Gender-Based Perspectives on Batterer Programs: Program Leaders on History, Approach, Research, and Development 9781498519052, 9781498519069

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Gender-Based Perspectives on Batterer Programs: Program Leaders on History, Approach, Research, and Development
 9781498519052, 9781498519069

Table of contents :
Ch01. The Duluth Model
Ch02. Individualized Problem-Solving
Ch03. Clinical Integration
Ch04. Activist Oriented
Ch05. Women Leaders
Ch06. Other Approaches
Ch07. Beyond Abusive Men
A Final Thought
About the Author

Citation preview

Gender-Based Perspectives on Batterer Programs

Gender-Based Perspectives on Batterer Programs Program Leaders on History, Approach, Research, and Development Edward W. Gondolf


Lanham • Boulder • New York • London

Published by Rowman & Littlefield A wholly owned subsidiary of The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc. 4501 Forbes Boulevard, Suite 200, Lanham, Maryland 20706 Unit A, Whitacre Mews, 26-34 Stannary Street, London SE11 4AB Copyright © 2015 by Lexington Books All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote passages in a review. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Information Available Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Available ISBN: 978-1-4985-1905-2 (cloth : alk paper) ISBN: 978-1-4985-1906-9 (electronic)

™ The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of American National Standard for Information Sciences—Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI/NISO Z39.48-1992. Printed in the United States of America

Dedicated to Leslie Dill Gondolf whose spiritual depth, thoughtful care, and unselfed being continue to inspire me


Acknowledgments ix Introduction: Respect, Accountability, and Justice


 1   The Duluth Model Michael Paymar, Domestic Abuse Intervention Program, MN John Beams, Center for Nonviolence, IN Graham Barnes, Battered Women’s Justice Project, MN


 2  Individualized Problem-Solving David Adams, Emerge, MA David Garvin, Alternatives to Domestic Aggression, MI Ted German, Emerge, MA


 3  Clinical Integration Paul Bukovec, Menergy, PA Gary Gibbens, YWCA of Calgary, Canada Chris Huffine, Allies in Change, OR


 4  Activist Oriented Dick Bathrick, Men Stopping Violence, GA Ulester Douglas, Men Stopping Violence, GA Phyllis Frank, Volunteer Counseling Services, NY Hamish Sinclair, Manalive, CA


 5  Women Leaders Toby Myers, Pivot, TX Alyce LaViolette, Alternatives to Violence, CA Sara Elinoff Acker, Men Overcoming Violence, MA Lisa Nitsch, House of Ruth, MD





 6  Other Approaches David Mathews, Domestic Abuse Project, MN Tim Kelly, Changing Ways, London, Canada David Russell, Second Step, PA Steven Pepping, Peaceful Solutions, WA


 7   Beyond Abusive Men Lisa Young Larance, RENEW, MI Julia Perilla, Caminar Latino, GA Craig Norbergn Bohm, Jane Doe Inc., MA


A Final Thought


Index 237 About the Author



The heart and soul of this book is really the frank, reflective, and grounded discussion of the batterer program leaders it features. Their time, effort, and willingness to work with me on the interviews, and make this book possible, are much appreciated—especially considering the leaders’ demanding schedules and workload. The dedication, commitment, and experience of these leaders, and so many others working in the field, are too easily overlooked or slighted. I hope this book brings some recognition and honor to those qualities—and the people who have demonstrated them. I am also deeply grateful to the many behind the scenes who supported the book project and patiently persisted with the labors it entailed. Victor Garcia, Director of the Mid-Atlantic Addiction Training Institute at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, helped to recruit and supervise student staff to transcribe the interviews. Hortencia Correa, Guadalupe Ortiz-Cortez, and Nancy Lopez Sosa did the extensive transcriptions. Lisa McCann and Galen Goldsmith assisted with the later interviews and incorporating my edits. This has been a collaborative effort that invigorated and stirred me. The trust and openness of the interviewees made for an enriching window on the work against the scourge of domestic violence and also revealed the self-examination and awareness that go into it. I’m encouraged, too, by the support and help from the team who so readily and willingly offered to help bring the project to fruition. We all hope that the final product will reinforce especially the ongoing work with men and ultimately advance the field in general.


Introduction Respect, Accountability, and Justice

OVERVIEW Over the last thirty years or more, so-called batterer programs have emerged as an essential means of intervention into domestic violence cases across the country. These programs serve primarily as an educational, rehabilitative, or therapeutic effort for men who have been arrested for violence and abuse against their partners. In most cities, courts refer arrested men to these programs for weekly, two-hour group sessions over a period of three months to a year, depending on the state guidelines and the criminal charges against a particular man. Despite the proliferation and evolution of these programs, there is today increasing controversy over them (e.g., Dutton & Corvo, 2006; Gondolf, 2007). Some of that has to do with poorly implemented programs, cutbacks in funding across the board, detractors with alternative agendas, and increasingly, research that questions program effectiveness (Gondolf, 2001; Jackson et al., 2003). Amidst the cross-currents of accusation and debate, the voices of the program leaders themselves have been slighted, and in some cases dismissed outright (Dutton & Corvo, 2006; Babcock et al., 2007). But so many of the program leaders have much experience, insight, and clarification to offer, not only the debate, but also the field more broadly. What stands out in particular is their honing of the principles of respect, accountability, and social justice— principles that often get overlooked in the prevalent re-conception of programming as merely service delivery or psychological treatment. Moreover, the founding programs in this field are rooted in a gender-analysis of domestic violence (that is, that domestic violence has a lot to do with the distortions of womanhood and manhood perpetrated by society) (see Pence, 1989). The programs aspire to being a “social intervention” beyond their treating court xi



