April 17,2002

Senator John R. Edwards
United States Congress
225 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-3306

I am writing this letter in response to comments made by speakers at yesterday's Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs hearing: "Leading the Fight: The Violence Against Women Office"

I am founder and director of Family Violence Prevention Services, a private, non-profit, violence prevention and treatment services program in the North Carolina foothills. Twenty years ago, we started out as an abuser treatment program, working exclusively with men. It soon became clear that other family members were affected by the violence, and that the family often wanted to share in learning the problem solving, anger management and communication skills that our program teaches.

In a May 18, 2000 report, the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics, citing FBI data, stated that "Two-thirds of all intimate attacks were simple assaults, the least serious form of violence studied." I believe the Justice Department finding is essential to understanding the problem of domestic violence, and to developing effective interventions that address the problem.

Their report identifies two distinct populations of perpetrators and victims. The smaller population (the one-third) is engaged in more serious, even life-threatening, violence, and is made up of those victims who would probably be best served by shelter programs and whose perpetrators should go to jail. That is also the population that receives the most media attention. However, the larger population (the two-thirds) is engaged in less serious forms of violence, and is comprised of those men, women, and children that our program has served effectively for nearly twenty years. Most of this violence occurs in families that wish to remain intact.

I have found that violence in families exists on a continuum that moves from the less serious to the more serious, with the violence becoming more serious over time if there is no intervention. Prevention efforts such as ours are more successful when the problem is identified early on and brought to the attention of the court for referral. We have found that the chances for preventing further violence are increased even more when the entire family participates in counseling.

Women's advocacy groups tend to view all domestic violence as the same - potentially life threatening abuse by men against women. I believe that, while this view may be justified for the smaller population described above (the one-third), it cannot be generalized to the include the larger population (the two-thirds). The statistics quoted by Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker are not supported by the research and do not contribute to a better understanding of the problem or to the development of effective intervention models.

Because of the widespread view that all domestic violence is potentially life-threatening, nearly all federal and state domestic violence funding goes to women's shelters and shelter-based programs. No funding consideration is given to established and effective prevention programs like ours - staffed by experienced Master's level clinicians, using a proven treatment approach, constantly updated and refined over the years - a program that is tailored to the larger population (the two-thirds) and one that has proven effective in preventing further violence in families. While I remain a strong advocate for women, my program has been fiercely opposed by the domestic violence coalitions Ms. Lynn Rosenthal represents.

Since the establishment of the Violence Against Women Office and VAWA, more federal funding than ever before has become available for domestic violence programs and services. Yet, as an administrator of an effective, family-centered program, I have been forced to cut back staff and programs just to keep our basic family intervention model intact. There is much that needs to be done in the area of violence prevention and treatment and much that we could do if we weren't always so strapped for funds. Community funding support through local government, United Way, and participant fees is not enough to sustain our program. At issue is whether or not we will be able to continue providing effective violence prevention and treatment services to families who choose them.

Over the years, I have learned that family violence is a family problem that impacts all members of the family. Our intervention provides separate group counseling services for men, women, and children, and effectively addresses the needs of the larger population (the two-thirds) of abusers and victims that the Justice Department report has identified.

This larger population is made up of young couples with young children, who want help but don't necessarily want to end their relationships. If no federal funding is made available for early intervention and prevention services, domestic violence will continue to exist as a serious societal problem.

I invite you to visit our website for additional information about our program and its services.


David W. Maupin, Director
Family Violence Prevention Services

copies to: Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs