Programmes for men who have been perpetrators of intimate partner violence vary in content, scope, time duration and intensity. Most to date have been developed and implemented in wealthier, industrial countries, as well as some countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, with more initiatives emerging in developing countries. Evaluations have been limited, and their results mixed. Interventions for batterers need to take extra care in ensuring that the safety of women and children is a foremost concern, given the risks to their safety if batterers return to partners and families and continue to perpetuate abuse. Learning from past lessons learned and from experts in this area is important to ensure ethical and human rights concerns are properly addressed and safeguarded.
The overall premise of programmes for perpetrators is to develop interventions that can reduce the incidence of repeat cases of violence against women (or, ‘recidivism’) by the men involved in interventions. In some countries, family violence laws require the health sector to provide services for offenders and the courts may require offenders to attend a batterer treatment programme as an alternative sentence. In other countries, programmes for perpetrators of violence are implemented as a complementary, rather than as an alternative measure, to incarceration. In some settings, judges may prefer an intermediate sanction between no action and jail time (Labriola et al., 2005).
Evaluating Batterer Counseling Programs: A Difficult Task Showing Some Effects and Implications (Gondolf, 2004). Available in English.
Violência Sexual e Saúde Mental: análise dos programas de atendimento a homens autores de violência sexual: RELATÓRIO FINAL DE PESQUISA (Toneli, 2007). Available in Portuguese.
Although there is variety across programmes, programmes for perpetrators of violence in theUnited States operate according to available state standards which include:
Groups in theUK run programmes which range from 20 hours over 10 weeks to 120 hours over 48 weeks. The National Practitioners’ Network recommends programmes of 75 hours over 30 weeks, with a minimum of 50 hours over six months (Mullender and Burton 2000).
A WHO review (Rothman et al., 2003) identified the following characteristics of programmes for boys and young men who are aggressors:
The recommendations below provide only general guidance on batterer programmes, since it is difficult to make definitive suggestions given the limited knowledge-base to date and the fact that these programmes demonstrate only marginal success (Gondolf 2004).
Perpetrator programme provision should not dilute or divert attention away from services for survivors and children – Programmes for batterers should always be of secondary importance to meeting the needs of women and children for emergency services, outreach and care after incidents of abuse. It would also be inappropriate for programmes to divert from, or dilute, criminal justice action against perpetrators (Mullender and Burton 2000).
Considerations about the safety of partners and children need to be at the forefront of planning programmes. Women may base the decisions to leave or stay with a perpetrator on whether he has entered a programme. Perpetrator programmes should, therefore, never be set up in isolation; they need to be linked with other services that meet the support and safety needs of women and children. This includes the criminal justice system, women’s organizations, child welfare and child protection agencies, health care services and multi-agency fora (Mullender and Burton 2000).
Programmes for batterers/perpetrators should be part of a system and should not work in isolation. Programmes with perpetrators should be viewed as a critical element in an overall violence prevention effort. The most effective reduction in partner violence will occur in those communities with the strongest combination of coordinated, accountable elements. Practitioners should work to educate and support all elements of a coordinated community response (Bennett and Williams 2001).
Efforts should be made to increase the knowledge base regarding effective strategies to work with men who commit intimate partner violence – Few such programmes have been evaluated and relatively little information exists regarding promising initiatives to work with men who commit acts of intimate partner violence, particularly within developing country settings. Therefore, an effort should be made to evaluate such initiatives through rigorous evaluation designs and to disseminate this information broadly.
Evaluation designs should be methodologically sound - Evaluation designs should utilize a randomized or control group design and should assess victim’s perceptions and experiences of men’s change of behaviour (Rothman et al., 2003). Additional elements to consider when evaluating such programmes are:
All programmes with perpetrators should be monitored closely for transparency, accountability and the safety of victims. Whenever possible, new programmes should ensure that evaluation is built-in from the beginning and that, preferably, it is externally conducted (Mullender and Burton 2000).
