The Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin's Men’s Re-Education Program is a 25-week domestic abuse intervention program. The program is educational rather than therapeutic in approach, and uses a Native-specific curriculum to help offenders understand the complex cultural, social, and historical dimensions of violence against Native women. The program also addresses the use of power and control in relationships. Participants are mandated to the program by Brown and Outagamie County Courts, probation, and the State Department of Corrections, or may be referred by partnering agencies. Participants attend weekly two-hour sessions and are held accountable for their offending and compliance with court conditions by a multi-agency Coordinated Community Response team.
Men's Re-Education Program
Location: The tribe’s headquarters are located in Oneida, Wisconsin.
Land Characteristics: The Oneida Reservation comprises just over 100 square miles along the Fox River in Outagamie County and Brown County, west of the Green Bay metropolitan area.
Population: There are 17,030 members of the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin, 4,492 of whom live on the Oneida Reservation. Many tribal members live in Green Bay, which is home to the second largest population of Native Americans in Wisconsin.
Problem to Be Addressed
Service providers within the Oneida Tribe were concerned that a lack of effective batterers intervention programs meant that domestic violence offenders were not being held accountable or being given the tools to make necessary changes in their lives. Moreover, mainstream batterers programs neglected to incorporate cultural values and practices to promote healing. To address these issues, service providers designed the Men’s Re-Education Program.
The Men’s Re-Education Program is designed primarily for Native men charged with domestic violence, but non-Native men charged with committing domestic violence against Native women may also participate.
The Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin developed the Men’s Re-Education Program in the early 1980s. With more than 30 years of experience working with Native offenders, it is one of the longest running batterers intervention programs in Indian Country. The program has evolved over the years, creating new policies and helping to modify tribal justice codes.
One of the program’s most notable accomplishments was the creation of a Coordinated Community Response to domestic violence, a team of professionals from various tribal and non-tribal agencies that work together to protect victims and hold offenders accountable, in part by ensuring that they attend the Men’s Re-Education Program.
Program Goals and Objectives
The Men’s Re-Education Program seeks to educate offenders about the underlying reasons for their violent behavior and help them identify ways to repair the harm they have caused to their victims, families, and the community. The program aims to teach Native men to reclaim their honor as well as to increase awareness of domestic violence within the community.
This is a 25-week educational program that meets weekly for two-hour sessions. New participants can join in at any point in the curriculum. The program follows the Cangleska Model, which incorporates Native culture, addresses violence against Native women, and offers traditional healing through a sacred circle. Additionally, the program includes activities from the Duluth Model, such as requiring participants to maintain a Control Log to document their behavior towards their partner.
The course is organized into five sections, each of which is discussed for five weeks.
- Historical Perspective
- Understanding the Use of Violence as a Control Tactic
- Identifying Intimidation and Defining Non-Threatening Behaviors
- Analyzing Emotional Abuse and Defining Respect
- Analyzing Coercion and Threats and Defining Negotiation And Fairness
These themes are divided into subtopics with specific learning objectives for each weekly session. Each five-week section is concluded with a sweat lodge ceremony.
The curriculum first emphasizes the historical underpinnings of domestic abuse. Participants learn about the history of violence against Native women during colonization and the process of assimilation during which foreign beliefs about women were imposed upon Native peoples. Using video and other teaching tools, the facilitator helps clients understand how colonial laws and the use of boarding schools allowed men to abuse women. The facilitator also teaches participants about the ways that colonization has led to internalized oppression, which in some instances can manifest in self-harm.
Using history as a basis for re-education, the curriculum demonstrates that violence against women is not traditionally part of Native culture and instead helps men look at gender issues from a matriarchal perspective. Historically, for example, an Oneida man would come to live with his wife in her family’s home. In those circumstances, the man would have to consider how he would be treated by other men in the house if he disrespected her. As men re-learn traditional values, they are also taught about intimidation and control and how to identify abusive behaviors and explore alternatives.
The curriculum includes vignettes, which provide specific examples to demonstrate the concepts discussed in the curriculum. For example, the coordinator might open a session with a vignette portraying jealousy, in which a man is jealous because his wife is talking to another man. The facilitator uses the scenario to lead a discussion about how men perceive women, and to show that many beliefs are based on false assumptions, such as, for example, that women should not be trusted. The facilitator encourages the participants to think about how they came to have negative beliefs about women, so that they can stop using them as justifications for violence. The program then reinforces traditional Native values like respect, humility, compassion, and forgiveness.
The curriculum is also used with non-Native men, who may participate if they have a Native partner who receives domestic violence advocacy services. The Native-specific curriculum helps non-Native participants understand the historical and cultural context of violence against Native women. Non-native participants are expected to complete the curriculum and other program requirements, just as Native clients are.
