Kennebec Behavioral Health operates the RespectME program, the largest program serving women in the state. Those most often referred to the program are survivors of domestic violence who have used resistive or reactive violence toward a coercive or controlling partner and have been arrested for domestic violence assault. The curriculum – Turning Points – is a 48 week course focused on recognizing the different kinds of violence and the impact that violence can have. Women taking part in the course learn how to decrease the amount of violence in their lives while examining their own beliefs around violence. Those in the course gain an understanding of the dynamics of coercive and controlling violence, the role of hierarchy, the Power and Control Wheel, and the history of response to domestic violence.
Female 1 is a 46 year old divorced white female who has an extensive history of being abused by her partner, past partners, and family members. One evening she and her male partner had a few drinks, nothing that she thought would cause her to be impaired. An argument ensued at which point she was hit several times causing a black eye; she is strangled by her partner and doesn’t recall whether she lost consciousness or not. Police were contacted and her partner reports that she threatened him with two knives and that is why he “strangled” her. Female 1 is arrested for domestic violence assault and her partner is not, even though he acknowledged strangling her. While in jail, bruising develops around her neck, she has a black eye and photographs are taken. There is a history of violence by the male in the relationship but for her safety she has never contacted police for assistance, she fears what would happen if she called. She is advised by her attorney to take a plea deal even though there are photos of bruising on her. She continues, months later, struggling to swallow. She reluctantly agrees to plea guilty as she fears “losing” in court and having to go to jail; he has lived in the same community most of his life and has many local friends supporting him.
Since her enrollment in RespectME, she has ended her abusive relationship and has started working on her relationship with her daughter. She also has consulted with a doctor on her difficulty swallowing. Through the RespectME program she gained an understanding of the controlling tactics used by her previous partner, and is now able to examine future relationships when there are early signs of controlling behavior – an important skill to have that she can take with her for the rest of her life.
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