referrals to not reoffend. That is, they see themselves ideally contributing to a broader response of police, court oversight, probation supervision, other services, and community support (Pence & Shepard, 1999). This book explores more of what those longstanding batterer programs are really about by going directly to those who founded them and work in them. In the process, it answers many of the misconceptions and misrepresentations of batterer programs and points out the programs’ contributions and development. The book also offers recommendations to researchers and the field in general that might help strengthen the work overall. The Purpose of this Book More specifically, this book grew out of my previous research-oriented book, The Future of Batterer Programs: Reassessing Evidence-Based Practice (Gondolf, 2012). That book is a critical review of the research on batterer programs in light of the evidence-based practice movement calling for documentation of program effectiveness. Among other issues, it specifically addressed the claims, based largely on a few experimental program evaluations, that batterer programs are ineffective in stopping violent behavior among male domestic violence offenders (men arrested and referred by the courts to weekly educational, counseling, or rehabilitation group sessions). The book reviewed my own research on batterer programs, the research from the domestic violence field in general, and related studies on violent offenders and other clinical populations. This latter category includes areas like sexual assault treatment and community corrections. The book’s more comprehensive review reveals the shortcomings of over reliance on the existing experimental evaluations of batterer programs, and the evidence supporting the fundamental parameters of domestic violence intervention: a gender-based cognitive-behavioral group approach, risk management, and coordinated community response. It also exposes the misuses and distortion of evidence-based practice, as well as its limited conception of “evidence” (see Gondolf, 2012, for a summary). Rather than a verdict imposed from detached researchers based on a few experimental studies, evidence-based practice was initiated in the medical field as a collaboration between researchers and practitioners (Gilgun, 2005; Pollio, 2006). It represented more of a feedback loop and ongoing discourse over a variety of studies. This sort of process appears to be sorely slighted in the criminal justice and mental health fields, according to a number of observers, and was apparent in the course of our research review (e.g., Norcross, Beutler, & Levant, 2005).

Introduction xiii

Several groups of practitioners in the domestic violence field have reacted to the increased disruption and imposition caused by the assertions of evidence-based practice. Some have lost referrals, faced funding cuts, or been put on the defensive. They have increasingly faced backlash and dismissal from some researchers and been denounced as being too ideological, unprofessional, and misinformed, as mentioned at the outset (Dutton & Corvo, 2006; Babcock et al., 2007). Other factions have used these claims to advance couples counseling, fathers’ rights, new modalities, and mental health treatments—all amidst a claim that “women are violent too.” Whether ulterior motives are at play or outdated batterer programming is part of the issue, many practitioners in general claim that much of the negative program evaluations are based on unwarranted stereotypes of their programs, misrepresentations of their approach, and a naiveté about outcomes. It seems logical and important to hear out those practitioners, in a more systematic way, and accommodate their “evidence” in the discussion of program effectiveness and development. This would not only help researchers more accurately represent and study programs, but help the field, and public in general, better understand the nature of the programs and expose their diversity or variation. To this end, this book collects the voice, experience, and wisdom of batterer program founders and leaders through twenty-four interviews. My initial intent was to qualitatively analyze and summarize the interviews in my own words. As I progressed with the interviews, however, I realized how valuable they were in their own right. The full interviews show the experience, logic, and development of perspective and practice within a particular program leader, which is too often missed in an assemblage of disjointed excerpts across a variety of interviews. The interviews, in this way, would expose the internal consistency of program roots, approach, developments, and new directions and thus help counter bottom-line comments and the assumptions drawn from them. I decided, therefore, to let the program leaders speak for themselves rather than be filtered through me. As a result, the collection of interviews also serves as an archive of longterm workers in the field—many of whom are on the verge of retirement. Their experience and knowledge might otherwise be lost or overlooked for future practitioners. The collection of interviews is also a database of sorts that might help to inform researchers, direct them to more meaningful research, and ground research results in actualities of the work. Hopefully, the interviews simulate a dialogue among practitioners, as well. They might help practitioners realize their commonalities and better represent themselves to their critics and public in general. Thus, their own “evidence,” based on years of experience and observation, might be better heard.



Method My approach to the interviews was fairly straightforward. I compiled a list of twenty-four program leaders who have helped found the field and continued to influence its development. They are distinguished by their tenure of twenty years or more (at least half of them had been working for as many as thirty years), starting batterer programs that are recognized as models, and exerting influence through training, speaking, and publications. In selecting the interviewees, I also considered geographic representation, program orientation, and some diversity of emphasis. I circulated an initial list to staff at several of the more prominent programs for additions and verifications, as well. Readers are likely to have their own additions or question some inclusions, but the final set of interviewees, arguably, represents a core of recognized leaders and founders that express prevalent perspectives. As the organization of the book suggests, the interviewees also represent a range of emphasis in their program approach and focus. The various emphases reflect those categories of program approach identified in previous collections of program descriptions (Caesar & Hamberger, 1989; Aldarondo & Mederos, 2002) and national surveys of batterer programs (Labriola et al., 2007; Price & Rosenbaum, 2009).1 The initial interviewees, not surprisingly, reflected these emphases; as I continued to develop the list of interviewees, I made sure to select individuals that filled out the range of categories. The interviews make clear, however, that what appear as “categories” very much overlap and converge on many fundamental aspects, not the least of which is a gender-based perspective underlying the program approach. (The specifics of the overlap and convergence are discussed below.) The semi-structured interviews followed a series of preset questions that addressed the interviewee’s motivation, their program approach, thoughts on special issues (i.e., psychopathology, women’s violence, risk assessment), response to evidence-based practice, and recommendations for improving the field.2 Staff at our research center transcribed the hour-and-a-half interviews. I edited them for redundancies, clarity, and focus, and then returned the edited version to the interviewees for their review, revision, and approval. I re-read the final interview transcripts in total identifying key statements in response to the questions. Those were collated and summarized below as an overview or introduction to the interviews that follow. Four impressions stand out in the interviews overall: 1.  The program approaches described by the interviewees are much more sophisticated and complex than the overgeneralizations and stereotypes of batterer intervention acknowledge.

Introduction xv

2.  The dedication, commitment, and vision of the interviewees reveal a moving self-awareness and ongoing self-examination. 3.  Striking commonalities are apparent across the programs despite the variations in emphasis and their relative autonomy. 4.  The parameters and developments identified by the interviewees endorse and elaborate the findings of our comprehensive research review—as well as question the negative claims of the narrowly conceived “evidencebased practice” that batterer programs “don’t work.” 5.  The information that supports these impressions is summarized below following the order of the questions in the program leaders’ interviews. PROGRAMS Program Approach On the surface, the interviewees as a whole portray a diverse array of program approaches and formats. They, in fact, use a variety of labels to characterize their program approach: gender-based, cognitive behavioral, psychoeducational, power and control, conceptual clarity, transformative counseling, peer-reeducation, nonviolent communication, and eclectic. Most consider their work as long-term group counseling or education, but concede that most men opt for the minimum attendance required by their respective courts. Many programs employ a stage model, some use male-female facilitators, and a few rely on peer counseling. A variety of techniques is also used, including control logs, role plays, abuse history exercises, and peer reports. A few programs are relatively “unstructured,” responding to themes as they emerge in the course of discussion. Regardless of these apparent differences, there are striking similarities across the program approaches described by the interviewees that suggest a unifying convergence around several fundamental themes (see Table 1). As mentioned, the program leaders, even the most clinically-oriented, all draw on a gender or feminist analysis. That is, they view domestic violence as a social problem rooted in the entitlement, expectations, and control men tend to exert over women. Domestic violence in this view is an extension of the pervasive violence that accompanies those tendencies. It appears amidst coed rapes, sex trafficking, female abductions, mass school shootings, sadistic pornography, sexual harassment, and military assaults, committed overwhelmingly by men against women. However, all the interviewees acknowledged that men are hampered and harmed as well by this imposing sense of distorted or hyper masculinity. For



