Men work to lessen violent behaviors

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KYLE, S.D. ñ Men who live by and with violence engage in a sometimes lifelong struggle with the demons that trigger their behavior.

Violence against women, whether a spouse or girlfriend, is a control issue; and it sometimes doesnít take much of an excuse for men to turn angry, then violent, batterers claim.

The fight response can be unlearned and anger can be controlled, but it takes time and a lot of support and trust from others.

Foster Cournoyer, Yankton Nakota, is a facilitator for a menís re-education program. The men are usually court ordered to attend the 24-week session.

In the sessions the men discuss their feelings about violence; all said they wanted not to be violent, but something inside of them triggers that behavior.

The programís classes are organized by Cangleska Inc., a battered womenís shelter and educational program on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

ìThis class has taught me a lot. Iím a singer and I do sweats now. This class brought me closer to my roots. I learned to respect women,î said an attendee.

ìIt is powerful; it changed my life and it got me away from alcohol and drugs. I was on drugs and alcohol half of my life. I feel healthier and better.î

This young man had only two weeks remaining in the class, yet he said he planned to continue to participate.

When he sees violence anywhere, he said, he tells the person that ìreal men donít hit women; that they are sacred and if it werenít for them we wouldnít be here.î

ìI tell them to stop what they are doing and I tell them about this program,î he said.

During the class the same young man admitted that he thought of fighting over his ex-wife but didnít because, he said, ìshe wasnít worth it.î

That prompted Cournoyer to remind him that he had just demeaned women and placed them beneath himself.

That is what the program is intended to do. Cournoyer listens to the mensí stories and helps them sort through the thoughts they have about different situations.

An important part of Cournoyerís job is listening. He is available to listen to the men, by phone or in person, and at times outside the class. Classes are held once a week. The men that are court ordered will start what is a typical two-year probation period the first day of class and when they are finished they will still have 18 months of probation remaining.

All of the men at the class said violence occurs regularly in their lives, sometimes from their friends, sometimes from family. Sometimes the men are surrounded only be friends who support their violent behavior; Cournoyer said some of them have to find new friends. One of the men, as a child, watched as his stepfather beat his mother for many years. He said his brother now behaves the same way.

Cournoyer himself has to overcome a part of his past: he had been a parole officer, and some of the men know him in that capacity and may not trust him.

ìTrust is hard to find; they are in a setup to fail. It takes time and consistency,î Cournoyer said. He said the men canít find trust within their circle of friends.

Program attendees must undergo random drug testing. Those who fail are ordered to attend treatment programs. One man in the class plans to voluntarily attend a drug and alcohol treatment program.

One of the men had just started the program and missed three of the classes. He said he knew violence was wrong and he wanted to learn from the class.

ìI would get worse if I didnít get help, and may end up killing my spouse,î he said. ìAnger is wrong against women.î

Another man said a family member who does not live nearby came to his house, drunk. A scuffle ensued; he said he was mad and when the womanís husband hit him he struck back. Charges were filed against him and he is facing assault charges in tribal court.

He talked at length about the incident and explained how angry the entire encounter made him. He said the anger had been building up, but the chance to talk about it in the safe environment of the class was helpful.

ìI didnít get to tell my story to anyone; here I can blow steam off. I like telling you guys, you are straight and sober,î he said. ìI want to try to do positive things, good things.î

Cournoyer said that holding things in can make a person physically ill.

A young man said he did not abuse his girlfriend, but because she wanted to be with another man, she called police and he was arrested ìfor nothing,î he said.

He did admit to violent behavior in other settings and with other people. He was court-ordered to attend the classes.

According to the men, being violent is almost a way of life: they all witnessed battering and violence as children or adults in their homes, and by friends and relatives.

One of the men said he ìtook his father downî for slapping his mother. Words were said and he later apologized, he said.

Some have a fear of getting into a relationship with another woman because the violent behavior might return. Cournoyer said it was a lifelong process to change.

ìWhen I get angry I want to push or hit, but I donít: itís not right to hit women,î one man said.

Another man said he was trying to calm himself down and slow down his drinking. He said he now walks away when his wife gets angry. He had only one incident of violence, but when he sobered up he realized what he had done to his girlfriend, he said.

ìI am trying to make this [new] relationship work. This class will help me.î

The men were given an assignment for the next class ñ find out what their ìred flagî or warning signal is when they are about to get angry or turn violent.

It appeared that many of the men in the class did not know before about any alternatives to violent behavior. Cournoyer said, however, that inside of them is the cultural seed that tells the men that violence against women is not culturally based. Violence in the Lakota culture is learned and it started from contact with the Europeans, he said.

Even though the men may not physically hit their partner, Cournoyer told them that emotional abuse is the most often used method of control over women. Intimidation can be a type of body motion or glance.

In the Lakota culture eye contact is discouraged, but in order to intimidate, Cournoyer said, a Lakota man will fix his eyes on his partner when upset.

