Dayna Langdon began volunteering for Willow Domestic Violence Center last semester. Now working as a court advocate for abused women, Langdon has seen the effects of domestic violence first hand.

"It's a really scary thing. There's so many types of abuse. Not just physical or emotional, but even economically," said Langdon, a senior from Omaha, Neb. "Sometimes a victim doesn't have the means to leave an abuser."

But recent federal funding and approval from Kansas Attorney General Steve Six could change the way the state handles domestic violence. The state is now developing and certifying batterer intervention programs, which will require offenders to undergo mental assessments, spend at least 24 weeks in group meetings, and refrain from contacting victims. Since the approval of funding in January, five batterer intervention programs have been certified in Kansas, including one in Topeka and one in Kansas City during the past month.

The Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence developed the standards for these programs after a review of the increasing rate of domestic violence fatalities throughout the state. Co-chairs of the coalition include Curt and Christie Burgart, the stepfather and mother of Jana Mackey. Mackey, a University law student and women's right advocate, was killed by her ex-boyfriend in 2008.

Robert T. Stephan, chair of the Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board, reported 34 adult and 14 child fatalities in Kansas caused by domestic violence in 2009 — the third highest number since 1992. Once the review was completed, the board determined the new standards required of batterer intervention programs.

Michelle McCormick, the Batterer Intervention Program unit coordinator, works for the Victim Services Unit recently created by Six. She said behavioral changes are the most influential aspect of batterer intervention programs.

"We want to establish offender responsibility," McCormick said. "If we can stop an offender from creating new victims, then we can stop the cycle of domestic violence."

McCormick said programs in the past have been geared toward anger management, but the new program addresses the power-and-control scenario specific to domestic violence. McCormick said programs vary slightly throughout the state, but that offenders would receive counseling from professionals, such as private practice therapists, mental health units or domestic violence advocacy groups. Programs will have to be re-certified every two years.

Kathy Rose-Mockry, program director of the Emily Taylor Women's Resource Center, said students experiencing domestic violence also had help available on campus. The center provides educational workshops to student groups and organizations, counsels students dealing with unhealthy relationships, and provides a link to other organizations that can provide assistance and legal help.

"People should know that if they are in a relationship where they feel controlled, scared or a potential to be hurt — contact somebody. Even if you think it's not serious, go talk to somebody and get some good advice," Rose-Mickry said. "It's very common for the person in the relationship who is controlling to isolate someone from their sources of support. Often people are very alone."

Longdon said that while she thinks the University has great programs available, there was also room for improvement.

"We can always be increasing awareness," Langdon said. "It's something that's prevalent in our society an in the state of Kansas."

McCormick said she hoped to see 10 certified batterer intervention programs by the end of the year, particularly in the more rural portions of western Kansas.

Read more here: http://www.kansan.com/news/2010/jun/07/state-changing-how-it-handles-domestic-violence/

Copyright 2010 University Daily Kansan


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