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Updated: July 18, 2012 15:55 IST

Working with the perpetrator

Pushpa Achanta
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With her work, Christauria Welland wants to stop the cycle of abuse in families. Photo: Pushpa Achanta
With her work, Christauria Welland wants to stop the cycle of abuse in families. Photo: Pushpa Achanta

Dealing with perpetrators can be more effective than healing victims

Christauria Welland is that rare psychologist who deals with the perpetrator rather than the victim of physical abuse. Dubbed ‘wife-beating’ in India, the problem Dr. Welland deals with is Intimate Partner Violence (IPV).

“I have come to realise that dealing with perpetrators can be more effective than healing victims,” Dr. Welland reasoned. “If you can help a violent person change his attitude and behaviour through a culturally specific therapeutic process, you can make a real and lasting impact on a family that has been torn by violence and abuse. This might prevent a future generation of abusers.”

Dance to social work

She was in the city recently to participate in a seminar on ‘How to free the world from nuclear weapons’ organised by the Gandhi Peace Foundation.

Her work with social issues in India, interestingly, is linked to her interest in Bharatanatya. “My dance master U.S. Krishna Rao and his wife U.K. Chandrabhaga Devi gave me an amazing introduction to Bharatanatya. But I left dance to join the Missionaries of Charity in June 1972,” this Canadian said. “That was one of the most difficult sacrifices of my life. But, serving people in need since then has made that decision worthwhile.”

She then went on to serve people, primarily in Latin America. Over a decade and half later, she acquired degrees in clinical psychology and Spanish, in San Diego. “I made IPV the focus of my clinical work as I was exposed to it while counselling families in Mexico and the U.S.

Reaching out

She has worked with the Missionaries of Charity and taught prevention of IPV at academic institutions and non-governmental organisations in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Uganda, Mexico, Guatemala, Peru and San Diego.

Along with her husband Mike Akong, an acupuncturist, Dr. Welland has started support systems to integrate disadvantaged Latin American immigrants into the local society. “We hope to do enough so that the children in the community can continue studying amidst the economic recession that has affected their parents’ earnings,” she said.

She reaches out to abusive partners mainly through individual and group therapy. She also runs rehabilitation programmes for families and couples who experience depression, anxiety and trauma. Further, she trains adults, youth and children on recognising and preventing partner violence in their community and relationships.

As Dr. Welland has worked with the financially backward and unlettered mostly, she simplifies treatment information and adopts a discussion based approach.

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