KYLE, S.D. ñ Men who live by and with violence engage in a sometimes lifelong struggle with the demons that trigger their behavior.Violence against women, whether a spouse or girlfriend, is a control issue; and it sometimes doesnít take much of an excuse for men to turn angry, then violent, batterers claim.The fight response can be unlearned and anger can be controlled, but it takes time and a lot of support and trust from others.Foster Cournoyer, Yankton Nakota, is a facilitator for a menís re-education program. The men are usually court ordered to attend the 24-week session.In the sessions the men discuss their feelings about violence; all said they wanted not to be violent, but something inside of them triggers that behavior.The programís classes are organized by Cangleska Inc., a battered womenís shelter and educational program on the Pine Ridge Reservation.ìThis class has taught me a lot. Iím a singer and I do sweats now. This class brought me closer to my roots. I learned to respect women,î said an attendee.ìIt is powerful; it changed my life and it got me away from alcohol and drugs. I was on drugs and alcohol half of my life. I feel healthier and better.îThis young man had only two weeks remaining in the class, yet he said he planned to continue to participate.When he sees violence anywhere, he said, he tells the person that ìreal men donít hit women; that they are sacred and if it werenít for them we wouldnít be here.îìI tell them to stop what they are doing and I tell them about this program,î he said.During the class the same young man admitted that he thought of fighting over his ex-wife but didnít because, he said, ìshe wasnít worth it.îThat prompted Cournoyer to remind him that he had just demeaned women and placed them beneath himself.That is what the program is intended to do. Cournoyer listens to the mensí stories and helps them sort through the thoughts they have about different situations. An important part of Cournoyerís job is listening. He is available to listen to the men, by phone or in person, and at times outside the class. Classes are held once a week. The men that are court ordered will start what is a typical two-year probation period the first day of class and when they are finished they will still have 18 months of probation remaining. All of the men at the class said violence occurs regularly in their lives, sometimes from their friends, sometimes from family. Sometimes the men are surrounded only be friends who support their violent behavior; Cournoyer said some of them have to find new friends. One of the men, as a child, watched as his stepfather beat his mother for many years. He said his brother now behaves the same way.Cournoyer himself has to overcome a part of his past: he had been a parole officer, and some of the men know him in that capacity and may not trust him.ìTrust is hard to find; they are in a setup to fail. It takes time and consistency,î Cournoyer said. He said the men canít find trust within their circle of friends.Program attendees must undergo random drug testing. Those who fail are ordered to attend treatment programs. One man in the class plans to voluntarily attend a drug and alcohol treatment program. One of the men had just started the program and missed three of the classes. He said he knew violence was wrong and he wanted to learn from the class. ìI would get worse if I didnít get help, and may end up killing my spouse,î he said. ìAnger is wrong against women.îAnother man said a family member who does not live nearby came to his house, drunk. A scuffle ensued; he said he was mad and when the womanís husband hit him he struck back. Charges were filed against him and he is facing assault charges in tribal court.He talked at length about the incident and explained how angry the entire encounter made him. He said the anger had been building up, but the chance to talk about it in the safe environment of the class was helpful.ìI didnít get to tell my story to anyone; here I can blow steam off. I like telling you guys, you are straight and sober,î he said. ìI want to try to do positive things, good things.îCournoyer said that holding things in can make a person physically ill.A young man said he did not abuse his girlfriend, but because she wanted to be with another man, she called police and he was arrested ìfor nothing,î he said.He did admit to violent behavior in other settings and with other people. He was court-ordered to attend the classes.According to the men, being violent is almost a way of life: they all witnessed battering and violence as children or adults in their homes, and by friends and relatives.One of the men said he ìtook his father downî for slapping his mother. Words were said and he later apologized, he said.Some have a fear of getting into a relationship with another woman because the violent behavior might return. Cournoyer said it was a lifelong process to change.ìWhen I get angry I want to push or hit, but I donít: itís not right to hit women,î one man said.Another man said he was trying to calm himself down and slow down his drinking. He said he now walks away when his wife gets angry. He had only one incident of violence, but when he sobered up he realized what he had done to his girlfriend, he said.ìI am trying to make this [new] relationship work. This class will help me.îThe men were given an assignment for the next class ñ find out what their ìred flagî or warning signal is when they are about to get angry or turn violent.It appeared that many of the men in the class did not know before about any alternatives to violent behavior. Cournoyer said, however, that inside of them is the cultural seed that tells the men that violence against women is not culturally based. Violence in the Lakota culture is learned and it started from contact with the Europeans, he said.Even though the men may not physically hit their partner, Cournoyer told them that emotional abuse is the most often used method of control over women. Intimidation can be a type of body motion or glance.In the Lakota culture eye contact is discouraged, but in order to intimidate, Cournoyer said, a Lakota man will fix his eyes on his partner when upset.