In addition to the curriculum-based group classes, the program also offers opportunities for clients to participate in cultural and spiritual activities. The program coordinator invites participants to an annual Sun Dance ritual that involves fasting, and focuses on virtues like compassion, forgiveness, and humility. These activities can help clients develop a stronger sense of their spiritual and cultural identity, and may reinforce the values learned in class.
The Men’s Re-Education Program is part of the larger Oneida Domestic Violence Program, which provides services for Native men, women, and children affected by domestic violence. The 25-week re-education course for male offenders is facilitated by the domestic violence coordinator, who was hired by the tribe specifically to develop the men’s programming. In addition, the coordinator has brought past participants to batterers program facilitation trainings to assist as needed.
Case Flow Process
Any Native man who has abused his intimate partner is eligible for the Men’s Re-Education Program. A non-Native man is eligible if his partner is a Native woman who is receiving services from the Oneida Domestic Violence Program. Program services are provided at no cost to participants.
The Men’s Re-Education Program accepts referrals for mandated participation from Outagamie and Brown County Courts, probation, parole, and the State Department of Corrections, as well as voluntary referrals from social services organizations, other batterers programs, and self-referrals. The tribe’s Indian Child Welfare department also refers cases in which a Child in Need of Protection (CHIPS) order has been issued as a result of child abuse or neglect. There is a fast track referral process for court-involved clients with a deferred prosecution agreement. Voluntary and mandated clients participate in the program together, and clients may bring friends along who also need help.
Other tribal agencies may also require domestic violence offenders to participate in the Men’s Re-Education Program. For example, Tribal Housing conducts background checks on all applicants, and will not give housing to a domestic violence offender until he has completed the Men’s Re-Education Program.
All clients referred to the Men’s Re-Education Program are required to complete an intake assessment. The assessment is conducted by the Men’s Re-Education Program coordinator or by the coordinator of a partnering domestic violence intervention program in nearby Appleton, Wisconsin.
Clients with special needs who might not thrive in a group setting, such as veterans, may request a private class with the coordinator. Clients with no previous record of violence may be referred to a program that is less intensive than the 25-week program. Men with significant mental health issues are referred to mental health professionals for treatment before they can participate in the Men’s Re-Education Program.
Supervision and Compliance
Before beginning the program, each client signs a contract that sets out expectations for attendance and participation, and consequences for non-compliance. The Men’s Re-Education Program coordinator monitors attendance and participation at weekly group sessions. Every five weeks, the coordinator sends progress reports to the court, the probation department, and the district attorney’s office. If the client was referred by the batterers intervention program in Appleton, reports are also sent to that program’s coordinator. All collaborating agencies also receive a copy of the client’s contract and notifications any time a client misses a group session.
Ongoing support is offered to all participants who complete the program. If a participant repeatedly fails to attend, he is removed from the men’s group and returned to the regular court process. Clients are formally terminated from the program through a letter to probation, typically after five absences. However, the program accepts the majority of terminated clients back into the program following a short jail sanction (often three or four days) or another sanction as determined by probation. Probation may revoke a client for noncompliance with the program, but with permission from the Men’s Re-Education Program, probation may allow them to continue in the program.
PLANNING & IMPLEMENTATION
The Men’s Re-Education Program is fully funded by the tribe and has been since its inception. The program has not applied for any additional grants.
Staff participate in and provide trainings on domestic violence, sexual abuse, incest, and other topics relevant to the needs of their clients. The program coordinator is trained in the Duluth Model and how to apply that model to Native clients. The coordinator and two former participants are also trained in the Cangleska Model, which they use as the basis for trainings they provide to partner agencies. In 1999, staff from Cangleska, a federally-funded technical assistance provider, conducted training on-site for Men’s Re-Education Program staff. Program staff also participate in annual training through the Batterers Treatment Providers’ Association of Wisconsin. The Program Coordinator has served on the Governor’s Council on Domestic Violence and has provided technical assistance on Batterer’s Intervention to tribes in the Southwest, Northwest, and in the Plains region.
The Men’s Re-Education Program has built strong relationships with the local district attorney’s office, the state corrections department, and the circuit court judges in Green Bay and Appleton. Program staff frequently provide trainings for their partner agencies to educate them about the program, its objectives, eligibility criteria, and the referral process. In turn, the program’s partners have adjusted policies and procedures to facilitate collaboration with the Men’s Re-Education Program. Additionally, the Men’s Re-Education Program collaborates with the batterers intervention program in Appleton by accepting referrals, sharing information, and providing client progress updates. The batterers intervention program in Appleton refers all Native offenders to the Oneida Men’s Re-Education Program.
