AS we enter October and mark Domestic Violence Month, I remember my introduction to Dove’s program. In the summer of 1980, I was the at-home parent for our two young daughters. I responded to a knock on the door to find Larry Troy, a sociology professor from Millikin University, asking if I had an interest in working on a project investigating services for abusive men as part of the Dove Domestic Violence Program. He knew I had a background on teaching communication skills and thought it might be helpful.
A small group of us met through that summer and decided to develop a curriculum to be presented to abusers to help them change their abusive behavior. There was not a lot of research material available. Active groups throughout the country did not begin to meet together until the mid-1980s in St. Louis to share their programs and results. In the early 1980s we decided to push forward with what we had. We announced we had a program for men and were in business.
The AIM group met in a small basement room in First Presbyterian Church where the Domestic Violence program had been meeting until they had moved to the small apartment shelter. The first week Larry and I waited – and no one came. The second week one man showed up. His wife and children had left and he didn’t know what to do. He continued to come for eight weeks, but no one else did. We covered anger management, the law, communication skills, responsibility, etc. Very slowly other men came to the group since the program was not mandated at that point.
The program evolved as Larry left and then I left in the early 1990s. The AIM program began to utilize the Duluth Program from Duluth MN. It was a successful 26-week program with videos, worksheets, roleplays and co-leaders, usually male and female to demonstrate equality decision making. The program participants became mandated by the judicial system and the numbers increased.
I returned to the AIM group in 2003 when I retired. We were regularly seeing 10 to 12 men at each weekly meeting with several different groups in Decatur and Clinton. The groups sponsored by Dove continued until mid-2009 when they were suspended due to financial constraints.
During the time I was involved with AIM I personally interacted with over 800 abusive men in Macon and DeWitt County. The work was very fulfilling and needed. Quantifying results is difficult due to relationship breakups and lack of accurate feedback. Over the years I have seen some of the men from the group at work and throughout the community and have heard their subsequent stories. I continue to be an avid supporter of the Dove Domestic Violence Program.