Re-Educating the Abuser: Can You Leave a Lifetime’s Macho Mentality in a Year?

“Because if not, what?” This is how sociologist Bacea Alonso, an expert on gender politics, answers the question of why re-education courses for sexist offenders are important. Spain has been teaching them for almost two decades, although the 2004 law against gender-based violence began to develop them with greater intensity. Several studies suggest that recidivism among those who undergo them is lower, and almost no one questions the need for it, but there are those who argue that the commitment to work with aggressors should go further: “Violence will not go away until they stop offending.” , – suggests the coordinator of the Equality Zone of Cepaim Foundation.

Intervention programs for men involved in gender-based violence are diverse, but mainly three types can be distinguished: on the one hand, there is the Gender-Based Violence Aggressor Intervention Program (PRIA) in prisons and the same (PRIA-MA) as an alternative measure to imprisonment by a judge. These two depend on the penitentiary, they are intended for already convicted and most common men, but there are also others, usually developed by social entities, to which male aggressors can go, who are not necessarily reported voluntarily.

“The goal is to reintegrate them, re-educate them, they will be part of society again and have a partner again, so we try not to repeat the violence. There is a short circuit,” says psychologist Felipe Martin, who teaches PRIA-MA from the R-Inicia-T association. These courses are usually conducted directly by prison staff or, in most cases, by contracted organizations. The intervention lasts approximately one year in thirty sessions and is accessed by those without a criminal record, with less than two years in prison.

Working with them focuses on a variety of issues: from expressing emotions, self-control, anger management, deconstructing mental patterns related to gender roles and stereotypes, emotional dependence, jealousy, attachment style, settling. healthy relationships, how to deal with a breakup, improving personal skills or developing alternative conflict resolution strategies. Last year, 7,800 inmates received the program as an alternative to prison, according to the Department of Corrections. In the same year, 21,000 men were convicted of gender-based violence.

Martin’s experience in terms of the results they observe is positive. “What we’re seeing is quite promising. Obviously, they’re coming in with resistance, but in the end there’s an evolution,” he says by phone, on his way to an awareness workshop in Murcia’s educational center. “In fact, we started doing this dynamic in schools, because many bullies told us that if they had this information earlier, they would have helped in a different way,” adds the psychologist.

In the community of Valencia, the Contexto program is an indication that was born in 2006 as a response to the lack of resources and professionals to carry out interventions with aggressors, created two years earlier by the comprehensive law against gender violence. In addition, voluntary programs with aggressors are also taught from this research and intervention group at the University of Valencia. “It’s a process, and it’s true that changing beliefs and attitudes takes time, so it’s impossible to make very short programs, but the effectiveness was demonstrated many years ago,” says Elena Tereros, deputy director of the program.

The psychologist admits that “obviously it doesn’t work for 100% of aggressors,” “like any type of intervention,” but claims there are figures that “guarantee” it works. Data from correctional institutions show that recidivism rates are low: 4.6% recidivism after one year of participation, and 6.8% after five years. According to data compiled by Contexto, which studies new complaints against abusers it treats that appear in the VioGén system, after 12 months, an abuser who leaves the program reoffends 8.2% of the time, compared to 4.4% of those who complete it. %. Condemned again.

Terreros claims that the experience they observe also supports the effectiveness of the interventions. “They change attitudinal variables, reduce victim blaming for violent behavior, which is very important to them in the first place, reduce anger expression, reduce emotional management, and reduce sexism,” the expert shows. .

Still, all voices acknowledge that the obstacles are not small. “The main thing is resistance to intervention, there is a lack of recognition, responsibility and motivation to change,” explains Heinrich Geldschlager, a psychologist at Conexus, an intervention program for unconvicted criminals in Barcelona. The expert confirms that there is a “triad” of ideas in the discourse that these people usually come with, consisting of “denying or minimizing the violence, justifying and blaming the victim or the system.” He claims that “the typical comments are ‘he falsely condemned me’ or ‘the law is unfair’, which we must help to abolish”.

