Coordinated Community Responses to Domestic Violence in Six Communities: Beyond the Justice System. Batterer Intervention Programs


There are many batterer intervention programs in this country, but, at present, there is widespread uncertainty about their effectiveness in changing batterers in any significant way. Most of the research done to date bears out this lack of conviction at the grass-roots level. Many programs are based on principles derived from theories of battering, principally that battering is a manifestation of male power and control. Others are based on simple "anger management" or behavior control principles that treat battering in the same way they would treat fear of heights or smoking cessation. One promising program that has not been adequately evaluated bases its approach on object relations and attachment theories (Stosny, 1995). Some states have minimum requirements for the number of sessions in approved programs (California's is the longest, at 52 weeks); in other states judges order offenders into programs that are as short as one Saturday afternoon. One of our sites insisted that they knew of no "treatment" for batterers, since they had doubts that anything could really successfully change them. Therefore the best they could do was offer an educational component based on the Duluth model, but that still required batterers to examine and discuss their own behavior.

We include batterer intervention here as a huge gap, or opportunity, not because we have anything successful to suggest but because no community response can be truly comprehensive unless it includes the ability to change batterer behavior once the batterers are apprehended. Every community we visited expressed their frustration with this gap, whether they had ample intervention resources or not.