Counseling program in Kane aims to stop cycle of violence
By Erika Wurst email@example.com October 9, 2013 4:30PM
Kane County States Attorney Joe McMahon | Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 11, 2013 12:13PM
Three years ago this month, the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office launched a life-changing program, aimed to stop the cycle of domestic violence throughout the county.
The Domestic Violence Diversion Program was created to give first-time offenders who are accepted into the program a chance to change their violent tendencies.
The program is the first of its kind in Illinois.
“The main message is that treatment works,” said Maureen Manning-Rosenfeld, director of Client Services at Elgin’s Community Crisis Center. “I have seen hundreds of men over the years change their behavior as a result of coming to counseling.”
Previously, offenders had to wait until the end of a criminal case — six to 24 months post arrest — before completing mandatory counseling sessions. In entering the diversion program, defendants enter counseling within 60 to 90 days of receiving their charge.
For Manning-Rosenfeld, this is imperative to their recovery.
“If you are more quickly into counseling, there is less time for other abusive patterns to come about,” she said. “We see men come in for treatment that have been violent for 20 years. It is a whole lot harder to turn them around on behalf of the counselors.”
Not only does the program get offenders swiftly into treatment, it requires them to admit guilt before they even walk through the counseling center doors.
Participants must agree to the facts of the case, and plead guilty before entering the diversion program.
When offenders make a public admission, and acknowledge their conduct early on in the process, it leads to a more motivated offender, Manning-Rosenfeld has noticed. If they successfully complete the year-long program, the charge against them is dropped.
Not every offender is accepted into the program. There are strict rules adhered to before admission.
That includes making sure that the diversion program is an avenue the victim wants the offender to walk down. Contact is made with the arresting officers, as well, to see what they think is appropriate in each case. Active gang members, those with felony enhancements to the charges, or who put a victim in the hospital are not eligible.
“This is designed for people who want to get help and stop the violence,” said Assistant State’s Attorney Jamie Mosser. Mosser has been prosecuting domestic violence cases for eight years. In that time, Mosser has already seen the cyclical nature of the crime.
She has seen a father charged with domestic violence, and seen his son come through the system several years later for committing a similar crime.
“In an eight-year time period, I have seen that cycle go through a family because of learned behavior,” Mosser said.
Manning-Rosenfeld has noticed a similar trend. Those who grew up in families where threat, force and control were viewed as signs of love often have a similar misconception as a result.
“A lot of times, the men we are seeing don’t have (communication) skills in their childhood family of origin. They didn’t learn them. We can’t go back and change that, but I am going to teach them now,” she said. “The message they got was that grown-up people solve their problems by force ... they misinterpret control for love. And, we have to teach them these differences.”
And, more often than not, the offenders are grateful for a chance to change.
To date, there have been 207 offenders who have completed the year-long program, which includes 26 weeks of counseling. There are currently 281 active cases, Mosser said. A total of 46 offenders have been terminated from the program for various reason, and sentenced under the original terms of their plea.
For Manning-Rosenfeld these numbers don’t necessarily define the success of the program.
“The success rate is even beyond what we see in these numbers. That success rate will go on to impact the next generation,” she said.
Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon said that every domestic violence case is different. There is no common factor. The abuse extends through all socio-economic levels, and all races.
“These are not low-income issues. They are not high-income issues,” he said. “We see it from every community we serve in Kane County. From the biggest elaborate homes, to people struggling to put food on the table.”
And, the numbers of domestic violence cases are on the rise. Not just in Kane County, but throughout the region, McMahon said.
“It’s a serious issue we all face, and not just in Kane County,” he said.