Center offers help for men who batter


Herald Writer

LYNNWOOD — Domestic violence doesn’t have to escalate from threats, yelling and intimidation to hitting.

A batterer doesn’t have to wait for the police, a judge or a court order to change his behavior.

"You can call," said Dan Reynolds, who treats men who are batterers.

Reynolds, 53, is the treatment director of Options Evaluations and Treatment in Lynnwood. Although the majority of men he treats attend the year-long counseling program under court order, he has worked with many who call voluntarily to ask for help.

"Typically what they say when they call is ‘my wife and I are having some problems,’ " Reynolds said.

Andre, 28, (who asked that his last name not be used) credits the program with saving his marriage.

When he sought treatment a year ago, he’d spent his first night in jail. He was angry with his wife for calling police. His attitude toward Reynolds’ program was that it was a lot of "mumbo jumbo" he didn’t need or particularly want.

"I had a lot of resentment toward my wife; she locked me up," Andre said. "It was Dan who said, ‘No, you locked yourself up by your actions.’ "

The first six months of the program, patients attend a weekly two-hour group counseling session, which is limited to no more than eight men. The cost is $35 per session. Reynolds also treats men in his program who physically abuse their children.

The second six months, patients attend a two-hour session once a month, said Reynolds, who is certified by the Department of Social and Health Services.

"What we do here is men’s work," he said.

Andre agreed.

"We go in there and get feedback off one another," he said. "When’s the last time you had a man ask for help?"

The group setting also made him aware he wasn’t the only man who kept his emotions under wraps.

"The feeling is you’re able to keep your manliness and talk about your feelings. At first, most men consider the other men wimps when they start talking about their feelings. But that’s what we’re here for. I got a raise at work. It compounds and you can see how it changes every aspect of your life."

In the course of treatment, Andre realized that the values he learned from his father didn’t work.

"I grew up in a strict household. My dad was king. You didn’t ask questions. I never learned to identify feelings — I feel lonely. I feel neglected. A lot of people are never taught that."

Reynolds, however, never forgets who comes first.

"My primary patient is the victim," said Reynolds, who keeps in close contact with the wives and girlfriends of his patients to make sure they are safe.

Domestic violence is epidemic, and according to many studies its incidence is increasing, especially among the young. Younger victims — teen-agers — report having been abused by someone they’re dating.

Reynolds’ program isn’t only for men who batter. It’s for men who’ve grown up as the victims of, or witnesses to, domestic violence. More than 70 percent of the men he has treated say they grew up in an abusive family.

"In my opinion there isn’t any man alive who can’t use what we do here," Reynolds said.

Chalk it up to the Mr. Macho, Mr. Fix-It roles, king-of-the-castle society asks men to fill, Reynolds said.

"Men don’t have very many venues to show weakness, to ask for help without feeling inadequate, whether they’re abusive or not," he said.

In his group, Reynolds tries to provide that venue.

He knows some of what boys learn in the home. Growing up, he watched his parents brawl.

"It was a battering match every day."

When Reynolds reached adulthood, he waged a continuous war with his own anger.

"I’ve never been an abuser, but growing up I was a very violent man," he said. "I feel a connection with the men."

But feeling a connection doesn’t mean he’s easy on the guys, said Tammy McElyeac, domestic violence coordinator with the Mountlake Terrace Police Department.

"They call him In-Your-Face Dan," said McElyea, who refers many batterers to Reynolds’ treatment center.

"It’s one of the major programs I refer to," McElyea said. "He’s very clear on the importance of victim safety."

Reynolds began the program five years ago after working with men in his alcohol and drug-abuse treatment program, some of whom were also batterers and clearly needed additional counseling.

About 73 percent of the men who begin treatment with Reynolds complete the program — if they make it past the sixth week.

After about two months in treatment, Andre decided to listen to the "mumbo jumbo."

"I figured since I was paying for this I might as well listen. I wanted a piece of the serenity he (Reynolds) had," Andre explained.

"He never once said you shouldn’t be angry. But you need to know there are many different ways to handle anger. Grab your keys and split. Take a walk. Let it ride for a day. Put your thoughts in a letter to the other person," he said.

The number of men who reoffend isn’t clear. As with many treatment programs, statistics tend to be anecdotal. Counselors can keep track only of the men who return to enter the program a second time.

Reynolds admits he’s on a crusade.

"We’re going the way of the Romans if we don’t put a stop to this," he said.

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