Factors Contributing to Success
The coordinator has found it helpful to share his own experiences with the group. A recovering abuser himself, the coordinator uses personal narratives to build rapport and demonstrate that he understands where they are coming from. He recounts how, as a young man, he only had a vague sense of what it meant to be a Native man. He describes how he struggled to figure out how to live as a Native man, and how to embody the traditional beliefs about women being sacred and being strong community and cultural leaders. He points out some of the unhealthy and foreign beliefs that society taught him about being a man, and explains how power and control form a part of that mindset.
The Men’s Re-Education Program coordinator has observed that effective collaboration between local agencies through the Coordinated Community Response has been essential to ensuring offender accountability. Before the creation of the Coordinated Community Response, clients faced few consequences for non-compliance with the program. In contrast, the coordinator has observed improvements when clients are aware of the high level of inter-agency collaboration and communication. For example, if a client knows that the coordinator has regular contact with his probation officer, he is more likely to attend group consistently and follow through with program requirements.
The Men’s Re-Education Program serves on average 60 – 70 men per year. The overwhelming majority of clients are Native (52 out of 60 in 2013), and of the Native participants, roughly two-thirds are Oneida and one-third are members of another tribe.
Two academic projects have provided some external evaluation of the Men’s Re-Education Program. A probation officer conducted research on the program for his Master’s thesis, including data on recidivism. The data showed that among men who completed three different batterers programs, the clients from the Oneida’s Men’s Re-Education Program had the lowest recidivism rate. Additionally, a PhD candidate from the University of California at Berkeley has been conducting ongoing research for her dissertation on programs that help Native men reclaim their honor. The final work is expected to be a 150-page report.
Participants who have graduated from the Men’s Re-Education Program feel that they have reclaimed their honor and have learned to see and treat women in healthier ways. Professionals of various agencies who work with former participants have expressed how impressed they are by the changes they see in their clients over the course of the program. By working to address and change their behavior, participants can earn back trust and begin to restore their image within the community. For example, participants who complete the Men’s Re-Education Program are more likely to be considered eligible for the Tribal Housing Program.
The program coordinator has received comments from women within the tribe who report a difference in the way men talk about women. For example, at recent domestic violence conferences, he observed some women were moved to tears listening to former participants share their experiences and speak so openly about women, and in such a respectful way.
One man has been receiving services from the program for 14 years. He had been married to his wife for 18 years when he came to the Men’s Re-Education Program, and had been through substance abuse treatment numerous times. He walked with his head down, and displayed a great deal of shame. That shame would come out when he was drunk and he’d take it out on his wife and kids. The coordinator began working with him and introduced him to ceremonies. The client was struck by the fact that he was treated with respect, not just shamed and treated like an abuser. The client has made great progress over the years. He now speaks about the program at many community events. It took him 7 years to really get it. He was sober for 14 years by then, but since he had been abusive for so many years before getting sober, it took a long time for his wife to be able to start trusting him again.
After the client had been in the program for many years, his daughter’s boyfriend was also mandated to the program. The events that led to this young man’s arrest were common. His partner wanted to go out with her friends, and he didn’t want her to go. She dropped off the kids and went out anyway, and when she came home later that night he threw her on the ground and urinated on her. The young woman’s father, the man who’d been in the program for so long, went to go pick up his daughter. She was walking down the road, wet, carrying her baby, when he found her. The father wanted her to call the police but she didn’t want to get her partner in trouble, especially since he was already on probation. The father called the police anyway, hoping to get the young man involved with services, but the man absconded.
The next week, in the Men’s Re-Education Program group session, the coordinator asked the father to share that experience with the group. The young man’s cousin happened to be in group, too. The young man had been avoiding the police since the incident, but his cousin, upon hearing what he’d done, went over to their grandparents’ house to find him. The young man was hiding out there, and the cousin called the police so they could come arrest him. That was a very powerful moment for the family. The cousin turned his own family member in to the police, which was really difficult for him to do. The cousin didn’t know how to feel about turning in a family member for domestic violence, especially being an offender himself. He went to the coordinator to work out his mixed feelings and the coordinator told him he did the right thing. The coordinator was really proud of him--nobody forced him to do that, he just did it on his own because he had learned in the group that it was the right thing to do. The other man served 9 months in jail for not coming to group and for his new offense.
After serving his jail time, the young man’s abusive behavior continued as he filed for full custody of the child he has with his former partner and used the threat of taking the child away as an attempt to control her. The young woman’s father, a long-time participant in the men’s program, went to Oneida Family Court to support his daughter. The young man’s history of domestic violence and his refusal to participate in the Men’s Re-Education Program came to light in court. As a result, the young man was denied full custody, and the child remained with his mother.
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