OAXACA, Mexico – There are reeducation programs in Mexico that aim to provide what is lacking in a violent society, where women are often abused and where, very often, the perpetrators seem not to understand the harm their actions cause.
The leader of the program at the Oaxaca Reeducation Center for Men who Commit Violence against Women, Sergio Zuńiga, told EFE that the purpose of reeducation is to “seek changes in thought and behavior.”
That is done through the aggressor’s observation of men like himself so that he recognizes the atrocity of his actions.
Throughout the 52 sessions, the men – most of them attending under a court order – begin to assimilate the basic concepts of violence and then start telling the group of their own personal experiences.
The psychologist said that “in most cases they understand violence as physical violence and nothing more.”
“They consider the shouting and arguments in a marriage to be an everyday occurrence – it’s not a kind of violence but something naturalized within them,” he said.
During this initial encounter, there is a resistance to change by the students that tends to last between 2 and 4 months.
“Later we work with experiences. We begin a phase of identifying the use of violence that they themselves have been guilty of,” Zuńiga said.
This phase is cathartic, since it leads to reflection and “upon relating their experiences, there’s not only an emotional purging but also a kind of identification among the students.”
“There’s a certain sigh of relief as they understand other people are also guilty of violent acts, whether they’re psychological, economic, sexual or physical,” he said.
Then comes the willingness to take responsibility for “having intended to hurt another person.”
The expert added that verbal violence is always present, since it acts as a “wild card,” as a detonator of more evil and obvious violence.
“Whenever there’s an argument or disagreement that leads to physical violence, it always begins with verbal violence,” he said.
Those who take the course are between ages 20 and 64, though the most violent ages of men are between 34 and 45.
As for social profiles, first place goes to truck drivers, then construction workers, followed by public servants and those raising crops and livestock.
In that regard, the director of the Reeducation Center for Men who Commit Violence against Women, Linda Marusia Lopez, told EFE that “violence does not discriminate nor has anything to do with economic status or educational level. It is present in all contexts.”
Some 90 percent of men at the center experienced violence in their childhood, the expert said, proof that “violence is learned” and for that reason “can be unlearned.”
Throughout 2017, the center received 80 people sent there by a judicial authority and 60 who came of their own free will.
Zuńiga, by being in constant contact with these aggressors, admitted that, as their mentor, he must identify in himself the evil acts of his students.