All perpetrator programmes must be aware of, and take steps to address, the issue of low completion rates. Some of the actions to this end may include:
Criminal justice interventions can dramatically increase compliance with perpetrator programmes. In Pittsburgh (a city in theUnited States ) arrest warrants were issued if perpetrators failed to appear at the programme intake interview or if there was not evidence of compliance at 30 days or at programme completion. The no-show rate dropped from 36 percent to 6 percent between 1994 and 1997 (Mullender and Burton 2000).
Diligent case management of programme participants, systematic victim contact and any necessary recourse should take place as soon as men begin the programme, rather than waiting until the end of the programme to check-in. Experience from a large-scale, four year, multi-site evaluation showed that roughly 75 percent of the reassaults occurred within the first 6 months of men beginning a programme (Gondolf 2004).
Explore various settings to reach out to men who may be at risk of or are engaging in abusive behaviour. (Adapted from the Non-Violence Alliance).
Locations can include:
Careful consideration should be given to determine suitability for participation in these programmes – Men who do not acknowledge that they have perpetrated inter-personal violence, who have specific psychiatric disorders, who have an active alcohol or drug addiction may not be appropriate candidates for participation in batterer intervention programmes, unless such programmes also address these other conditions within the group or provide access to these complementary interventions. Additionally, other types of abusers who may be screened out include those who become violent with counsellors, sex offenders, those who are suicidal, men who appear to be unafraid of the law and those who are disruptive in group settings or who fail to attend sessions regularly (Rothman et al., 2003).
High-risk men in particular should be identified at the outset of programmes, in order to engage and supervise them appropriately. For an overview and recommended resources on risk assessment, see for example: Inventory of Spousal Violence Risk Assessment Tools Used in Canada (Department of Justice Canada, 2009).
Lesson learned regarding exclusion criteria for men to attend programmes for perpetrators - It is important however, that attention be paid to what happens to men (and their partners) who are excluded from programmes. Data from theUS suggests that men in batterer programmes are more likely to have mental disorders, personality disorders, and substance abuse than either men in the general population or batterers who are not referred to such programmes, making it important to consider whether programmes for batterers may have to address these other conditions as well (Bennett and Williams 2001). Whenever possible, efforts should be made to connect them to specialized services that are equipped to address addictions or psychiatric conditions.
Establish links with those organizations providing services to survivors/ victims of intimate partner violence and with women’s advocates – This will increase the amount of information that is available to practitioners about victims’ experiences and may enable staff to receive emotional, political, and even financial support from their partner agencies (Rothman et al., 2003).
Establish clear communication channels between women and perpetrator programme coordinators – Such contact is important in establishing the accuracy of information provided by men regarding their behaviour and in promoting the safety of victims. Partners should also be consulted about the programme and its effect on the perpetrator. Such contact should occur directly and in private with the victim and not through the abuser since communicating with the victim through the aggressor may place the victim at increased risk of further violence.
Programme coordinators should:
It is important to note, however, that this may be a challenge since victims may change residence and phone, and their relatives may be justifiably cautious about releasing information to strangers. Victims and aggressors may also be separated, and the aggressor may reside with another partner during and after the batterer programme (Bennett and Williams 2001).
Proper staff training is essential for effective functioning of intervention programmes – Even practitioners who are well-informed about the dynamics of intimate partner violence and their local resources require training on how to conduct group or individual behaviour change intervention with batterers (Rothman et al., 2003). Basic training programmes should include evidence-based information on:
Facilitating groups with men who commit intimate partner violence requires specific skills – Even practitioners with prior intimate partner violence experience may need to be trained on how to facilitate group or individual sessions with this population. Among the skills to be mastered are:
Perpetrator programmes need to acknowledge the diversity of men attending groups.
Provision needs to be made for groups that include:
Offer emotional support and professional supervision to practitioners working with perpetrators of violence – Training should include information to help counsellors prepare for the explicit and difficult content of their work (Rothman et al., 2003). Additionally, organizations should make an effort to offer onsite emotional support and appropriate supervision to its staff.
