January 26, 1998 in Nation/World

Domestic Violence Offender Now Sees The Light Army Vet Credits Va Center ‘Perpetrator’ Sessions

By The Spokesman-Review

Like most men and women ordered into domestic violence treatment programs, Byron Stingley grumbled. He knew he had a problem with his temper, but didn’t think he was a violent man.

Today, he credits the program with making him a better person.

Ten months ago, Stingley stood in front of a Spokane County District Court judge and pleaded guilty to assaulting his ex-wife. As part of the sentence, he was ordered into treatment for a year.

The incident that landed him in court happened last January. He and Stacy Stingley met at a downtown restaurant to have a few drinks and meet friends.

Outside the restaurant, he asked her to go home with him. She refused.

Stingley, a 29-year-old food company delivery driver, reacted by hitting her in the face.

“He’s had trouble with anger and moods. That was the first time he ever tried to really hurt me,” Stacy Stingley said.

Byron Stingley is one of hundreds of county residents convicted of domestic violence crimes who were required last year to enroll in a yearlong “perpetrator” program.

He’s about halfway through the program. For the first six months, he met weekly with a dozen other offenders. Now, he’s going to monthly sessions.

About four months ago, Stingley said “the light just went on” during a group session.

“I realized the way I had behaved with people, I really wasn’t doing myself any good. I knew I needed to be more considerate than I’d been before.”

People in perpetrator programs don’t typically make those sudden self-discoveries, said Maggie Fritz, the counselor and group leader at Spokane’s Veterans Affairs Medical Center, where Stingley, an Army veteran, attends free meetings.

Fritz said Stingley is motivated and still making progress.

During the first counseling session, she told Stingley and the other men in his group they would write a “letter of clarification” - a statement explaining what happened and why that behavior was wrong.

Fritz said Stingley had to rewrite his statement several times before it was accepted by the group. His initial efforts disguised what happened. He described what he’d done as pushing, not admitting he struck her in the face.

“Some people never can bring themselves to come out and say honestly what they did,” Fritz said. “Byron’s made a big change, but others I’ve worked with have made a lot bigger changes.

“All I know is, Byron took a while to get there.”

The Stingleys divorced in early 1996 but maintain regular contact. He often visits his two children, ages 6 and 8.

His ex-wife finds the changes he’s made significant.

“He calls me after a meeting and says he realizes now how he used to handle problems the wrong way,” Stacy Stingley said.

During their marriage, she said he became increasingly sullen and withdrawn. “He’d go through long periods of not talking. He wouldn’t interact. It was really frustrating.”

Fritz knows there’s no science in how or why some men go from explosive anger to self-control.

“I only try to create an atmosphere that’s comfortable so these people can make some changes,” she said.

, DataTimes

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