Table 1.   Common Program Features • Gender-based, feminist, and/or male-role analysis of violence against women • Informed by victim experiences and/or advocates input • Safety of women and children as the primary concern, and women as a resource of advice and direction • Attention to imbalances of power, control, and entitlement • Recognition that men are impacted and impaired emotionally by gendered socialization, too. • Respect, empathy, caring, compassion, and support for men to engage and help them • A balancing of challenge and support for men that engages them but also helps to change them • An emphasis on discussions and dialogue amidst curriculum exercises and education • Internships, or on-the-job training, as essential over merely training and manuals • Self-examination and self-awareness valued over graduate degrees and credentials • Commitment to social justice and social change through either community education or community organizing • Assessment of compounding psychological or alcohol problems in varying degrees, and treatment of these problems mostly through referral • Essential role of accountability though court oversight and law enforcement response • Batterer program as part of a coordinated community response that extends beyond the criminal justice system Other Features: Peer-led groups, bringing friends to group, invite probation and women’s services to observe groups, long-term groups, exercises such as: role playing, log books, history timelines, self-care; staged programming, pre-group session, special “high risk” offender group.

instance, men tend to neglect their emotions and physical health, and consequently over rely on women for nurturing and support. The men’s inclinations for risky behavior, aggression, and violence also endanger them. While the safety of their female partners and children are of primary and explicit concern, the program leaders universally see helping men adopt a healthier, gentler, more flexible, and self-aware posture is an essential goal as well. Conveying Respect What is notable about the rendition of this perspective is that it is far more nuanced than detractors acknowledge or are aware of. Even the Duluth Model (that is often misrepresented as highly didactic, confrontational, and structured) promotes and aspires to respectfulness, engagement, group feedback, discussion, and self-awareness. Essentially, these elements reflect the notion of “therapeutic alliance,” central to psychotherapy in general. They model what is most needed to be learned—respecting, listening, and conversing with others, especially one’s female partner and women in general. This also

Introduction xvii

helps to validate the men’s concerns, lower defensiveness, and build a sense of rapport—for a least a substantial portion of the men. Throughout the group process, there is “supportive confrontation,” ongoing questions, and topical challenges of underlying beliefs and the experiences associated with them. As program leaders specifically point out, this is done without causing shame, but prompting men to take a look at themselves, take responsibility for their behavior, and join in a process of change. Interestingly, nearly all the program leaders have moved to a more respectful stance overtime from a more directive and confrontational style of the early years. Most of the programs started in response to the battered women’s movement that brought the issue of domestic violence to the forefront and helped to criminalize it as an act of assault (Shechter, 1983; Thorne & Finch, 1992). As a result, the courts by the late 1980s were referring an influx of arrested perpetrators to batterer programs. As interviewees explained, there was no set curriculum or precedent for working with these men. Some extended the format of their anti-sexist consciousness-raising groups to abusive men; others drew on anger management or other clinical training they had. But nearly every program leader added that their main source of ideas was battered women who shared their own experiences, and also the men in the program groups who they continue to learn from. As several interviewees put it, program development has really been a process of “trial and error” to find out what appeared to work as well as made sense. That might partly explain the notable convergence in the program elements—and the apparent emphasis on process rather than curriculum. At least a few interviewees admit, however, that this shift to a more compassionate view of the men has met with resistance along the way. They recollect the pressure from women advocates early-on to be punitive and to avoid sympathizing with the men. They were warned of a slippery slope of “collusion” with the abusive men in their programs that could be counterproductive. A couple of interviewees added that an “established orthodoxy” from some women’s advocates, and even other men’s programs, persists in places and stifles program development, or at least the chance to openly discuss it. But as one interviewee pointed out, program workers learned that you could be supportive to the men and still not collude. In fact, you become more effective in being supportive; you break down resistance and promote “buy in” to change. Others talked in terms of becoming more nuanced in their approach and appreciative of the “whole man” instead of just his violent behavior. Intervention as a System The program leaders uniformly see their programs as part of an intervention system, reliant on a broader service network, and/or embedded in a



community culture of norms and expectations. Their programs are much more than “service delivery” or bio-medical treatment. As mentioned, they are part of a “social intervention” and need to be recognized as that in order to understand programs and their impact. Police action, court oversight, client screening, victim advocacy, support services, response to noncompliance, probation supervision, risk management, supplemental social services, and so on, all contribute to the program outcome. Most program leaders see themselves working, most importantly, in collaboration with women services in order to get a fuller picture of a man’s relationship in terms of safety and dynamics. But some concede that the association with those services can be fraught with tensions and suspicions. Several leaders point out the benefit from women’s services being part of their agency and the helpful exchange of information that results from it. There is some notable variation in the implementation and expectation of “a coordinated community response.” The primary effort is to work with the court to ensure consequences for non-compliance and accountability for the man’s behavior. It exercises the “stick” in the classic “carrot and stick” approach to behavior change. Other programs, especially the activist-oriented ones, have a cautious view of the criminal justice system. The system has its own problems of competence and fairness, and fails to address the broader issues of social change. The activist emphasis is to do more to organize and activate men to work for change in the community at large. Some with this viewpoint see those relying heavily on the criminal justice system to be naïve to the small percentage of abusers they actually impact in a community. Whereas, those working for a community coordinated response question the effectiveness of the activist programs considering the smaller number and more selective clients they tend to serve. Program Administration An aspect of the programs that gets much less attention is administration and organizational structure. There is variation here as well, but it is less likely to directly impact service delivery. Several of the programs are free-standing agencies with a broad array of services and outreach. They are built around a director and permanent staff with a business model that relies heavily on user fees and external funding. Some possible benefits are the clear lines of responsibility, a more stable organization, and efficient decision making. These programs may also offer services for women who have been violent and treatment for men who have been violent to nonfamily members, as well as programs for youth who have been involved in dating violence. A few programs are affiliated with women’s services in a way that insures interaction between the women’s and men’s program leaders and as a result