Create opportunities for the exchange of information among those working in this area - A survey with practitioners who work in programmes targeting men who commit intimate partner violence showed that counsellors in this area are experiencing a relative dearth of factual information to use as the basis for their work (Rothman et al., 2003). Additionally, often programmes in developing countries will import US, Canadian or other models from industrialized countries, which may not be appropriate to their clientele and context. Therefore, practitioners looking for guidance, advice and materials should turn to those with experience in similar settings where possible or adapt materials to the specific social and cultural context that they are working in.
Programmes working with immigrants, refugees and culturally diverse population groups should obtain practical advice and materials from colleagues who live in their client’s countries of origin. To this end, international information-sharing should be facilitated and made affordable for those in low- and middle-income nations (Rothman et al., 2003).
Culturally-specific counselling, though not evaluated for efficacy, has demonstrated an improvement in completion rates of programmes (Gondolf 2004).
Programmes working with men who have perpetrated violence should provide information on sexual and reproductive health – The links between violence against women and sexual and reproductive health outcomes (including restricted contraceptive use, HIV, unsafe abortion, etc.) have been well established. Programmes working with men who commit intimate partner violence should make use of the opportunity to address these issues with the goal of encouraging their clients to respect their partners’ rights to health-related self-determination (Rothman et al., 2003).
Couples counselling and mediation are controversial practices and may place victims at increased risk of abuse – The fact that many counsellors make no distinction between victim and aggressor in couples counselling, viewing them both with equal responsibility for the violence, is a practice that raises serious concerns (Rothman et al., 2003). In couples counselling the victim may be unable to express herself for fear of retaliation and may be exposed to further abuse if the aggressor feels that the counsellor has taken the woman’s side. Therefore, although further evaluation is needed to provide evidence of the dangers or benefits of couples counselling, this is a practice that should be monitored closely. (For an interesting discussion of this subject, please refer to M Bograd, F Mederos. Battering and couples therapy: universal screening and selection of treatment modality. Journal of Marital Family Therapy. June 1999; 25 (3):291-312) Available in English.
Certain intervention techniques can be inappropriate in addressing perpetrator/batterer behaviour, including those that:
There is a commonly accepted belief that the most appropriate model for working with perpetrators is a broad cognitive-behavioural approach combined with gender analysis (Mullender and Burton 2000). Though this model is widespread in practice, there are other models that are widely implemented. In practice, however, many programmes combine different approaches, thus the categories below are not necessarily mutually exclusive and can be considered in various combinations.
Cognitive-behavioural intervention - Cognitive-behavioural or psycho-educational approaches are the most prominent. These view violence as a learned behaviour that can be unlearned (rather than as a consequence of individual pathology, stress, alcohol abuse or a ‘dysfunctional’ relationship). The approach aims to foster mutual respect and requires men to accept responsibility for their past actions and future choices. It requires regular group attendance and needs skilled group facilitators who can challenge denial and minimization, and harness the dynamic of the group to do the same (Mullender and Burton 2000). This intervention has also been found to be the most appropriate for the majority of perpetrators (most perpetrators do not show evidence of psychological or personality disorders) and is less costly than others (Gondolf 2004).
Gender analysis – Gender analysis is thought to be an important element in the work with perpetrators of intimate partner violence. Gender analysis tackles the belief system that convinces male perpetrators that they have a right to control women in intimate relationships. Failure to address this belief system means that men may simply switch from physical to emotional abuse, and women and children will continue to live in fear (Mullender and Burton 2000).
Duluth model - The Duluth model is a widely used approach that includes a component on working with perpetrators of violence. Though originally developed in Duluth, Minnesota (USA) it has been widely replicated. The Duluth model's underlying theory is that aggressors want to control their partners and that changing this dynamic is key to changing their behaviour. Its curriculum uses a ‘power and control wheel’ depicting tactics abusers use to control their partners. Themes counteracting these tactics are discussed in classes and group sessions that attempt to induce batterers to confront their attitudes and behaviour (National Institute of Justice 2003).
Group practice - Another model, group practice, works from the premise that battering has multiple causes and is best addressed through a combined approach that includes an individual needs assessment. Proponents of these programmes believe that a more long-term approach than the Duluth model is necessary (National Institute of Justice 2003).
