attitude and belief system and redirect their behaviors toward a healthier attitude,” Maureen explains. “The key is to help them develop empathy, hold them accountable for their past actions and make a plan for what to do in the future to not repeat those actions.”

In addition to having those tough discussions, the program requires clients to complete various worksheets like a crossword puzzle of key language used in the program, documenting specific behaviors and their outcomes, role playing and hearing in-person and video testimonials from victims of domestic violence – including children.

Clients do not need to have a substance use disorder to attend the program and, in fact, Casey is adamant that they not use it as an excuse for their behavior.

“We understand addiction can be a factor of violence, but we don’t allow clients to say, ‘If I weren’t drunk, I wouldn’t have done this’,’’ Maureen explains. “We don’t allow that because it rationalizes their behavior. They can’t hide behind their addiction here.”

PAVE is a certified program through the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Spectrum hosts group sessions in Framingham, Leominster, Marlborough, Milford, Southbridge, and Worcester.

For more information about PAVE, call our Intake Office at 1.800.464.9555.

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