To the editor:
In response to your editorial on spouse abuse, there is a glaring fact that has been sadly overlooked. As a former counselor for a "men who batter women" program in Wisconsin, I think it is obvious that Utah is at least 10 years behind many states in solving the problem of spouse abuse.In Wisconsin and Minnesota, the answer was simple. The State Legislature passed a law making spouse abuse a jail offense. The "Right to Arrest Law" allowed the police to physically remove the man from the home and incarcerate him for six months.
Only then was it possible to incorporate the "Jail Alternative Program," which gave the offender the option of counseling or jail.
In every case, the spouse abuser always chose counseling. In Dane County, Wisconsin, the duration of the program is two hours a day for six months. In Racine County, the program was for 12 weeks/2 hours per day at the offender's expense.
What made this "Jail Alternative" program work so well was that it was a captive group, so to speak. The first group counseling session was always attended grudgingly, but to the surprise of all, they found they had much to gain and learn from attending.
Most importantly, the group motto was: "You may have a right to be angry, yet you never have the right to be physically violent."
Learned were such things as alternative behavior to violence, how to listen to one's spouse, to simply leave the home during an argument, to understand anger, to talk over problems before they get out of hand, and many constructive ways to cope with marital stress.
Another cardinal rule was: If they hit their spouse just once, they were back in jail. Needless to say, our success ratio was well over 90 percent (no physical abuse over a one year period).
Yet the glaring fact is that without a "right to arrest" law, there is no compulsory counseling. Men are not prone to admit their wrongs unless forced to choose the lesser penalty of counseling.
Yes, we absolutely need programs in every county in Utah. Let's catch up with the other states and make spouse abuse a felony and get it out of the civil courts. Only then can this horrendous cycle of physical abuse be stopped. We don't need laws - just one law will do: The "right to arrest" law.
Utah Domestic Violence Advisory Council