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Online Training Lesson #6: Fast Facts on Batterers’ Intervention/Treatment Program Effectiveness

Useful Fast Facts

Fast Facts on Batterers’ Intervention/Treatment Program Effectiveness

One important response of the criminal justice system has been to mandate attendance at therapeutic treatment programs for men who have been charged with and/or convicted of wife abuse). While there is little agreement on the effectiveness of such programs, researchers have identified numerous variables that contribute to attrition and/or recidivism, including demographic characteristics, attitudinal and personal variables, and levels of motivation. Yet, prediction of program effectiveness in terms of completion rates and subsequent non-violence, remains difficult.

  • Following intake and an introductory session (8-10 hours), batterers’ treatment programs run once or twice a week for between 16 and 52 weeks;
  • While treatment is often covered by health plans, some providers insist that attendees cover the cost of treatment (often $35-50 per week) from their own funds;
  • There are a variety of intervention models used but the most commonly used in the United States is The Duluth Model, which offers a structured psychoeducational curriculum. This Model, based on patriarchal ideology and men’s individual choice, encourages men to confront their attitudes about control and teaches them strategies for dealing with their partners;
  • In Canada, between 1979 and 1993, 234 programs were established;
  • Researchers estimate dropout rates from intervention programs range from 28 percent to 90 (Faulkner, Cogan et al. 1991);
  • Men who drop out of the program, or who do not even start the program, are more likely to reassault their partners, to continue their erroneous thinking about sex roles and to deny responsibility for the abuse (Scott 2004b;.
  • Treatment drop-outs are younger, have higher levels of lifestyle instability factors such as unemployment, moving often and substance abuse, and have more extensive criminal histories (Rondeau, Brodeur, Brochu and Lemire 2001);
  • Although results of his research indicate that physical violence episodes did decrease between the 15-month and the 30-month follow-up period (following treatment completion), Gondolf (2000c) found that various other forms of abuse continued to escalate over time – at the 30-month follow-up verbal abuse was reported by 75 percent of the women victims and threats by 49 percent;
  • Gordon and Moriarty (2003) found that attendance was important – as the more sessions an offender attended the less likely he was to recidivate, and those who attended all sessions were less likely to be rearrested or reconvicted of domestic violence than those who did not attend all sessions;
  • Edleson (1995) describes program success in terms of “shades” of change ranging from “typically significant positive change” to a total transformation of “men prepared to take social action against the woman-battering culture;”
  • Babcock, Green and Robie (2004) attempted to quantify the magnitude of the treatment effect. They classify the effect size as being in the “small” range because there is a 5 percent increase in success rates attributable to treatment, meaning that a woman is 5 percent less likely to be re-assaulted by a man who went to a batterers’ program – 40 percent of treated offenders are non-violent post-treatment versus 35 percent of untreated offenders;
  • Dobash and Dobash (2000) observe that in a comparison of men who had been in a batterer program with men who had been sanctioned within the criminal justice system in other ways (i.e. fines, jail, etc.) there were statistically significant differences in the use of violence over a three-month and one-year follow up period. Using women’s reports of the violence of their male partners, which differed drastically from police reports and self-reports, it was found that 30% of men in the program group used violence in the three month follow-up period and 33% in the one-year period. But men in the “other” group had rates of 61% and 69%. Interestingly, these researchers also found a concurrent reduction in the use of non-physical violence amongst the men who had completed the program;
  • Nason-Clark, Murphy et al. (2003) found demographic differences between men enrolled in a secular treatment program and those enrolled in a faith-based program:
    • Marriage – men in the faith-based program were more likely to be married and less likely to be single, separated or divorced.
    • Age – men in the faith-based program had an age range of 15 to 76 with the median age being 35.46 years. This was an older group than those in Gondolf’s study.
    • Ethnicity – perhaps based on program location, men in the faith-based program were more likely to be white and much less likely to be African American or Hispanic than those in the four programs reported on by Gondolf.
    • Education – men in the faith-based program were more likely to have completed some years of post-secondary education or to have obtained a university degree.
    • Employment – men in the faith-based program were more likely to be employed and to be white-collar workers
    • Violence in Family of Origin – men in the faith-based program were more likely to have witnessed or experienced violence in their childhood home.
    • One other important finding of this analysis concerns the impact that clergy involvement with these men has on their completion rates. They found that men who were clergy referred to this intervention program had higher completion rates than men who were court mandated, and those who were both court mandated and clergy referred had the highest completion rates – program completion being one indicator of a desire to change.
  • While various researchers have found that violence may initially decrease after treatment, in the majority of cases some form of violent behaviour does escalate over time (Babcock, Green et al. 2004);
  • Intervention/treatment providers report that change happens along a continuum from minor changes in thinking and behaviour for many men to “walking the world in a different way” for a select few.