AHIMSA project (Plymouth)
Calvin Bell is a Director of AHIMSA in Plymouth. Ahimsa is a domestic violence project that grew out of Plymouth’s cutting-edge Everyman Project – giving the staff an experience base of more than 12 years in this field, and in this district. ‘Ahimsa’ refers to the Hindu ethic of non-violence – the concern to explore ‘’non-injury’ as a way of achieving harmony on many levels: with the environment; and between peoples; as well as compassion within the self.
Ahimsa is a ‘new breed’ of domestic violence projects (others include ‘A Man’s Place’ in New Zealand and the Men’s Resource Centre in Lismore, Australia) that offer more than simple ‘correctional’ programmes for perpetrators of domestic violence and abuse. Not only are their programmes long-term (often more than a year), they also provide ongoing support, advice and guidance to victims and survivors. This strategy not only facilitates transformation, but also enables the project to evaluate its impact on the perpetrators effectively. Ahimsa also carries out ‘risk assessments’ in contact cases, and provides domestic violence awareness training for professionals.
In accordance with its name, Ahimsa seeks change in more than physically violent behaviours: the concern is for the perpetrators to give up any and all the tactics they use to intimidate their partner or ex-partner in order to control their behaviour. These can include sexual, emotional, verbal and psychological intimidation and stalking, as well as monopolising airtime, being the centre of attention, having the last word, being able to determine how the family income is spent.
Ahimsa, like the other new-breed projects, has found physical violence can be relatively easy to eliminate, at least in the short-term. ‘Most practitioners would say that’ says Bell, and Stuart Anderson of the Men’s Resource Centre agrees: ‘a lot of the guys give up on that the minute they walk through the door’. ‘Most of these men are deeply ashamed of their violence’ explains Bell ‘it doesn’t accord with their notions of ‘good masculinity’. It’s the other behaviours that prove much more difficult to eliminate: they’re personality-based.’
What’s the link with fatherhood? ‘Men’s fatherhood can be one of the most powerful motivators for change’ says Bell. ‘A lot of the men can’t empathise with their partners, but they can empathise with their children, and are deeply appalled when they come to recognise the impact their behaviour is having on them’. Anderson also finds this: ‘Some of the most painful, the most profound moments are in the group sessions where we explore the impact of conflict and violence on children’. Ahimsa has noted that all the men who complete their programme are active fathers, or have an interest in being active fathers. From next year the organisation will be offering services only to men who are fathers, while at the same time building partnerships with other agencies in Plymouth that can offer high vigilance supervised contact.
AHIMSA has also developed positive approaches to working with men who are victims of violence.
AHIMSA can be contacted on 01752 213535 or firstname.lastname@example.org (www.ahimsa.com)Tags: Domestic violence, Drugs and alcohol, Vulnerable families