Promoting Healing and Accountability for People Who Have Caused Harm
October 1, 2021
My name is Dominique Waltower and I am a motivational speaker and Violence Prevention Advocate. My presentation is from a very different perspective as I am a former offender. I realize that last sentence may be alarming but rest assured, I have done the difficult work of being accountable and healing. I have been speaking publicly on this topic for over 6 years. This work is extremely important and I have learned so much from the different advocates that have helped me along the way. I have a tremendous amount of gratitude for those who have been doing this work long before me. I am honored to work beside so many brave and passionate people.
I believe there is a need for those who have caused harm to speak out about DV. As such, I decided to use my experience to help others. I started speaking at the San Diego Domestic Violence Council Training 6 years ago. Since then, I’ve spoken at several DV events including court ordered offender classes, DV trainings, and conferences. My recent events include presentations at MCAS Air Force Base here in San Diego to 6500 Marines, the USS America at 32nd Street Naval Base in San Diego, Fort Hood Army Base, Maxwell Air Force Base Southern Indian Health Council, and the 2020 “Shifting the Lens” Conference among others. I’ve also presented internationally as a speaker for the 2018 Indigenous Stop Domestic Violence Conference in Brisbane, Australia.
Given my personal history with DV, I have dedicated my life to working to address this issue. One might say that I’m wearing a few hats in in the DV arena. My passion to affect change inspired me to start Inspire Perspective Nonprofit Organization, through my organization, I work to address DV from 4 angles;
(1) My public speaking events where I share my personal story and what it takes for DV offenders to evolve. (2) I co facilitate a Batterers Intervention Program one night a week. (3) I coach and mentor offenders individually on how to successfully evolve. (4) I’ve recently secured a partnership with the San Diego District Attorneys Office to start an 8-week course for low level DV offenders that address DV and Anger Management together.
In addition, I am a full-time employee as a DV Prevention Specialist at Camp Pendleton Marine Base where I conduct DV briefs Marines as well as commanders. I facilitate a Batterers Intervention Program Prep class for offenders. I also teach Anger Management, Stress Management and conduct “Understanding Recantation” trainings. Lastly, I facilitate Anger Management in the base Brig for prisoners. My personal experience has been instrumental in working with the Marines. Bringing the rare element of male vulnerability to a hyper masculine environment has proved to be invaluable when promoting awareness and change. Marines experiencing a man show vulnerability and accountability has provided them with permission to do the same.
I definitely have my hands full but there is more work to be done and I plan on being a part of it as long as I am able to inhale and exhale. As a former offender, I’ve recognized some areas of opportunity for us to address the issue of how to get offenders to change. First, I believe there needs to be a component where individual counseling is added to the 52-week BIP program. Ideally It would be a combination of 6 months of group therapy and 6 months individual therapy. The purpose is to address the deep-rooted issues that offenders carry but will not disclose in a group setting. Often the root of some of the violent behaviors exhibited by offenders rests in areas that they are too ashamed to speak of. Adding a component of individual counseling will help offenders deal with their own traumas which can be directly linked to their behaviors. Individual therapy can provide a better opportunity to deal with the root causes of the offenders’ behavior.
Speaking of behavior change, most BIP programs focus on behavior change without attitude change. Attitude change is paramount to stopping violent behavior in offenders. Men in particular need a carrot, or something to motivate them to change. “The court mandates this” is not enough. Men need a motivating factor to “jump start” the process for them. Once a man is motivated, then he will do the work on his own. Men will overcome tremendous obstacles if intrinsically motivated. In working with offenders, I attach their change to their desires or what they value most. Typically, the most important things to them are their relationships, their children, their careers or education. Once they understand that DV is in direct opposition to their desires, then DV becomes counterproductive to the lives they want to live. This provides the motivation for them to open themselves up to becoming accountable and healing.
Another area of opportunity is adding an “Offender Engagement Specialist”. This role would be similar to victim advocate but tailored to assisting the client in following through with the court orders, explaining TROs, developing motivation, and assisting clients with the overall understanding of what change entails. Currently we are leaving the most unstable party to their own devices. For many of these individuals, once a week group counseling is not enough. Specialists would meet weekly with clients or as needed. As counterintuitive as it sounds, these offenders need more support in order to successfully change. This concept is derived from the addiction model of having a sponsor. Some of the Offender Engagement Specialists will be former offenders themselves. Here modeling would become a powerful tool. Offenders will have regular contact with someone that has “been in their shoes”, which can enhance the chance of lasting change.
The last area Is adding the BIP prep course for offenders. Currently offenders are put in programs that address emotional dynamics which to most offenders is a foreign language. Most offenders have typically avoided emotions and counseling like it’s the plague their entire lives. The Prep course covers areas such as Awareness, Assistance, Accountability, Action and Self Actualization. These topics will better prepare offenders for the process of change by helping them to understand the dynamics of counseling/therapy and how it could benefit them and their families.
As I have stated earlier there is much to be done in this arena. I do not propose to have all the answers but I am willing to try new and innovative approaches to this issue that has been a problem for far too long.
Founder, Inspire Perspective