PHILIPSBURG:--- Domestic (relational) violence has devastating, long-term effects on victims, both physically and psychologically. The impact of disasters such as hurricanes and pandemics may also lead to an increase in cases. Supporting victims of domestic abuse must always be a priority, but to prevent or reduce harm, we must first understand the behaviors that lead to perpetrators committing this crime and learn skills how to best address them. For this reason, the Stichting Justitiële Inrichtingen St. Maarten (SJIS)-Probation Department and the St. Maarten Prosecutor’s Office (OM SXM) have joined forces to combat domestic violence on St. Maarten.
Recently a group of professionals, amongst those SJIS-probation officers and staff members of Safe Haven Foundation and government department Women’s Desk, followed the Safe Homes behavioral intervention training for offenders, to prevent and reduce domestic (relational) violence amongst their clientele.
Probation officers often have the most contact with domestic violence offenders and play an important role in assessing the context of the offender’s violent behavior and recommending appropriate sanctions to the prosecutor’s office and court. Their recommendations can advance or impede both safety and accountability outcomes for the victim and the offender. However, until recently there was no evidence-based training that could be used by probation officers and other professionals to influence the behavior of offenders in order to stop the abuse and violence.
The Safe Home method provides insight into why someone exhibits this behavior, how to get control of their anger and how to react differently. During the training, the partner of the offender is also involved in order to prevent new violent behavior.
Probation officers would be able to offer the training in a compulsory framework to offenders of relational violence who are ordered by the prosecutor’s office or court to follow the Safe Homes training, but it is also important to provide the training as preventive assistance before the situation gets out of control and police and court are involved. Therefore Safe Haven and Women’s Desk domestic violence professionals will provide the training on a voluntary basis to persons within the community.
Furthermore, a Safe Homes animation video and brochure are being development and will be made available to the public through the media and at various locations such as the Police KPSM, SJIS, Safe Haven, Women’s Desk, Prosecutor’s Office, and the Court House.
Tackling relational violence cases via behavioral intervention training is not a new approach within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Currently, the Safe Homes training is available for the community of Saba, St. Eustatius, and Bonaire under the name of Kas Sigur Training and in the Netherlands as the Borg Training. Recently probation staff and other professionals in Curacao also underwent the same training.
The trainer is Desire Frans, who holds a master’s degree in criminology. Desire currently serves as Senior Probation Officer at Probation Caribbean Netherland and is a certified Domestic Violence and Behavioral Intervention trainer.
The training is part of a series of activities that aims to provide an alternative approach to conflicts and combat domestic violence. Other related activities are the Mediation Skills training that took place in July, a Gender-Based Violence training scheduled for September, pilot mediation in criminal cases implemented by SJIB and OM SXM during the course of 6 months until the end of 2021.
The Safe Homes behavioral intervention training falls under the Domestic Violence and Mediation Project financed through the Resources for Community Resilience R4CR funding program, which was implemented by VNG International (the International Cooperation Agency of the Association of Netherlands Municipalities VNG) and funded by the St. Maarten Recovery and Resilience Trust Fund to improve the capacity of St. Maarten’s civil society organizations and to support reconstruction and resilience at the community level.