Programmes based on aggressors’ typologies - Programmes based on batterer typologies or profiles are gaining popularity. These interventions profile the batterer through a psychological assessment, and then classify him by level of risk, substance abuse, and other factors that may influence which intervention is most likely to work for him. Programmes based on this approach are still relatively new and not fully evaluated (National Institute of Justice 2003).
Couples therapy - A controversial intervention is couples therapy, which views men and women as equally responsible for creating disturbances in the relationship. It is widely criticized for assigning the victim a share of the blame for the continuation of violence (National Institute of Justice 2003).
The lack of sound evaluation of programmes with perpetrators makes it a challenge to identify promising initiatives. Nonetheless, two reviews of existing programmes may be of use:
1) Intervening with Perpetrators of Intimate Partner Violence: A Global Perspective by Rothman et al., for WHO (2003). Available in English.
2) Sexual Violence and Mental Health: Analysis of programmes for aggressors of sexual violence by Maria Juracy Filgueiras Toneli (2007). Available in Portuguese.
Among the better known programmes in the US are:
>DULUTH (Domestic Abuse Intervention Project)
>CAMINAR LATINO (Atlanta)
Guidelines to Develop Standards for Programmes Working with Male Perpetrators of Domestic Violence (Dhapne II Project, European Commission). These guidelines were compiled by the consortium of the Daphne II Project Work with Perpetrators of Domestic Violence in Europe - WWP with further elaboration during an international expert workshop in Berlin in 2008. The guidelines address programmes for male perpetrators who use violence against their partners and children living in these relationships. The guidelines are available in Bulgarian, Czech, English, Estonian, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovene and Spanish. See various state standards from the United States of America.
The Respect Accreitation Standard (Respect/the Home Office and the Lankelly Chase Foundation, UK). The Respect Accreditation Standard was developed to ensure quality services across all organizations providing Domestic Violence Prevention Programmes working with male perpetrators of domestic violence and Integrated Support Services for partners and ex-partners of these perpetrators. The document outlines all requirements for the management and operation of these services and how these requirements can be met. Available in English.
AQUILA Working Group (USA). The AQUILA Working Group is dedicated to providing accurate, evidence-based information about batterer intervention programmes and their impact on men who batter. Various resources and publications are available from: http://www.biscmi.org/aquila/
Breaking the Cycle, Fathering After Violence: Curriculum Guidelines and Tools for Batterer Intervention Programmes (Family Violence Prevention Fund, USA) offers information, exercises and more to help batterer intervention programmes. The Guidelines were tested by the Simmons School of Social Work and includes:
Available for download in English.
Fathering After Violence: Working with Abusive Fathers in Supervised Visitation (Family Violence Prevention Fund, USA). This guide is intended to assist the grantees of the Safe Havens: Supervised Visitation and Safe Exchange Grant Program (Supervised Visitation Program) in the United States of America that want to enhance the safety and well-being of women and children by working more deliberately with abusive fathers who use the centres to visit their children. This document was designed to target, in particular, visiting fathers who have been violent with their intimate partners. This guide is grounded on two key premises: men who use violence can be held accountable for their behaviour and simultaneously be encouraged to change it; and women and children can benefit from this approach. The guide is available in English.
Discharge Criteria for Batterer Programmes (Edward W. Gondolf, USA). Clinical judgment typically plays a central role in the discharge of patients from alcohol and mental health treatment. Batterer programmes instead rely almost exclusively on programme attendance to determine discharge. This paper uses a 10-item set of criteria to rate participants in a 13-week court-mandated batterer programme. It concludes with a discussion of methodological limitations, practical issues, and alternative applications of discharge criteria. Available in English.
Domestic Violence and Probation (Fernando Mederos, Denise Gamache, and Ellen Pence – USA). This article offers specialized management techniques that probation officers can use to monitor batterers and intervene in domestic violence cases more effectively. The authors offer suggestions on how to manage offenders on probation, respond to common excuses, and handle those offenders least likely to be held accountable. Some of the tools available include:
The article is available in English.
