Aaron Eckhardt, interim executive director of BRAVO, speaks at a news conference Tuesday morning at the Franklin County Courthouse in Columbus.


Officials say it’s the first of its kind and will be designed for domestic violence perpetrators in LGBTQ relationships.

By Bob Vitale 

A first-in-the-nation program that’s starting in Franklin County will tailor education, treatment and other court-ordered services in domestic violence cases to abusers who are in LGBTQ relationships.

Officials unveiled a program this morning in Columbus called CAP IT, which stands for Comprehensive Abuse Prevention, Intervention and Treatment. The effort also includes LGBTQ cultural competency training that’s already under way for judges, probation officers, courtroom employees and all other staff of Franklin County Municipal Court.

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“I’m so proud of this court for thinking outside the box,” Judge Eileen Paley said. “This program breaks through the walls of traditional domestic violence counseling.”

Something outside the box is needed to address violence within the LGBTQ community, advocates say.

Traditional domestic violence counseling and treatment are based on decades of data and evidence gathered from cases involving people in opposite-sex relationships. And while LGBTQ people endure higher rates of abuse, resources and counseling options rarely reflect the dynamics of our relationships.

“Intimate partner abuse in LGBTQ relationships is a need (members of the community) have known about but remarkably have not spoken much about,” said Bill Hardy, president and CEO of Equitas Health, the LGBTQ-focused health network that also is the parent company of Prizm.

“I don’t know why it’s taken us so long,” Hardy said.

The new county effort includes 40 weeks of intensive probation with individualized case planning that’s based on a well-known abuser-education program called Emerge. The local, LGBTQ-focused curriculum was developed by officials from Equitas Health, BRAVO, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections, the Ohio Hospital for Psychiatry, North Central Mental Health, the Franklin County Municipal Court, and Stonewall Columbus.

Paley and Municipal Court Judge James O’Grady were part of the panel.

Equitas Health will provide culturally competent behavioral health counselors to provide treatment for LGBTQ people convicted of domestic violence charges in Franklin County.

Stonewall Columbus and its partner, North Central Mental Health, will provide alcohol- and drug-counseling services.

BRAVO, the Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization, will conduct the cultural competency training.

“People expect discrimination,” BRAVO interim Executive Director Aaron Eckhardt said of the LGBTQ experience in cisgender and hetero-normative environments.

“Are they really going to be empowered to tell the truth about their own lives? This program is centered on accountability.”

Michael Daniels, Franklin County’s justice policy coordinator, said funding for the new program was approved by the county commissioners using money from federal justice and anti-violence efforts.

About 25 LGBTQ participants will be part of the program as it begins.


Bob Vitale
A Toledo native and graduate of Toledo Public Schools, Bob has worked as a local government and politics reporter for The Columbus Dispatch, as a Washington correspondent for Thomson Newspapers and as editor-in-chief for Outlook Ohio. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism and political science from Ball State University and a master's degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.