2011 March 10: A Pathway Out Of Violence


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Masks We Present to the World Power of Words Respect for Each Other


During the past few years, Sister Mari has seen increasing physical and emotional damage to the young mothers. Abuse, violence, neglect, and abandonment continue to take high tolls. The mothers are more mistrustful, angry, destructive, and afraid. They are more hostile to their peers, staff, and their child than young mothers in the past. Sr. Mari often observes the behavior called “anticipatory violence” which is the tendency for abused adolescents to react in violent ways to ambiguous situations. The girls’ motives are to prevent an expected attack on themselves. Their reactions are understandable because of the violence they have experienced, but their behavior is a barrier to creating effective relationships and becoming self-sufficient.


Sister Mari looked for effective ways to cope with the challenge of the girls’ self-destructive behavior. She found “Buen Trato, No Violence” (Learning to Treat Others Well), a program developed by the University of Santiago. Outcomes of “Buen Trato” programs include decreased hostility, fewer destructive behaviors, evidence of positive coping behaviors. Sister Mari and the staff agreed to try the pilot program if funds could be found to implement it.


Sister Yvette turned to friends of the Refuge. Thanks to donors, the pilot program has become a reality. The program has already been tailored to help the young mothers at the Refuge build strong bonds with their child and with their peers. The primary objective of the “Buen Trato” program is to show the young mothers how to replace violent strategies with new ones based on communication, collaboration, empathy, and respect.


The program, which began on March 14, 2011, includes individual counseling sessions with the girls, peer group work sessions, training sessions for the Refuge staff, and measurement and evaluation of outcomes. Staff training allows the sisters, the psychologist, and the social worker to continue the program at the end of the yearlong training. The skills the girls and staff will learn will be an invaluable in breaking the cycle of violence for the young mothers and for the next generations. Our heartfelt gratitude to the Donald D. Lynch Foundation and generous donors for helping us put these life-giving skills into the young mothers’ hands. Your prayers for the young mothers and your generosity are vital to their success and the future of their child.