Mesa authorities want to stop teenage boys from abusing their partners before they ever raise a hand in anger.
Police and school officials continue two days of training today for a new program that aims to stem domestic violence by teaching youths early what is unacceptable behavior toward women.
It’s a new approach to combatting domestic violence, which now is usually focused on intervention, such as telling abused women where they can find help.
"That’s what we’re doing most of the time," said Coy Johnston, a detective at Mesa police’s Center Against Family Violence. "But we haven’t focused on prevention as much as we should."
Mesa Unified School District, with police school resource officers, will implement the program in two junior high schools in the spring, said guidance department director David Schuff. When established, these will be the first Arizona agencies using the "Youth Dating Violence" curriculum.
Mike McCarty, a former domestic violence detective with the Nashville, Tenn., police, started the program 2 1 /2 years ago. He’s taught it in more than a dozen states, and it has grown in popularity.
The program teaches boys about the roots of abuse, and the prevalence of domestic violence and its costs. They also learn an abuser’s tactics, so they can identify patterns within their peers — or themselves.
"I knew a young man who was coming from an abusive (family) situation," recalled retired counselor Glenda Nieman. "And he said, ‘I’m gonna be just like my dad.’ Deep down, they want to change."
Added McCarty: "I think it’s empowering to a lot of the young men. They know they’re normal and not weird."
The training seminar is being sponsored by the Mesa Public Safety Foundation and the Mesa school district.