Introduction xix

an ongoing sharing of perspectives and learning. One leader promoted the benefit of being part of a larger umbrella agency to help ensure funding, facilities, and staffing in a way that free-standing programs often cannot do in today’s economic climate. Another leader talked of being more a consensusbased collective in which decisions and visions were shared, resulting in greater staff unity and energy—as well as a power-sharing rather than “power over others.” A few more loosely organized program networks had the versatility and flexibility to do community organizing and special projects beyond maintaining men’s groups. In sum, there appeared to be acknowledged tradeoffs and benefits from the different organizational structures, but with no emerging consensus about any “best model” overall. Staff Development A variety of ways to recruit and develop staff were mentioned—some programs look to those interested in other social justice work, others to students drawn to the program as interns, and at least one program relied on men “graduated” from the program itself. However, the program leaders all looked for a sense of self-awareness, willingness to learn, and an understanding of gender-issues in potential staff. While group skills are ultimately helpful, most interviewees questioned clinical or psychological training as sufficient. They noted that most graduate programs do not offer much about domestic violence, and some of what is taught has to be unlearned. In particular, the program work demands a broader view of the “presenting problem” and appreciation for community connections, than the narrow focus instilled by most clinical programs. Moreover, becoming proficient in the work takes much more than a specialized three-day training or curriculum manual. Interviewees saw staff development as a long-term process of internships or co-facilitating. While most of the programs have maintained core staff over many years, several interviewees acknowledged concern about turnover in younger staff due to heavy workloads and low salaries. In sum, any sense of a unified plan for staff recruitment and development seems, overall, still in the making. OTHER ISSUES Psychopathology Another area of general consensus but mixed response is the issue of psychopathology among program participants. All of the program leaders acknowledged that some of the men have psychological problems that need further



attention, but generally they see that portion as fairly low. Many of those men self-select out of the program and ideally find their way to other treatment. The more clinical-oriented programs attempt to address the problems with special attention in the groups or supplemental individual counseling. Others programs, according to their leaders, refer men to additional services if they appear to need extra help. They may accomplish this through an extensive intake interview that includes some assessment for compounding problems, or look to the men’s performance in the groups for indications of further treatment needs. Some programs also draw on risk assessment instruments or look to established risk factors to identify the most potentially dangerous cases, but there is as yet no uniform or systematic risk management procedure. The more clinical programs do attend to personality disorders as well as trauma and depression, but most are concerned especially with those men with sociopathic tendencies and highly resistant men. They may need more intensive supervision from probation, or specialized groups that a few batterer programs have developed. There is at least an implicit sense that the “problem” cases are ideally addressed in a coordinated community response. That is, linkages and communication across the victim advocates, court personnel, batterer program staff, and treatment providers help to contain resistant or high risk cases through what amounts to a broad-scale intervention rather than by the program alone. Regardless, the program leaders, across the board, believe that men with a variety of backgrounds and issues benefit from participating in batterer programming, first and foremost. Many doubt whether it is even practical to count on overcrowded mental health clinics or services, and whether their treatment can have an impact on the men’s violence generally. In their analysis and experience, the violence is not “caused” or “rooted” in the psychopathology, but instead exacerbated in many cases by it. Different Backgrounds The empathy cited by the interviewees extends to other forms of differentness. The program leaders expressed concern about the cultural and social differences experienced by African-American, Latino, Native-American, and gay men, as well as women who have used force. In fact, the interviews include program leaders who have developed specialized programs for these groupings and those who integrate men with different backgrounds into their mixed groups. The sense overall is that there are shared oppressions that need to be acknowledged, and empathy that needs to be shown from the mainstream group members, as well as from the group facilitators. One program leader explained that it is a matter of drawing out the men of different backgrounds and listening more carefully to identify their issues.

Introduction xxi

Of particular concern is the fact that so many of the men with different backgrounds have suffered severe violence or abuse themselves, and the trauma that often results from that. Many of the African-American men have encountered gang attacks and have had family members or friends murdered. Latino men have been assaulted or imprisoned in the course of migrating to the United States. Certainly, many of the Native American men suffer from the poverty, alcoholism, and depression that come from the reservation history in our country. Obviously, there are some advantages derived from working with such men in a setting that focuses on their unique situation, as well as some advantages that come from mixed groups where commonalities with other men surface as well. In either case, the social, ethnic, and racial differences continue to warrant more attention and program accommodation. Women’s Violence Another of the other controversies besetting the established men’s programs is the claim by some factions that women are as violent as men, and domestic violence treatment ultimately needs to include women or at least adopt a gender-neutral couples approach. These assertions have been debated and debunked since a national survey of “conflict tactics” raised the issue in the early 1980s (Straus, Gelles, & Steinmetz, 1980). The program leaders, who founded and developed the prominent men’s program, acknowledge women’s violence but, not surprisingly, see it in different terms. As many others have put forth, women’s violence tends to be less severe, more often related to being abused themselves, and motivated and experienced very differently than the men in the groups (e.g., Saltzman, 2004). As one of the latter interviews discusses, programs for women who use force against their partners are being developed around the country and expose very different uses of violence, experiences that contribute to them, and disclosures of violent events. The men program leaders are, moreover, quick to point to the context of domestic violence, in which men’s violence, in general, overwhelmingly permeates society. The prevalence of male violence in itself suggests a gender-based nature of so much of the violence against women.

RECOMMENDATIONS For Researchers One of the biggest challenges facing batterer programs more generally comes from the evidence-based practice movement (Gondolf, 2015). In particular, a



handful of experimental program evaluations have produced results that indicate little or no effect from batterer program treatment versus nontreatment control or comparison groups (e.g., Jackson et al., 2003). While these “bottomline” conclusions are debated by researchers and practitioners alike, the interviewees added their own response to the claims that batterer programs “don’t work.” Admittedly, most were not fully informed or were dismissive of the research claims, but they did acknowledge the need for research and evaluation of programs—but of a different kind and with more sophistication. According to the program leaders, researchers need to work more closely with practitioners in a “give-and-take” relationship, and more fully understand what actually goes on in the programs they are evaluating (see Table 2). Practitioners need to be involved especially in interpreting and applying research results, along with input from community and organizations representatives. Ideally, more practitioner-initiated research or “participatory and action” designs are needed, as well. A more fundamental need, according to the interviewees, is for more nuanced and complex outcomes that recognize the process of change, rather than “snapshots” of recidivism. Qualitative studies of women’s well-being, as well as women’s safety and agency (i.e., ability to exert power and enact decisions), would help broaden the outcomes beyond narrowly focused indicators. Case studies of program participants that explore how and why men change are another repeated recommendation. Furthermore, well-established Table 2.   Research Recommendations • Directly observe programs and their group process to understand what is actually being evaluated • Develop more nuanced and complex outcome measures to capture the array and progression of the change process • Conduct more qualitative studies of women’s experience over time, noting changes in their well-being and agency, as well as safety • Develop case studies of men in programs identifying their change process and what “works” for them • Study successful programs and the program components associated with change • Address the program context and its influence on outcomes for the individual program participants and the community at large • Examine the impact of violence toward women in the community at large and efforts to change community norms • Consider practitioner input and experience in interpreting results, as well as formulating projects • Establish collaborative and mutual researcher-practitioner partnerships (with genuine give-and-take), and use practitioner-initiated and action research designs • Involve community representatives and organizations in interpreting, discussing, and implementing research findings

