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Calm in a Storm

Intimate partner violence (IPV) can happen anywhere, and it largely goes unreported and untended. For veterans in the Baltimore area, however, a pilot program created and staffed by UMBC alumni and faculty is setting new standards for care and prevention of this particular type of violence. The Baltimore Veterans Administration Medical Center is among the first of 17 national pilot sites for Strength at Home, a 12-week group-based program developed by Casey Taft Ph.D. ’01, clinical psychology.

“Our programs focus on preventing violence from occurring in the first place, or else ending that violence once it begins,” says Taft, who originated the program at his home base of Boston, and whose recently published trials prove the program to be a bona fide success.

Over the course of three months, small groups of veterans who have been referred to the program meet for two hours at a time to discuss in depth the best ways of responding to stressful situations, the difference between assertive communication and aggressive or passive communication, and other related topics.

“We have been amazed at the receptiveness that we have received at the Baltimore VA, and how invested folks there have been in working to end violence in military and veteran families,” says Taft. “We expect to see the program continue to grow and to be considered the place to refer veterans and service members who are experiencing difficulties with anger and aggression in their relationships.”

IPV Assistance Program Coordinator Julia Caplan ’07, modern languages and linguistics, notes an added benefit is having Taft’s mentor Chris Murphy, professor and chair of the psychology department, just a short drive away. An expert in abuse and violence in intimate adult relationships, Murphy also serves as a trainer for the program.

“We are lucky that we have Chris down the road because they’re training people all over the entire United States. So Casey is in Boston, his co-coordinator is in Texas, and Chris is here,” she said, and Taft agrees.

“His presence there ensures that there will always be incredible local expertise in partner violence intervention and a steady stream of highly competent providers and trainees who will carry on this effort.”

— Jenny O’Grady