TRURO – For more than two decades, Dan Criss has been involved with Bridges Institute in Truro.
Now, Criss is retiring from the board of directors of the non-profit organization that works with men who have used violence against their partner.
“The approach of Tod’s work, the staff and the board members, was very compatible with myself,” said Criss, speaking about Tod Augusta-Scott, the executive director and a counsellor at the organization. “I think the work itself really resonated with my own work in terms of narrative transformative type. It was very compatible. It was a good fit.”
Throughout the years, Bridges has worked with men who have used violence against their partner. Their work has been noticed on local, national, and international levels with works published in some international context and scholarly contexts, leading to presentations and trainings around the world.
Augusta-Scott said work with Bridges early on saw them introducing a narrative therapy process that was coming out of Australia.
“Part of it was trying to sow the seeds of inviting guys to take responsibility rather than thinking we could cajole them into it,” said Augusta-Scott. “To actually invite them to take responsibility.”
Since then, Bridges has included restorative justice to their offerings, as well as looking at trauma and how it influences not only women in the situations, but how often the violence in families is connected to men’s own experiences in trauma.
“It was not only about stopping the violence, but repairing the harm that was done,” said the executive director.
In the run of a year, Bridges will reach roughly 120 families in the Colchester County and East Hants area. It’s one of six non-profits funded provincially to work with men who are abusive to their partners.
With a previous background in corrections and working with young offenders for seven years, Criss said he was really able to get on board with the philosophy at Bridges because he “believed in it personally.”
“From a profile of Bridges being international, I’m proud of
that,” Criss said. “I’m proud of the narrative transformative, the
reconciliation types of approach versus the adversarial approach.”
Augusta-Scott says the board of directors at Bridges has been “pretty bold” in the terms of where they’ve been willing to push the work.
“We really have stood out. For us to move away from the oppositional engagement and into the invitational engagement, that was quite a disruption in the field. Talking about restorative justice and the fact that repair is possible, it may be hard for people outside the field to get how disruptive that is, but the field is usually pretty cynical about it,” he said.
“If you’re going to actually move that conversation into working with guys who use violence, people get nervous. Behind each of these junctures, the board has been willing to step up and support the flak. That is really a significant contribution they’ve made over the years.”