Introduction xxiii

and successful programs might be examined to identify the program components associated with the change process in men. The main objection to the current program evaluations is that they fail to adequately consider program context—the influence of court oversight and response, women services and advocacy, and mental health and addiction treatments, in particular. The evaluations impose a service delivery or bio-medical treatment model on programs that act more broadly as a social intervention. Some interviewees go further in calling for evaluations focused on the implementation of coordinated community response and, additionally, the impact on community norms and behavior. Are batterer programs really getting at the cultural roots of what is a social problem? In sum, the interviewees feel that the available research does not really show what can work and with whom, and it has failed to substantiate any “better” approach over the prevailing programs. What stands out the most is the striking gap between practitioners’ perspective on research and program evaluation, and researchers’ conceptions, designs, and procedures. For the Practice Field For the most part, the program leaders see the principles and foundation of their work as justified, and their application of those continually evolving. As mentioned, all of them report changes in their approach over time, and particularly it’s becoming more nuanced and compassionate. A few pointed to the need to expand that program development to include the clinical advances in related fields, with such things as enhanced case management and staff supervision, and new treatment skills like motivational interviewing (see Table 3). Other interviewees talked about the importance of initiating their own research through collaborative relationships with researchers in order to answer questions about their own programs and areas of need. Extending relationships among practitioners was also recommended as an important resource. Several of the interviewees cited the need to converse more regularly and openly with other program leaders in order to learn from each other and develop new ideas and directions (as well as address the crisis in funding nationwide). There is no national association or regular conferencing to do so, and that contributes to some sense of isolation, competition, and even rivalry, according to a few of the interviewees. The interviewees are aware, as well, of the unevenness, incompetence, or misrepresentation of some programs in the field. Most hold mixed views of state-based program standards as a means for “quality control.” The standards vary substantially from state to state, are too difficult to enforce, and often suppress innovation. To address this problem,



Table 3.   Practice Recommendations • Convene national meetings or association to share information and common concerns • Promote more discussion and dialogue to support and learn from each other • Establish ongoing practice-driven research that offers programs helpful feedback and documents program accomplishments • Learn more about current clinical developments and research, such as motivational interviewing and trauma-informed treatments • Use more case management and staff supervision to improve quality of service • Find ways to expand financial and funding support for programs in order for them to survive • Develop new younger staff and put them in positions of authority • Work more on prevention through community education and organizing • Build alliances with other progressive movements and organizations to leverage broader change • Voice more widely “what we stand for, what we do, and why we do it”

they suggest more technical assistance and training which most of the interviewed program leaders are already involved with at some level. Many of their efforts unfortunately are weakened by the funding cutbacks across the country and subsequent questions about the utility of weak batterer programs. Finally, the program leaders continue to promote the importance of community collaborations in stemming violence against women, and recommend doing more to breakdown the barriers that impede them. There continues to be a want of more work on prevention of violence against women through community organizing and education that goes with that effort. A couple of leaders raised the need to reach out even further to other progressive movements and organizations in order to check the conservative backlash, and leverage broader change in the community and society at large. Most all the program leaders, however, shared a common start point: Voice more widely and emphatically what they stand for, what they do, and why they do it. That in itself could do much to affirm their grounded principles, deflect the misrepresentation of programs, and help promote the developments in the field. Hopefully, this collection of interviews furthers that effort. May it also confirm the accomplishments and contributions of these leaders and their programs, and the foundations they built over time. Edward Gondolf, Mid-Atlantic Addiction Research and Training Institute Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana, PA

Introduction xxv

NOTES 1.  These available collections of program descriptions and surveys of programs identify the following approaches 1) pro-feminist or feminist programs with an primarily educational approach based on an anti-sexist philosophy, 2) cognitivebehavioral or psycho-educational programs with a more interactive format focused on thought-patterns and techniques to restructure them, 3) social-psychological or integrative programs that draw on a variety of psychological exercises, therapeutic techniques, and dynamic aspects to also address mental health and personality issues, 4) community activist oriented programs which emphasize organizing and educating community leaders and institutions toward changing social norms that support domestic violence, and 5) multicultural approaches that are sensitive to the needs and issues of particularly African-American and Latino men. In the national survey (Price & Rosenbaum, 2009; n=276), over half of the program respondents identified their approach as some variation of the Duluth program, which was also considered as “pro-feminist,” but that identification significantly overlapped with indications of psycho-educational or cognitive-behavioral aspects. Approximately one quarter of the responding programs indicated a “therapeutic” approach that suggested a more psychodynamic or psychotherapeutic treatment. In recent years, there has been a rise in a variety of other treatment considerations, as well: anger management, motivational interviewing, individual counseling, skill-building, strengths-based programing, solution-oriented focus, narrative therapy, trauma rehabilitation, neurobiological treatments, gender-neutral interactions, and couple dynamics, dialectical behavioral therapy, and compassion workshops. The response to the survey, however, included only about 15 percent of the identified programs. There is no comprehensive survey, inventory, or database of programs that would offer the prevalence or integration of these additional approaches, as well as the extent of batterer programs in general. Conferences, trainings, and publications suggest, however, that the main categories identified early-on account for the majority of programs, even though those are admittedly evolving and accommodating a more holistic framework. State standards and guidelines for batterer programs, moreover, tend to promote variations of the Duluth program and gender-based cognitive-behavioral treatments and thus reinforce their prominent place in the field (Bennett & Piet, 1999; Maiuro & Eberle, 2008). Our categorization of interviews is, therefore, used with caution. While they suggest certain emphases in program approach, they belie the commonalities, overlap, and convergence among the programs represented in the interviews. On one hand, previous overviews of batterer programming do propose a progressive evolution of program approaches from the early anti-sexist educational curriculum of the initial Duluth program to more integrated social-psychological programs that are also cultural sensitive (Mederos, 2002). On the other hand, our examination of program development and accompanying research (Gondolf, 2012) suggests an evolution of convergence and development that cuts across the program categories. The interviews in this book appear to confirm that convergence and overlap.



