Voices: How the Center for Nonviolence is changing lives in Fort Wayne, one conversation at a time

For the past 37 years, the Fort Wayne Center for Nonviolence (CfN) has been quietly and methodically taking action to “provide education, support, and advocacy to end domestic and other forms of violence while modeling equality and power-sharing.”

It is now time for us to speak considerably louder, with amplified conviction.

For the past few months, I’ve been working at CfN as the Resource and Development Administrator. My job consists of developing new and creative strategies that aim to bring additional support to our agency, while cultivating a heightened awareness of our mission and services that we offer to Northeast Indiana residents.

Since the month of October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I’d like to ask for just a few minutes of your time to explain the history of our organization, our growth over the years, and the active steps you can take to bring an end to violence in your own households and communities.

Shanel Turner works for Fort Wayne’s Center for Nonviolence (CfN).

Let’s start with the basics. The Center for Nonviolence defines violence as any words or actions that hurt, scare, disrespect, or attempt to control someone by making them feel weak or powerless.

Sometime in the late 1970’s, CfN began with a conversation—an exchange between five men who were “part of a pro-feminist men’s group.” They got together weekly to educate themselves about men’s violence against women and support each other in developing ways to be real partners to the women in their lives.

“We began to awaken to the fact that we could be of service by appearing publically as allies to the women’s movement, and by offering support to other men who were ready to consider making personal changes,” one of the founding men said.

Originally, their intention was not to establish a program or organization, but to take ownership of a “public identity.” They believed that challenging men’s violence is primarily men’s work, with the alliance and leadership of women.

These men began to call themselves the “Men Against Violence Against Women.” Throw in some bold activism, marching protests, and sprinkle in a bit of public forum speaking on behalf of the feminist vision, and viola, Men for Nonviolence was conceptualized.

***

In August, 1981, Men for Nonviolence was incorporated, following in the footsteps of a multitude of other human rights movements that have assisted in shaping the social construct of our nation: the anti-slavery movement of the 1850’s, the women’s suffrage movement of the 1870’s, the civil rights movement of the 1950’s, and the ending of legal discrimination in the 1960’s.

From the beginning, the staff at CfN have implemented active intention to model equality and power-sharing in every facet of our agency operations.

An example of this is that our organization does not have an Executive Director. Instead the role is performed by our Staff Administrative Team (SAT), which is comprised of seven full-time Senior Coordinators from each program. This model flattens the hierarchy and amplifies a more diverse range of creativity to fuel new ideas and development within our organization.

For years, CfN operated the only certified Men’s Batterer’s Intervention Program (BIP) in Northeast Indiana, which requires men (primary aggressors) to hold themselves accountable for the acts of violence that brought them to CfN, while educating them on ways to handle confrontation without the use of violence or intimidation.

We use the internationally recognized Duluth Model, which is “an ever-evolving way of thinking about how a community works together to end domestic violence.”

During the intake process, male clients must acknowledge their accountability for the act of violence that brought them to CfN, or risk being turned away if they refuse. Then, in a dialogical manner, their group facilitators work to challenge the beliefs these men have that justify their violent behavior.

After years of operating the BIP, CfN staff and its coordinating panel decided that the victims of violence (who are primarily women and children) needed resources that focused on the principles of “self-empowerment and how to act in their best interests,” too.

This realization led CfN to develop our Women’s and Youth intervention & support programs, which changed the name of this organization from Men for Nonviolence to the Center for Nonviolence.

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Currently, at CfN we are actively taking steps to become more proactive rather than reactive in our efforts to end domestic and other forms of violence in Fort Wayne.

An example of this is our school-based FACES Nonviolent Leadership Program.

“This program aims to reach students in Fort Wayne Community Schools who may be struggling at home, at school, or in their communities and teaches them powerful nonviolent ways to develop their ‘inner-leader,’” the FACES manual says.

The CfN builds hope in Fort Wayne.

Each FACES session offers hands-on, multisensory learning activities that allow students to practice nonviolent negotiation and conflict resolution skills in a safe environment, so these skills are readily transferable to their everyday lives.

Sessions also provide students with an outlet to discuss bullying, revenge, anger, dangerous thinking, violence, and peer pressure, while focusing more on setting goals, positive role modeling, leadership skills, positive thinking, and positive self-talk.

After participating in numerous FACES groups, I firmly believe that all elementary and middle schools in Fort Wayne and surrounding counties would benefit greatly from having this program integrated into their curriculum. It’s truly inspiring to witness children discussing why they should be positive leaders, and how they have applied what they’ve learned to resolve real issues in their lives.

“You have to stand up for what’s right, even if you’re standing alone,” one FACES student said when asked what they learned in the program.

***

At CfN we invite all of our clients to challenge social role conditioning that might continue the pattern of violence in their lives, while supporting them in their personal transformation process.

I am now extending that invitation to you.

If you or anyone you know is in need of support or intervention services provided at the center, please don’t hesitate to contact us. In addition, take a moment to “like” and “follow” us on Facebook, and consider supporting the Center for Nonviolence this year on Giving Tuesday, November 27th.

With your help we can provide additional resources to reach more people in need of assistance. Change can literally happen with just a conversation. Be the difference.

Portrait of Shanel by Ruth Yaro.

Center for Nonviolence

All support services at CfN are free to the public and offered in English, Spanish, and Burmese languages. Intervention program fees are available on a sliding scale depending on income.

235 W. Creighton Ave.
Fort Wayne, IN 46807
260-456-4112
dwitte@centerfornv.org
www.centerfornv.org

Programs

  • Men’s Batterer Intervention
  • Women’s Violence Intervention
  • Mother’s Intervention
  • Advocacy & Support Services
  • Youth Violence Intervention
  • Youth Intervention (Thinking Errors)
  • Faces Nonviolent  Leadership (School Based)
  • Faces Nonviolent/Pro-social skill building (In-House, available up to 5th grade)
  • LGBTQ+ Youth Support
  • LGBTQ+ Adult Support
  • Parents of LGBTQ+ Youth Education & Support
  • General Public Trainings & Presentations
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