Franklin County Municipal Court will now offer LGBT-specific domestic violence intervention. Municipal Court Judges Eileen Paley and James O’Grady devised the program after same-sex marriage became legal in all 50 states.
“When that Supreme Court case came down, I think we had a little bit more of self-identifying in the community, so I started seeing more domestic violence in the courtroom between LGBTQ partners,” Paley says.
She suspected that the existing intervention programs, constructed with male-female relationships in mind, wouldn’t adequately serve this population. So she got to work.
“I thought there’d be another program out there, but there wasn’t one,” Paley says. “So then we kind of set out with the professionals to build and write a curriculum for such a program.”
Three years later, that program is being introduced in Franklin County, the first of its kind as far as the judges can figure.
Aaron Eckhardt, interim director of Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization, was one of those professionals who built the program. Eckhardt say the program focuses on the culture and identity that LGBT people are coming from.
“If we don’t meet people in a culturally-appropriate or humble way, people will shut down,” Eckhardt says. “They feel defensive in an already traumatic environment.”
So, the programming acknowledges those identities as it seeks to rehabilitate.
“It’s important for all of us to know that it’s not about your identity, it’s not because you’re LBGTQ that you choose to harm somebody. It’s about power and control. And those elements are culturally linked sometimes,” Eckhardt says. “What’s unique about this program is that we don’t ignore the culture of the person that’s engaging in the service.”
The court-mandated 40 week program will be run by Equitas Health, which includes the curriculum as well as behavioral health counseling.