Domestic violence offenders learning, giving back to abused animals

The Amends Program started three years ago after Tony Caldwell said he noticed a connection between animal abuse and domestic violence.

Caldwell operates the Indiana Horse Rescue in Owensville and took the opportunity to educate both victims and perpetrators of domestic violence, while raising money for abused horses.

"We were able to establish a really good link between animal cruelty and violence and abuse and domestic violence," Caldwell said. 

Caldwell is certified through the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence to teach a Batterers Intervention Program. It's a 26-week no nonsense course.  

"The class that we're in is abuse education, it doesn't matter if you're a victim, a perpetrator or both, because we see a lot of cases where someone has been victimized and gotten to a point where they've now decided to return and retaliate," Caldwell said.

The course costs $650, which is $25 per class. The money goes directly back into the horse rescue.

If a student can't afford it, as a last resort, Caldwell allows certain students to work off their debt at the horse rescue.  

David Morris did just that.  

David said he was charged with domestic battery after an altercation with his girlfriend. The court mandated he complete the Amends Program.

He not only completed the program, but has committed himself to volunteering at the rescue.
"I've seen a big improvement in myself, attitude wise and basically holding myself accountable to everything," Morris said.

Once charged with abusing his girlfriend, now they work side by side.

"Like I said, I have a healthier relationship with my girlfriend, and I come up here and help out and just pretty much a better life in general," Morris said.

Morris added it was a learning experience that he could talk about with his girlfriend. He said they can have conversations without getting angry with one another. 

"Pretty much I've learned that I actually have a conscience now and how to use it and everything," Morris said.

The course is taught in Vanderburgh County, but serves Posey, Gibson, Pike and Warrick Counties.

Caldwell said survivors of domestic violence can attend the classes for free. He said attending one class to see if the program might be a good fit is also an option. 

For more information on the Amends Program, click here. 

For more information on the Indiana Horse Rescue, click here. 

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