A new program in Salt Lake City hopes to intervene in and reduce domestic violence.

“It affects all of us,” said Rob Butters, U professor and director for the Utah Criminal Justice Center. “We used to characterize domestic violence as solely a family problem. That is inadequate. It is so widespread that it is a community problem and needs a community solution.”

Salt Lake City is one of two cities to try the program, known as Circles of Peace, which is designed to bring victims and community volunteers together in the intervention process.

“We wanted to try out a novel treatment model that includes victims in the process,” Butters said.

Butters said most programs exclude victims because it is assumed that those involved in domestic violence eventually end the relationship, but that is not necessarily the case. Victims often remain in or return to these relationships, he said.

After 12 weeks of treatments, victims of domestic violence have the option of joining in the process. A professional group facilitator (known as a “circle keeper”), the victim (if they choose to be involved) and the offender are involved in each intervention session. Those involved personally in the violence are allowed to bring a support person to each of the four 90-minute intervention sessions.

“It becomes a circle of people that are all interested in decreasing the likelihood of this happening again,” Butters said.

Briana Barocas, director of research at the Center on Violence and Recovery at New York University, said the program has seen success since its inception.

“Both the offender and victim side have reported liking the model of the program,” Barocas said. “It may not be the best option for everyone, but it is promising for some of the situations.”

Butters hopes Circles of Peace will be replicated elsewhere. The program aims to cut down on domestic violence in Salt Lake City and heal the wounds not only between the victim(s) and offender, but the family as a whole. Children who grow up around or in households with domestic violence, Butters said, tend to have more problems involving substance abuse and criminal activity later on in life.

“We all have a sister, aunt, brother that is impacted by it,” he said. “We need a more impactful solution to help eliminate domestic violence.”

For those interested in becoming a volunteer with Circles of Peace, the first training session is Jan. 27, hosted by the Utah Criminal Justice Center at the U’s College of Social Work. Other free training opportunities will be announced soon. Contact Leilani Taholo at lani.taholo@utah.edu for more information.




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