By the time he was 25 John had a wife, four children, his own business, and a history of domestic abuse.
It was the stress that got to him, John said. Quitting his job wasn’t easy and bills were piling up; he lost touch with his wife and their arguments became repetitive, a near-daily occurrence.
“There was some financial stress obviously,” he said. “We took a separation due to a lot of the stress … I like to avoid conflict so my biggest problem was when I know a conversation needs to be had, I tended to shy away from that.”
John – whose name has been changed to protect his identity – was asked to consider Changing Ways, a program designed for men with a history of domestic abuse or neglect, meant to rehabilitate them through 16 weekly sessions. Men in the program come from many different backgrounds. Some have criminal records while others have not spoken to their significant others or children in years, and some are like John, a young man stressed with life and unable to communicate effectively.
He sought out the program earlier this year.
“I found [it] help me put my life on track, put my life back in motion,” he said. “It’s wasn’t like a for-sure, ‘you need to do this’ course … it was a voluntary choice.”
Changing Ways started in 1984 and came to Chatham in 2003. Over the last 14 years it has given men the opportunity to reconnect with their families following cases of domestic abuse, supported by groups like the United Way and Chatham-Kent Children’s Services.
“We saw a need with the men we work with, who are mostly involved with the criminal justice program,” said Tim Kelly, executive director with Changing Ways. “They were also fathers. We began to take a look at what’s the possibility of working with these men as fathers … to keep children safe, and help children’s futures be better because they have.”
Kelly says a lot of men who go through the program came from difficult situations growing up. It repeats each generation; men without a father figure in their lives sometimes grow up emulating the behaviours they were exposed to.
Changing Ways aims to end that cycle.
“Many of the men that we work with maybe not necessarily had gold-star families that they grew up with,” Kelly said. “When you really start to look at it … they don’t want their kids to grow up the same way they did. Our focus [is] on the vulnerability of kids, and the needs for them to have happy, healthy relationships with their kids.”
“Men who come out of the program have a good understanding of how the domestic violence is affecting their children and how that can repair that relationship,” said Allison Eaton with Chatham-Kent Children’s Services. “And how to repair the relationship with the mother again.”
Children’s Services is important. They monitor the situation moving forward and have mechanisms set up to prevent problems from reoccurring. Kelly says some men will take the program more than once if they feel themselves drifting again, especially because Changing Ways provides a helpful community aspect for men.
“[The program] is something they pretty quickly start to look forward to,” Kelly said. “One of the things we know about men if they’re struggling in their relationships is they often live in a lot of isolation. They don’t want to admit to what’s happening, they don’t want to admit they’re sometimes unsafe to be around. [With Changing Ways] there’s a sense of release and they start to talk about it.”
“The environment is definitely good there,” John said. “It’s non-judgmental; everyone has a respect for everyone that’s there.”
John’s relationship is not back to normal, but he and his wife are working to fix their problems. She is seeking out stress-management courses and he, having recently finished Changing Ways, is looking forward to tying up court proceedings so they can focus on becoming a family again.
“The goal really is to work this out and rebuild the family that we had,” he said. “And hopefully make it better.”
For more information on Changing Ways Chatham-Kent contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Louis Pin. Originally published by Chatham-Kent This Week
Published on: April 20, 2017 | Last Updated: April 20, 2017 6:41 AM EDT