For more than 30 years, advocates working to stop domestic violence have focused services the victims of domestic violence.
Their services have focused on specific support for victims, mostly women, who are experiencing or have experienced in home or dating situations. The services might include emergency shelter for a woman and her children, counseling, legal referrals and, if needed, accompaniment to court when and if charges are pressed.
Increasingly, however, services are directed toward men who batter. These services are being developed as the movement has matured to understand the complexity of the problem.
For instance, news reports – including here on Caledonia Patch – show that that women who leave or try to leave abusive relationships may continue to experience threats, harrassment and violence from the abusive person. Just this week, for instance, a man in California was arrested for murdering eight people in a California hair salon rampage and was identgified as an enraged ex-husband with a history of domestic violence.
The abuser may move to another relationship, continuing the cycle of control, intimidation and harm to another woman and another family.
From the viewpont of the law enforcement and legal systems, the situation is complex. Police commonly report returning to the same homes for domestic violence calls. If the abuser is charged, victims may recant -- perhaps fearing further abuse -- or may refuse to testify. Even sentencing may do little to stop the violence since cases may be plea bargained to short-term sentencing for the offender.
In Wisconsin, a new child custody law passed in Wisconsin in 2004 -- which requires the judicual system to examine domestic violence before assigning custody -- recommends that a batterer who wishes to gain legal custody must complete a certified batterers treatment program.
The first attempt to devleop programs for batters came out of Duluth, Minn. Its program has generally been referred to as the "Duluth Model," and focused on the cultural reality of patriarchy and the necessity to change patterns of learned behavior.
The therapies that have been most commonly used in treating batterers assume that among their major problems are manging their anger and controlling violent impulses, leading to "anger mangement" classes of various kinds. But the data suggests that for some of the worst offenders, violence is not impulsive but rather a calculated attempt to intimidate and control another person. For instance, some batterers will be careful to hurt their partners on the parts of their bodies that are covered by clothing -- so that any evidence of cuts, burns or bruises is hidden.
As treatment models have been tested, researched and matured, however, new models have been developed.
First, not all batterers are alike, and one-size programs do not fit all. Clinicians are now identifying several profiles, or types, of batterers. The idea is that each profile's actions of violence stems from a different cause, and each profile may require different treatment approaches.
Some batterers are extremely dependent on their partners, with their fears of rejection leading to arguments and sometimes violence. These persons don't want to be violent but don't know how to control their fears and dependencies.
Another psychological pattern is shown in men who are jealous and misinterpret their partners's actions, even ordinary actions, as insulting or hostile. They believe they must respond violently to address the hostile actions.
For another type, battering is part of a larger pattern of aggression and law-breaking. They may be identified as sociopaths, indivduals are extremely self-focused and have very little, or no, ability to empathize with another's feelings or needs.
Violence also may be influenced by the use of alcohol and other drugs, suggesting that an in-depth chemical dependency assessement needs to be completed and extended chemical dependency treatment will be required to address the addictive process while concurrently addressing accountability for abuse.
Just a few of the many models that have joined the Duluth Model, named above, have been the Steven Stosny's HEALS model; AMEND; and Geese Theater. They may use elements of behavioral-cognitive therapy to change personal belief systems; experiential models, such as Geese Theatre and the Therapeutic Spiral Model, originally devised for survivors of abuse, focus on experiential therapy, which has been proven to impulsive neuroloiglcal brain-based behavior.
There has also been a growing movement to identify quality treatment practices for batterers. Most states have now identified guidelines for batterers' treatment based on research of what works and what does not work.
In Wisconsin, for instance, treatment standards have been in place since 1996. Programs are certified by the Wisconsin Batterers Treatment Providers Association, showing the program faciliators have met certain standards of training and the programs follow generally recognized formats of assessment, safety of victims and accountablity for perpetrators. They include comprehensive assessments and typically work in cooperation with a local domestic violence shelter.
In southeastern Wisconsin, several communities -- Kenosha, Milwaukee, Waukesha and Madison -- have certified batterers treatment programs in place, running weekly for up to 26 weeks. Although there has been much discussion of the best length for such programs, a recent report by the National Institute of Justice showed that men who attended treatment sessions in Brooklyn, N.Y., for a longer period -- 26 weeks compared with eight weeks -- committed fewer violent acts.
Separate programs are suggested for female perperators of violence. It is not suggested that spouses or partners participate in the same sesssions in the same room with batterers. There are also a number of programs that have been designed to be culturally specific for persons of color or a certain ethnic group or gays and lesbians.
Batterers programs have been identified as an important route not only to stopping violence also as a way to build parenting skills and strengthen a family. It is the reality, in fact, that many times the woman does not want to leave the relationship; she simply wants the violence to stop. She may have familial ties to her partner due to having children together or living in the same neighborhood. She may be economically dependent on her partner or dependent on alcohol, drugs or cigarettes that the partner may be able to provide to her. She may not speak enough English to believe she can establish a separate life. Due to years of abuse, she may also feel powerless to make choices that healthy person could make more easily.
In Racine, the Women’s Resource Center provides counseling, legal assistance, shelter and referrals for both women and men who have been victimized by domestic violence. In Kenosha, Women's and Children's Horizons offers similar services, plus a program for batterers.
A specific list of certified batterers programs in Wisconsin may be found here: http://www.wcadv.org/resources/by_category/26