The programs, as the book’s subtitle suggests, are gender-based in their approach and philosophy. This orientation is expressed in varying ways across the interviews, but fundamentally considers the violence to be an extension of masculine beliefs and attitudes toward women and woman’s safety and well-being as a primary concern. It is a guiding backdrop if not an explicit focus throughout, in contrast to the sometimes competing emphasis on individual psychopathology and couple interactions. The gender-based orientation is at least in part due to the founding of the predominate programs in the midst of the social justice, feminist, and battered women’s movements that extended into the 1980s and beyond. All of these contribute to what is sometimes labeled a “sociopolitical” perspective, but more basically a broader view of domestic violence as a social problem. This leads to a notable qualification of the final set of interviewees. While the interviewees arguably represent well-established and influential programs, the collection of interviews with programs founders and leaders does not necessary cover newer program approaches, many of which have not, as yet, gained prominence or wide acceptance. It consciously attempts to glean the practitioner perspective that has shaped and led the field albeit with increased competition, opposition, and misrepresentation. 2. These issue related to psychopathology, women’s violence, and risk assessment have come to dominate discussion at regional batterer program conferences, as well as practitioner newsletters and academic journals (e.g., Corvo & Johnson, 2013; Hamel, 2010; Hanson, 2005).

REFERENCES Aldarondo, E. & Mederos, F. (2002). Programs for men who batter: Intervention and prevention strategies in a diverse society. Kingston, NJ: Civic Research Institute. Babcock, J., Canady, B., Graham, K., & Schart, L. (2007). The evolution of battering interventions: From the dark ages into the scientific age. In J. Hamel & T. Nicholls (Eds.), Family therapy for domestic violence: A practitioner’s guide to genderinclusive research and treatment (pp. 215–244). NY: Springer. Bennett, L., & Piet, M. (1999). Standards for batterer intervention programs: In whose interest? Violence Against Women, 5, 6–24. Caesar, P., & Hamberger, L. (Eds.) (1989). Treating men who batterer: Theory, practice, and programs. New York: Springer Publications. Corvo, K., & Johnson, P. (2013). Sharpening Ockham’s Razor: The role of psychopathology and neuropsychopathology in the perpetration of domestic violence. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 18, 175–182. Dutton, D., & Corvo, K. (2006). Transforming a flawed policy: A call to revive psychology and science in domestic violence research and practice. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 11, 457−483. Gilgun, J. (2005). The four cornerstones of evidence-based practice in social work. Research on Social Work Practice, 15, 52–61.

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Gondolf E. (2015). The evidence-based practice movement: Contributions and controversies. In R. Scott & S. Kosslyn (Eds.), Emerging trends in the social and behavioral sciences. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons. Gondolf, E. (2001). Limitations of experimental evaluations of batterer programs. Trauma, Violence, and Abuse, 2, 79−88. Gondolf, E. (2002). Batterer intervention systems: Issues, outcomes, and recommendations. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications. Gondolf, E. (2004). Evaluating batterer counseling programs: A difficult task showing some effects. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 9, 605–631. Gondolf, E. (2007). Theoretical and research support for the Duluth Model: A reply to Dutton and Corvo. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 12, 644–657. Gondolf, E. (2012). The future of batterer programs: Reassessing evidence-based practice. Boston: Northeastern University Press. Hamel, J. (2010). Do we want to be politically correct, or do we want to reduce partner violence in our communities? Partner Abuse, 1, 82–91. Hanson, K. (2005). Twenty-five years of progress in violence risk assessment. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 20, 212–217. Jackson, S., Feder, L., Forde, D., Davis, R., Maxwell, C., & Taylor, B. (2003). Batterer intervention programs: Where do we go from here? (NIJ Special Report). Washington, D.C.: National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice. Labriola, M., Rempel, M., O’Sullivian, C., & Frank, P. (2007) Court responses to batterer program non-compliance: A national perspective. Final report submitted to the National Institute of Justice, Washington, D.C. Maiuro, R., & Eberle, J. (2008). State standards for domestic violence perpetrators treatment: Current status, trends and recommendations. Violence and Victims, 23, 133–155. Mederos, F. (2002). Changing our visions of intervention: The evolution of programs for physically abusive men. In E. Aldarondo & , F Mederos (Eds.), Programs for men who batter: Intervention and prevention strategies in a diverse society (pp.1/1–1/23). Kingston, NJ: Civic Research Institute. Norcross, J., Beutler, L., & Levant, R. (Eds.) (2005). Evidence-based practices in mental health: Debate and dialogue on the fundamental questions. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Associations. Paymar, M. (2000). Violent no more: Helping men end domestic abuse, 2nd edition. Alameda, CA: Hunter House. Pence, E. (1989). Batterer programs: Shifting from community collusion to community confrontation. In P. Caesar & L. Hamberger (Eds.), Treating men who Batterer: Theory, practice, and programs. New York: Springer Publications. Pence, E., & Shepard, M. (1999). Developing a coordinated community response. In M. Shepard, & E. Pence (Eds.), Coordinating community responses to domestic violence: Lessons from Duluth and beyond (pp. 3–25). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Pollio, D. (2006). The art of evidence-based practice. Research on Social Work Practice, 16, 224–232.



Price, B., & Rosenbaum, A. (2009). Batterer intervention programs: A report from the field. Violence and Victims, 24, 757–769. Saltzman, L. (2004). Definitional and methodological issues related to trans-national research on intimate partner violence. Violence Against Women, 10, 812–830. Schechter, S. (1982). Women and male violence: The visions and struggles of the battered women’s movement. Boston: South End Press. Straus, M., Gelles, R., & Steinmetz, S. (1980). Behind closed doors: Violence in the American family. New York: Doubleday. Thorne-Finch, R. (1992). Ending the silence: The origins and treatment of male violence against women. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press.

