One of the exercises we do in a Basic AVP workshop is a brainstorm on the topic, “What is Violence?” Participants say whatever word or short phrase comes to mind when they think of violence and it is transcribed onto a sheet of poster paper. It is a word storm of ideas. No one’s idea is censored. When the storm passes and the ideas cease, we look at what we have written, noting the things that surprise us and the things that confuse us. Usually a good discussion follows on violence and how the group has experienced it in their lives.
Sometimes a word like “babies” ends up on the page. When that word was challenged once, I defended it, even though I had not been the one to add it. From personal experience, I came to realize after the birth of my first child, that there is a very fine line between self-control and child abuse. Working full-time in a demanding, stressful job, breast feeding at night, being constantly sleep deprived, I remember the moment I realized I could see that line clearly. The scary part was recognizing how easy it would be and how perfectly capable I was of crossing that line.
Occasionally, a participant is surprised to realize that something besides physical aggression could be considered violence. I have been fortunate never to have personally experienced physical violence. However on numerous occasions over the years, I have been the giver and receiver of verbal violence. Words carelessly or intentionally spoken can do tremendous violence to a person, creating wounds that fester for years, causing harm over and over again whenever they are remembered. I have carried such wounds with me for most of my life. Through AVP, I discovered their origin and was finally able to heal. What is violence in your life?
In October, we held our second 3rd level AVP workshop at the Indianapolis Re-entry Educational Facility (IREF). The significance of the third level is that it trains participants to become facilitators of the workshop themselves. One of the beauties of the AVP model is that it grows its leaders from the ground up, empowering participants to transform themselves as they seek collectively to transform the violence they encounter and learn to channel their power into solving conflicts in creative and constructive ways. They learn by practicing and doing actual facilitation.
In this particular workshop, we trained eight new facilitators who will now begin their apprenticing. Two of the facilitators are from outside prison and six of the new facilitators are residents of IREF. At the end of the workshop, after each participant had concluded approximately 55 hours of workshop experience, I asked them to write a few words about their experience with AVP and what it has meant to them or how it has changed them.
I will share these responses one by one in separate posts and at the end, I will put all of the responses together on a page of Testimonials. As we continue to conduct these workshops and grow new facilitators, I will continue to ask the questions of participants and facilitators alike, “What have you learned? How have you changed? What does AVP mean to you?”
Below are the words of Dependable Dale. Dale did not attend this particular workshop because he was moved to a different facility, but without his help, this second Training for Facilitators workshop and all of the other workshops before it most likely would not have happened. He attended the first workshop we conducted at IREF in November 2013 and was one of the first group of inside facilitators in the state of Indiana. The program at IREF owes him a great debt of gratitude for his tireless organization, incessant recruiting, attention to detail, communication, and his inability to stop talking about and advocating for AVP once he saw how much it really worked. What I quote here are words I heard him say on multiple occasions.
“AVP has opened up a whole new world for me that I never knew existed. I used to think, where there is a will, there is a way, and I usually meant a violent way. Now I think that where there is a will, there is a non-violent way. I want to see AVP conducted in every prison in the state of Indiana. I want to see it in every half-way house, recovery center, community and school system in the state as well. And I will pursue my goals as long as I can take a breath.” –Dependable Dale