Tony Lapp is associate director of Menergy, a Philadelphia-based counseling program for people who have been abusive to an intimate partner.
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Beyond Anger Management
IN THE PAST, programs like Menergy were often described as “batterer intervention.” Today we prefer to situate battering behavior within the broader definition of abuse, and work with our participants to change abusive behaviors, big and small.
In 30 years of work with men and women who act abusively toward an intimate partner, Menergy has had thousands of people of faith go through the program. Sometimes their faith community helped them get to our door; other times they came in spite of messages they received at church.
A faith community that seeks to encourage change for abusive members can have a dramatic impact. Here are a few suggestions for how to start:
1. Embrace the secular programs in your community. “Groupthink” often supports abusive beliefs. Don’t try to keep it in-house. In Menergy’s counseling groups, we see that diversity in life experience, culture and ethnicity, economic class, and religious belief aids group members in challenging each other’s ideas.
2. Learn more about domestic abuse. Contact the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (1-800-799-SAFE) to get a list of local victim-advocacy programs. Send several members of your church to a training for people interested in learning more. Effective support that allows a survivor to grow stronger and safer can often be the fastest path toward holding the abusive partner accountable.