ST. GEORGE — A state funded program will mandate counseling for convicted domestic violence offenders to try and curb repeat offenses, District Attorney Dan Donovan announced on Wednesday.
The program, funded by a $100,000 grant secured by State Sen. Diane Savino, will mandate clinical counseling for some convicted batterers to prevent further abuse, in what prosecutors hope will break the pattern of repeated violence.
"We're not going to be able to prevent that first act of violence, but we want to stop that repeat cycle of it," Donovan said, adding, "This is not in lieu of a punishment, this in addition to a punishment."
Community Health Action of Staten Island (CHASI) will be the service provider for the program, which will be court mandated or court referred for some abusers as part of their sentence or plea, Donovan said.
The group plans to use a trauma-informed approach to treat the emotional issues that caused the batterers to abuse their partners and change their behavior, said Diane Arneth, president and CEO of CHASI.
"Much of domestic violence comes from trauma," Arneth said. "Trauma that's been inflicted on people from the day they are born until the day they end up in a new relationship with a new family where they replicate the behavior they've learned before."
Domestic violence accounted for 1,796 arrests in Staten Island between January and August of this year, up from 1,678 arrests during the same time last year, Donovan said.
One factor in the uptick is the increased number of programs Donovan enacted in the borough, which may have prompted victims to feel more comfortable reporting abuse to the authorities, Savino said.
"It's probably not that there's more incidents of domestic violence, it's people are feeling more and more comfortable," Savino said.
Donovan has also started several programs to help victims of abuse, including mandating ankle bracelets for defendants to warn authorities if they get too close to their victims. A new family justice center is set to open next November.
However, statistically, many victims of domestic violence return to their abusive partners after an incident, limiting the effectiveness of shelters and orders of protection for many women, experts said.
"It becomes critically important that, while we provide solution for women who are willing to make that break finally, for those who go back we have to deal with the batterer. We have to find a way to get them to change their behavior," Savino said.
The program hopes to help those families by educating not only the abusers, but also set a healthy model for kids who are susceptible to recreating what happens in their own childhood once they reach adulthood, Savino said.
"Children live what they learn, and if a child grows up in a home where violence is present, they will replicate that violence," Savino said.
The program plans to educate batterers on all aspects of abuse, including psychological and physical, and show them victim impact presentations to understand their actions and its effects on children and families, Donovan said.
The district attorney's office will monitor the success of the program monthly, and their office and the NYPD will be immediately notified of any threats to the victims or violations of order of protections, Donovan said.