Mental Health Warrior: Sterling McLaughlin

Sterling McLaughlin didn’t think he would love what he does when he first signed up for it 32 years ago. Sterling’s predecessor asked him to co-facilitate a group for perpetrators of intimate partner violence. At that time, Sterling had the mindset many people have: how can you work with an offender, especially when the person didn’t ask for help.

Sterling said he never had a major lightbulb moment, but gradually he realized no one should be written off. It didn’t matter if the person didn’t ask to be in the Batterer’s Intervention Program, or if the person didn’t like Sterling as a facilitator, everyone deserves a chance to better themselves.

Now, thanks to Sterling’s leadership and diligence, of those who participate in the Domestic Violence Batterer’s Intervention group, nearly all report being better able to control their actions, being better able to deal with conflict, and having improved relationships with others. In fact, 85% of participants are known to have no arrest record within two years of completing the program.

Sterling is known for his work around intimate partner violence, both in the Batterer’s Intervention group that meets weekly at Family Service and in the greater community. He also facilitates a group with domestic violence survivors at Salvation Army Turning Point. Sterling sits on the Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team, which reviews cases of domestic violence/intimate partner violence that result in death. The team works to identify any potential changes to existing policies and procedures that could help prevent future fatalities.

He also attends the weekly Roanoke City Police Direct Referral Meeting. He and others review the previous week’s domestic violence/intimate partner violence cases and may contact those involved to let them know what community resources are available.

When Sterling isn’t working, he enjoys spending time with his wife Francine and friends. If they aren’t traveling, attending events, or experiencing live music (especially their son in Nashville, TN), they are hanging out with their granddaughter.