by Sara K. Taylor,Staff Writer
Feb. 23, 2000
This summer, Men for Families will take its message to the streets of Washington, D.C.
The Burtonsville-based group, along with other walkers committed to ending domestic violence will meet at 16th and Kennedy streets to walk to the White House to support the end of domestic violence and increase awareness of the problem.
Burtonsville resident Robert L. Pruitt, and the organization he founded in 1998, will sponsor the June 24 event which is being billed as the Men’s March Against Domestic Violence: Creating a Vision Supported by Committed Action.
The walk will be capped off with a rally on the Ellipse.
Fifteen speakers representing domestic violence organizations, health-care providers, parenting groups, entertainment, sports, the religious community, animal welfare groups and graduates of domestic violence intervention programs will be on hand to share ideas of creating a healthier, less violent society.
Men for Families, an organization committed to stopping domestic violence, is made up of 15 members from YWCA intervention programs in Annapolis, where Pruitt is a program facilitator, and seven other members who are Pruitt’s friends and supporters
The members of Men for Families, “believe in creating nurturing, protective, caring families,” Pruitt said.
By offering a monthly meeting, Men for Families is able to allow batterers to continue to focus on the lessons learned in their intervention programs.
“We’ll meet once a month for 2 1/2 hours,” he said of Men for Families. “The first hour will be a meet-and-greet, a check-in to see how everyone is doing. Then we will move on to an activity that deals with a topical issue.”
If a member is having trouble with communication or dealing with his children, the group will seek ways to handle the situation, Pruitt explained.
The intervention program currently offered at the YWCA is a 24-week program, with members meeting once a week. As the end of the program draws near, intervention participants are informed of the Men for Families organization. Many of the men come to relay on the weekly intervention sessions, Pruitt said.
An organization dedicated to strengthening women and families, the YWCA offers the batterers intervention programs, due in large part to the disproportionate amount of women who are abused, Pruitt said.
Men for Families offers the intervention members a place to go to continue to improve on communication and coping skills.
Pruitt found many of the men who completed the largely court-ordered intervention program wanted to continue improving communication and stress-coping skills they learned.
Once they completed [the court-ordered program] they wanted to do more,” Pruitt said. “They wanted to work on themselves. They wanted to be of service to the world and effectively communicate.
The men wanted “to be assertive, helpful and loving,” he added.
According to Pruitt, the majority of the intervention’s participants were ordered by a judge or strongly recommended by an attorney to seek counseling, “and by the end of the program they see it as a gift … a blessing.”
Bob, who requested that his last name not be used, completed the intervention program at the YWCA in 1997. He is active in Men for Families and continues to stay in touch with Pruitt.
“[The YWCA program] makes you see things in a whole new light,” he said. “It makes you realize you have control over your life.”
Although Bob was not ordered by the court to attend the sessions, he did go on the recommendation of an attorney.
“I learned how to deal with pressures,” he said. “I cannot change other people, but I can change how I deal with them.
“I think I have changed 100 percent,” he added. “I now know I have different avenues for my stress.”
Bob has talked to a number of different organizers about the intervention program and how it helped him cope with stress, and he is scheduled to participate in the Men for Families walk.
“I have a hard time saying no to Robert,” Bob said.
In the intervention groups, Pruitt uses role-playing, small group activities, individual and group discussions to get to the core of the abusive relationship, often finding, “a vast majority [of the men] were raised with or witnessed some abuse.”
With this in mind the YWCA program also invites teen-age boys to join, to head off the cycle of abuse.
With the aid of guidance counselors and social workers, at-risk teens are referred to the program.
It is important to get children involved in the program, “because we all know how impressionable children are,” said Pruitt’s wife, Sonia Pruitt, a detective with the Montgomery County Police Department. “They learn how to be abusive. It is what they know and are comfortable with.” A police officer, Sonia Pruitt is quick to point out her opinions are personal and might not reflect those of the police department’s.
Sonia Pruitt does not participate in the intervention program offered at the YWCA, but is indirectly involved in Men for Families, according to Pruitt.
“She will participate in the march,” Pruitt said of his wife. “But she has so much on her plate.”
Because of her occupation, Sonia Pruitt said she has seen the issue of domestic abuse reach society’s forefront.
“In my line of work you see it all the time,” Sonia Pruitt said. “You learn to spot the early signs.”
She has also witnessed the success of anger-management counseling, like the programs her husband oversees.
“I think they can help,” Sonia Pruitt said, “but the true key is that the person has to want to get help.”
“These programs do work and I think you can almost see a physical change in the men,” she added. “They have finally taken the burden off their back, somehow they look lighter, brighter. They can handle things without being abusive. There is a commitment there.”
Men for Families also provides a service component many intervention participants crave, Pruitt said.
In addition to the commitment the men of Men for Families have made to improve themselves, members also are involved in various community service projects.
Last Christmas, the group “adopted” three families from a shelter, buying them gifts and helping provide a happy holiday, Pruitt said.
The group’s current service project has members devoted to enrolling at least 100 people each to participate in the Million Mom March. The march, taking place in the District in May, has walkers calling for stricter gun control laws.
Men for Families is lending a hand, Pruitt said, due in part to the number of handguns involved in domestic murders. In return, organizers of the Mom March will participate in the Men for Families march in June.