Due to this lack of motivation, which all experts identify, and which not infrequently leads to program abandonment, Contexto developed an individual motivation plan in 2013. “The main thing is for them to understand the importance and to understand why violence as a way of conflict resolution causes harm to their partners or ex-partners and to themselves,” says Tereros. On the other hand, psychologist Jesús Pérez, who has worked for years coordinating teams and teaching at PRIA-MA in Madrid, is more skeptical: “There is a possibility that some men change, but it’s probably not very common, it’s rare. The process of personal motivation”, he believes.

“They’re more effective than a lot of people say and less than we’d like,” Geldschlager says of the interventions. In the case of Connexus, these are men who come voluntarily, although “voluntariness is relative for most, as they usually come because someone, usually their partner or a third party, pushes them.” The program takes place in twenty weekly sessions, with follow-ups one year and two years later, and its results are “encouraging”: two out of three men do not return to physical or sexual abuse, and psychological abuse “reduces”. who will graduate because the dropout rate is between 30 and 50%.

“We have a lot to gain if they internalize what they use violence for, which is not that they lose control, as they say, but that they use it to control and maintain control over their partner and often themselves. The expert claims.. The approach they work with at Conexus is trying to combine the “psychological and the social”. “There are factors that play a role, including history, learning, the way they self-regulate, but you have to put it in a gender perspective. For example, difficulty controlling impulses, which a lot of people work on in psychology. It’s very selective in most men, because usually they don’t hit their boss or their friends.” , claims the expert.

For his part, Pérez believes that intervention with aggressors is “positive and very necessary” and that they should even be mandatory for all convicts, but believes that “there is still a need for a much stronger and coordinated social response, in which the programs are one. More legs of their re-education “. And he cites an example: “a person who is depressed because he has a bad economic situation, it is not enough to go to a psychologist, the structural conditions of housing or employment must be improved.”

In the field of working with aggressors in gender-based violence, “ultimately, the important question is whether this type of program can change the whole education or macho mentality, or a few sessions over a few months or years. That’s enough,” asks the expert. “And let me explain: after all, macho construction takes many years, let’s think about how many hours it takes a 50-year-old man to become macho, that is, the construction of hegemonic masculinity is such that no program will be strong or long-lasting enough to compensate for it on its own happen, which does not mean that what is done is not effective.”

And what is the solution? Pérez advocates a more global response and looks at the structural machismo that continues to minimize and normalize violence against women. “Programs need society and absolute condemnation of any form of violence, because if we don’t have that, psychologists will break the face of the aggressors so that they can then go out on the street and create a denial of sexist violence,” the psychologist believes.

In addition, there are specifically those who believe that the programs taught by correctional institutions need to be improved in certain areas, especially in assessment. This is argued by Geldschläger, for whom the review of its effectiveness should go beyond the repetition of the number of complaints. “This is very important and important information, but it is not enough.” The psychologist thinks that the evaluation should be “deeper” and take into account what later happens to the wives, partners or ex-partners of the aggressors and their sons and daughters, because “the real relapse is hidden, we know that there are many. More than the number of complaints.

For this reason, the differentiating element of Conexus is that they make contact with them both at the beginning of the program and later. “Women can have unrealistic expectations because they hope to change and promise. That’s why we contact them, tell them that the partner has started to come and this may be the first step, but there is no guarantee. success, so it’s important that they continue to make decisions and act as if they weren’t here,” explains Geldschlager.

Despite the discrepancies, all voices consulted for this report believe that work with sexist perpetrators should be redoubled. In Murcia, for example, there is a waiting list to access PRIA-MA, explains Felipe Martín. The Context team “many times we get calls from other provinces or other places in Spain to tell us that they have nowhere to send their children or siblings because this type of service doesn’t exist. It’s alarming,” Terreros sums up.

In this sense, Bacea Alonso, coordinator of research on masculinization prepared for the Ministry of Equality, calls for the promotion of resources that serve men who have not yet been convicted, but are known to commit violence, and to introduce prevention. Gender-based violence against men through any workshop, program or resource. “There’s almost a complete lack of response, that’s one of the blind spots in the system,” he says.

Source: El Diario





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