Guidelines for Men Who Batter Programmes (People Who Work With People Who Batter, USA). It is intended that these guidelines be a guide for new and existing programmes toward the development and delivery of services to men involved in heterosexual relationships who have acted abusively toward a partner or spouse. Available in English.
Man to Man: A Guidebook to Men in Abusive Relationships (Edward W. Gondolf and David Russell - USA). This is a 50-page easy-to-read book with personal accounts and a few basic exercises to get men started working on change and to reinforce domestic violence counselling. The book has five small chapters, including: Facing the Facts; But I'm not Abusive!; It's Not My Fault!; What Can I Do about Abuse?; and How Do I Change? Resources are available for download in English.
Shedding Abuse (Global).This manual developed by networklearning guides the development of workshops for batterers. It lays out the process for establishing the workshops, selecting facilitators/trainers, organizing the group sessions, in addition to providing tools and exercises to be used in the groups. Available in English.
Standards For Batterers Intervention Programmes (Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, USA). This site is dedicated to help people seek information, counselling and other resources that aim to intervene in batterers’ lives. It includes tools such as ethical standards for facilitators of groups for perpetrators, educational and training requirements, service standards and more. Download the standards in English.
Violence Against Women - Synthesis of Research on Offender Interventions (Daniel G. Saunders and Richard M. Hamill, USA). This report provides an overview of the latest research on interventions for men who assault women, such as wives, girlfriends, and acquaintances. The overview begins with a description of the major components of current programmes and then describes what is known about effective assessment and treatment methods. Several topics are covered that are often of interest to practitioners, including methods for enhancing treatment motivation, assessment of dangerousness, and culturally competent practice. The role of research in resolving controversial issues and the characteristics of sound evaluations are also discussed. See the report in for more information.English
Working with Young Children and Their Families: Recommendations for Domestic Violence Agencies and Batterer Intervention Programmes (Abigail Gewirtz and Resma Menakem, USA). This paper is part of series of papers that addresses how to mobilize community and programmatic resources to provide responsive help to children and families affected both by domestic violence and poverty. This particular paper addresses the way to offer support and safety for children while maintaining safety, autonomy and choice for battered women. See the paper in English for more information.
Working with Young Men Who Batter: Current Strategies and New Directions (Dean Peacock and Emily Rothman). This article offers an overview of juvenile batterer intervention programmes. It identifies risk factors for teen dating violence perpetration as described by the literature and considers the utility of these findings, describes efforts to prevent re-offenses by juvenile perpetrators of domestic violence, discusses several shortcomings inherent in post-crisis intervention, and outlines current challenges within the field. See the article in English for more information.
Something my Father Would Do (Family Violence Prevention Fund, USA). This 15-minute documentary shows the stories of three men from different cultures who grew up with abusive fathers and had to struggle with their own choices as intimate partners and fathers. Though originally designed for use in supervised visitation centres, it can be effectively used in batterers’ intervention and fatherhood groups, as well as in workshops and community meetings to discuss issues of family violence and fatherhood. Suggested questions to lead a discussion are included. There are three companion posters, in Spanish and English, which invite fathers to think about their legacy to their children with engaging multi-cultural images and open-ended questions, such as: “You are a role model to your children. Is there anything you would like to change?”. Free copies of the DVD and posters are available in English
Treatment of Young Perpetrators of Sexual Abuse (Save the Children, Sweden). This report summarizes a conference held in Madrid on 6-8 April 2000 by the International Save the Children Alliance Europe Group. It gives and overview of research and knowledge regarding young perpetrators and sexual abuse, treatment possibilities and challenges. The main focus is on the situation in Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Romania, Spain and Sweden. The publication is available for purchase in English and Spanish.
Young Offenders (Anders Nyman Olof Risberg BÃrje Svensson, Sweden). The authors of the book are psychotherapists at the Boy's Clinic at Save the Children Sweden's Centre for Children and Adolescents in Crisis. The book details their experiences of working with boys, initially as victims of sexual abuse to young boys as perpetrators of sexual abuse. The book is available for purchase in English.
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