Chapter One

The Duluth Model

The Duluth program for men arrested on domestic violence charges continues to be the most prominent, or at least best-known, batterer program in the country. It was one of the initial programs founded in the late 1970s largely in response to the battered women’s movement of that time. Ellen Pence with Michael Paymar developed the “Duluth Model,” as it is more properly referred to, in response to concern from battered women about the lack of criminal justice response to domestic violence in the town of Duluth, Minnesota. They first worked on promoting collaboration among police, the courts, women’s services, and probation, and then extended that effort to a program for arrested men coming out of this collaboration. As the interviews in this section point out, the foundation of the program was a kind of consciousnessraising among the men through a “dialogical” format (discussion-oriented) focusing on the men’s socialization, responsibility for their behavior, and how to change it. The Duluth proponents see the men’s program as embedded in a “coordinated community response” that emphasizes linkages and collaboration with especially the criminal justice system, along with other community services. But the men’s program itself has been singled out for its curriculum and approach nationally through trainings throughout the country and state-wide standards and guidelines that recommend aspects of the Duluth program. The program has probably become best known for its “Power and Control Wheel” that illustrates various forms of controlling behavior associated with men’s violence against women, and rooted in society at large. The initial wheel has been followed up by a companion “Equality Wheel” that shows alternative respectful behaviors for men to work towards. According to the interviewees and proponents of the Duluth program in general, many of those professing to employ the Duluth Model, however, focus on the wheel as an instructional 1


Chapter One

tool and neglect the “dialogical process” and coordinated community response that are essential to the programs implementation. Critiques of the Duluth program, on the other hand, consider it rigid, didactic, confrontational, shaming, ideological, and ultimately ineffective. The interviewees counter that these characterization are a misrepresentation of the conception and intent of the program, and are a short-sighted view of outcomes and the broader community-based intervention. Perhaps because of the Duluth’s program prominent and historical role in batterer programming, it is simply a convenient target for criticism and competition. The interviewees, however, not only point to the misrepresentation of the Duluth Model, but also emphasize the social movement aspect of which they and the program are ultimately a part. In their mind, they are also participating in an effort for institutional reform, community change, and ultimately, societal change. That is a different perspective than the critics and researchers have grasped or accepted. The first of the interviewees is Michael Paymar, a founder of the Duluth Model with Ellen Pence who stood as a leader in the domestic violence movement until her recent passing. Michael not only worked in the program during its early years, but also coauthored the popular manual on the Duluth men’s program. He has extended his involvement in the field as a state representative, author of updated books on the Duluth program, and director of a center for education in social justice. An interview with John Beams follows. John brings out how his Center for Nonviolence in Indiana grew out of his work as a civil rights lawyer and learning from battered women’s advocates and victims. He has also been a national trainer for the Duluth Model, along with directing his center with his wife, Beth, through a consensus-building approach to administration. Graham Barnes, the third interviewee, adopted the Duluth Model in New Zealand and later worked with Ellen Pence in Duluth, Minnesota, promoting coordinated community response through “safety and accountability” audits across the country. He continues this work nationally through his position at the Battered Women’s Justice Project based in Minneapolis. MICHAEL PAYMAR Michael Paymar, MPA, is the co-founder with Ellen Pence of the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project, in Duluth, MN—also known as the “Duluth Model.” He and Ellen Pence coauthored the initial book on the Duluth Model, Education Groups for Men who Batter (1993). In 2003, Michael Paymar and Ellen Pence published the curriculum, Creating a Process of

The Duluth Model 3

Change for Men Who Batter (revised 2011). Michael authored Violent No More: Helping Men End Domestic Abuse in 1993 (revised 2000, 2014). He also produced an award-winning documentary on men’s violence against women called With Impunity: Men and Gender Violence, which aired on Public Television. A few years ago, Michael and Ellen started Education for Critical Thinking, a nonprofit organization seeking to reduce gender-based violence through prevention. Michael served eight years on the Duluth City Council and eighteen years in the Minnesota House of Representatives, where he was a leading advocate for addressing issues of violence, crime, and human rights. As chair of the Public Safety Committee, he was the chief author of major legislation on domestic and sexual violence, sex-trafficking and gun violence prevention. Q: How did you get started in your work with Ellen Pence, a founder of the Duluth Model, and batterer intervention work? A: I was elected to the Duluth City Council in the 1980s, and in the ward that I represented, there had been a number of rapes. I was trying to get the community involved and was challenging law enforcement to do more to protect our neighborhoods. At that same time in Duluth, Ellen Pence was just starting her work with the criminal justice system on changing their practices for intervening in domestic abuse cases. About eight men, including me, were recruited to a meeting to hear about this new project that Ellen and other battered women’s advocates were developing—the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project (DAIP). There was something about that meeting and in particular Ellen that gave me this feeling that I was going to have a long relationship with Ellen—and get intimately involved in gender violence issues. Ellen and I became close friends and were colleagues for over thirty years until she passed away in early 2012. Q: How did you get from there to establishing the “Duluth Model”? A: Duluth was one of the first cities to adopt a police policy that required officers to make an arrest if they had probable cause that an assault had occurred. This was a radical departure from the existing policy that gave officers the discretion to arrest or not. As part of this innovation, DAIP worked with the city and county attorneys to draft policies that required the prosecutions of offenders, with or without the victim’s testimony. For two years, Ellen and her team also negotiated with other criminal justice components and social agencies involved with domestic violence cases. In 1981, eight agencies and DAIP called a press conference to announce what was the first coordinated community response (CCR) in the country. All of the agencies agreed to allow DAIP (a nongovernment organization) to assess compliance by interveners and identify problems in the system that


Chapter One

needed attention. This CCR became what is known as the Duluth Model—an interagency collaboration around domestic violence cases. The Duluth Model featured swift consequences, centralizing victim safety, offering rehabilitation to offenders, and the coordination of the agencies involved. In my estimation, this model is our legacy. Q: What about the men’s program within the coordinated community response? A: The judges along the way said, “You have to do something with especially the first-time misdemeanor offenders. We simply can’t put them all in jail.” They asked DAIP to work with the mental health agencies to provide court-mandated groups for men who batter. DAIP was reluctant to send offenders to these agencies, because at the time they were intent on doing couples counseling. As an alternative, we contacted Anne Ganley to teach a few of the cooperating agencies about anger management with offender groups. Anne Ganley was a psychologist working with domestic abuse offenders at Veterans Administration clinics in the Seattle area. In the mid-1980s, we realized our court-mandated anger management programs were lacking. While the men in the groups were learning some skills, the groups never focused on the intentionality of their violence. The men were saying things in group like: “I’ve got an anger problem, I have a short fuse, and when I get provoked, I just lose it.” The therapists would say things to the men like, “You have to stop letting her push your buttons.” The groups became all about the behavior of the women who were being battered. After numerous discussions with groups of battered women about what was going in their lives, Ellen and I embarked on a long journey to create a new approach. We spent a year writing a curriculum that we called at the time Education Groups for Men Who Batter. We brought a small group of people working on domestic violence issues from across the country to evaluate our curriculum. The group included Barbara Hart, an attorney who at the time was with the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the late Susan Schechter, author of Women and Male Violence, Joe Morse and Miguel Gil from Emerge, and Coral McDonnell from the DAIP, along with Ellen and myself. Ellen and I began our two-day meeting by explaining how our new curriculum focused on a myriad of causal explanations for why men batter—all the different factors commonly discussed today, thirty-five years later (e.g., alcohol abuse, poor impulse control, childhood trauma, stress, fear of abandonment). After hours of debate, Barbara Hart said, “I think you’re just missing the ‘guts’ of the issue. Let’s face it, men batter women because they want what they want, when they want it.” We were soon overwhelmed with the simplicity and honesty of an explanation that got to the very heart of how and

