RAVEN

In the mid-1970s, a group of men in St. Louis, Missouri, found a common cause in their outrage over abuse that women they were close to had suffered, in some cases at their own hands. They decided that if violence to women was going to stop, it would have to start with the men in their lives and, in particular, with themselves.

They began by approaching a St. Louis women’s organization called the Women’s Self-Help Center and asked for help and training in understanding the nature of domestic violence. After this educational journey, they formed RAVEN, an education and self-help program for men who battered women and others. RAVEN’s mission is education in nonviolence. More specifically, their mission statement reads: “. . . to foster peaceful relationships, families, and communities by increasing self-awareness, challenging abuse and control, teaching alternative behaviors, and promoting personal responsibility.”

When RAVEN first opened its doors in 1978, it was operated by men only. Sixteen years later, RAVEN became a nonprofit and women joined the staff as well. RAVEN holds the distinction of being the third oldest batterer intervention program in the United States, with programs that include the following:

 

·         Non-Violence Education Groups for Men/Batterers’ Intervention Program (BIP): 48-week curriculum for men who have been abusive or violent in intimate relationships; focuses on (1) understanding the ramifications of these behaviors and on (2) learning nonviolent alternatives

 

·         Violence Prevention Groups for Youth: 15-week curriculum teaching skills needed to prevent both the perpetration of violence as well as victimization; teaches youth about healthy relationships

 

·         Community Education: Provides training, consultations, and support to other organizations that request information on nonviolence

 

RAVEN partners with both Washington University and Webster University in research and communicates with and connects others to a wide variety of St. Louis chapters for domestic violence counseling and support, local human trafficking resources, legal advocacy centers that serve victims of domestic abuse, and shelter services and connects with other nonviolence education programs in the city.

In 2014, Michelle Bloyd-Fink and Emily Mason began a qualitative, longitudinal study that is collecting (and will continue to collect) anonymous journal data from volunteers in the BIP program well into 2015, 95% of whom were attending on a court mandate. Researchers created guided, journal prompts, the first two of which reflected each meeting’s opener:

1.       What are you feeling tonight?

2.       How have you been abusive, verbally violent, or physically violent in the past week?

 

Although this study will be ongoing for some time after this writing (well into 2015), researchers were able to gather enough to present an analysis of their findings thus far, which they presented at the 31st Annual Qualitative Analysis Conference in London, Ontario, on June 25, 2014. The conference was titled “The Social Construction of Boundaries: Creating, Maintaining, Transcending, and Reconstituting Boundaries.” In their presentation, “Thought Pattern Changes in Participants of a Batterer’s Intervention Program,” Bloyd-Fink and Mason shared their findings on how men who batter can reconstruct physical and emotional boundaries over time.

At the conference, Bloyd-Fink said, “We are finding that RAVEN is providing language to the [study] participants to help them discuss uncomfortable boundaries, as in the case of sexual violence, and this aids in the negotiation process. [The men] are currently struggling with their emotions as well, often setting up strict emotional boundaries [for themselves].” Mason asserted that this study will provide a baseline for future evidence-based practice. Mason’s assertion is supported by other studies that have found evidence-based programming largely overlooked in other BIPs. These studies call for more incorporation of the “principles of effective intervention (PEI)” (Radatz and Wright), as well as “coordinating nursing science and psychology” interventions (Maldonado, Maldonado, and Parada-Cores).

Particularly insightful for future research is the fact that rather than focusing on a more commonly studied population—the underprivileged or victimized—Bloyd-Fink points out that “. . . researching the men who have the privilege of being male and are using it . . . there’s a lot to learn from that instead of just researching the people who are experiencing violence. We often research a problem from [the victim’s] perspective without understanding the dominant group in power. We should be looking at [those in power] too.”

1.      According to the text, what are the necessary elements for an effective batterer’s intervention program?  How well does the description of RAVEN’s BIP hold up to these standards?

2.     RAVEN and other BIP programs seem to focus considerable attention on intimate partner abuse.  Why is marital violence so commonly encountered in the United States?

3.     An emergency department (ED) nurse examines a married female patient who, on examination, appears to have been raped, although the patient herself does not say so.  When asked point blank if she has been raped, the patient denies this and appears to truly mean it. 

a.      What might be the reason for this patient’s silence or her honest denial at the word “rape” despite physical evidence to the contrary?

b.     What can this nurse do to further assess for sexual assault?

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