Neil Watson is in the middle of his busiest time of the year. The heady combination of alcohol and enforced family time over Christmas and the new year mean that for the next few weeks he will spend much of his time talking his clients out of confrontations, away from pub fights, and reminding them how well they have done and not to blow it now.
Watson started his charity, The Violence Initiative (TVI), a decade ago as a way of moving on from his own angry past. His clients are the stuff of many people’s nightmares. Wife beaters, pub brawlers, the ones who scream at strangers on the street, grab their girlfriends by the hair in public, and smack their children in supermarkets while shoppers avert their eyes.
“We help those people that society wishes didn’t exist,” says Watson. “I get so much grief for what we do here, even from victims’ groups, who say that our clients should be strung up. But 99% of them have suffered some immense moment or period of trauma, and something in them has switched over. I want to help them switch it back.”
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