The Duluth Model 5

why men believe they are entitled in our society. That was a game-changer for me. I had been involved in the civil rights movement, but I just didn’t “get it” when it came to gender. Q: There are so many different characterizations of the Duluth men’s program. How would you describe it, or characterize it, to the public in general? A: There are really two major pieces of misinformation that have contributed to confusion about the Duluth Model. First, people talk about the Duluth Model with the assumption that it’s a men’s treatment program. The men’s program of the Duluth Model (which I think is quite effective) is really secondary compared to ensuring that we have effective interventions to keep victims safe. The essence of Duluth Model has always been the establishment of an effective coordinated community response (CCR). Many communities claim to have a CCR, but this is often a once-a-month task force meeting to talk about issues. The Duluth Model is an ongoing, interagency approach where intervening agencies have collective intervention goals. The second major issue has to do the intention of the men’s program. It’s not about shaming, belittling, or bashing men; it’s about helping them make positive choices. The premise of the Duluth curriculum is that men’s violence against women is learned behavior. Men who abuse their intimate partner do so because, on some level, they are convinced they are entitled to call the shots in the relationship. For instance, they get to end a dispute when they want it ended on their terms. Through a group process, we help the men acknowledge their abuse, accept responsibility for its impact on their partners and their children, and take specific steps to change. Additionally, the men explore their actions, intents, and beliefs that support equality with a woman. If they’re willing to stop battering and change their beliefs about women, entitlement, and what it means to be a man in an intimate relationship; many of these men will find love, trust, and commitment. It’s their choice. Q: The Duluth men’s program is most noted for using the Power and Control Wheel (a diagram of the nature of domestic violence and related abuses) as a central part of its curriculum. A: As I mentioned earlier, the program started with an anger management approach. When we recognized what was missing with this model, we knew we wanted to implement a more cognitive-behavioral approach. This started by asking battered women in support groups what kinds of abusive behaviors, or what kinds of tactics, were being used against them by their abusive husband or boyfriend. We organized what they told us on the Power and Control Wheel to illustrate the experiences they reported to us. There were many more such behaviors than the ones listed on the Power and Control Wheel, but those on the wheel were the most frequent and imposing kinds of behavior.


Chapter One

So the Power and Control Wheel was really a way to explain battering. The physical and sexual violence on the rim of the wheel is what holds it all together. A lot of women will say to us about their partner, “He doesn’t use physical violence that much in our relationship anymore. But now he uses these other abusive tactics (intimidation, threats, coercion, degrading, and humiliating emotional abuse) that are on the spokes of the wheel, and they are as powerful as getting beat up. The Power and Control Wheel has been translated into twenty-four languages, and battered women globally resonate with the tactics it shows. At the heart of the Duluth men’s program, however, is the group process for learning and change. Both Ellen and I were influenced by the work of the late educator and activist Brazilian Paulo Freire. The “critical pedagogy” put forth in his popular book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, had a profound effect on us when we were contemplating our work with men who batter. So we invited Freire to Minnesota to help us think through the best way of working with domestic abuse offenders. We liked his educational approach of engaging with the men in dialogue about the issue of male superiority, about objectifying women, and about marriage in general. The approach was to enter into a dialogical process with the men that would start them thinking more critically about these issues. In dialogue, men become more reflective and gravitate to a more equal way of being with a woman. It’s admittedly a difficult process that not all counselors and facilitators can master. Dialogue without analysis can lead to collusion with the men, unintentionally or otherwise. Also, change doesn’t happen right away, but we’re planting the seeds for men to start thinking differently about what they want in an intimate relationship. To help with this process, we also designed what we call the Equality Wheel, which juxtaposes the more controlling and power behaviors in a relationship to ones based on respect and egalitarianism. Q: What are the main changes or developments in the program over the years? A: Ellen and I wrote the first curriculum and then we wrote a book called, Education Groups for Men Who Batter, drawing on our work. This is when other batterer programs started to use the Duluth curriculum, but so many fell short of what we intended. For instance, when we said things like, “You should challenge or confront certain kinds of thinking,” we never intended it to mean in a confrontational, shaming, or punitive manner. We also didn’t intend for the program to be reduced to teaching the Power and Control Wheel. Training facilitators and counselors who wanted to use this model wasn’t easy. We were saying that your approach and the dialogue in the groups must come, like Friere said, from a “loving place,” and not from a confrontational place. We simply don’t learn much through confrontation. So, we started to

The Duluth Model 7

train differently—we changed some of the language and tried to teach the steps of engaging in dialogue without colluding with the men, over sympathizing with them, or inadvertently reinforcing their excuses. We also started to focus more on the Equality Wheel, and ask more what an intimate relationship might look like. I think that emphasis helped improve how people were doing the groups. But keep in mind that I don’t think that simply going to three-day training and buying a curriculum necessarily makes you a good facilitator. Q: What does it take to be a good facilitator? A: First, you really must be genuinely curious about the basis of the group participant’s attitudes and beliefs by asking probing questions without a lot of judgment. For instance, a lot of men still have a sense of entitlement about who they are as a man in a relationship with a woman. Instead of saying that is wrong, as a facilitator, you engage that man about where that sense of entitlement comes from. He might talk about the way his father was, or what he saw in his neighborhood. We can then start to see the short-sightedness of those beliefs—how they’re not helpful. These sorts of discussions can be a very, very powerful experience as men in the group go deeper into their beliefs and also see the self-defeating consequences of their violence. Early in this work, the battered women’s movement was very cautious and very skeptical of the men who were doing this work, and they had some good reasons for that. Even though we had a pro-feminist analysis, they thought that we would end up siphoning off a lot of the resources that should go to battered women’s shelters. They also thought that even men who were working on gender issues would end up colluding with the men in their program groups. We had to get over that and see that we could be loving, caring, and therapeutic with the men in our program without colluding with them. When we really believe that each man in that program has the capacity to change, the men get that; they can feel it. And that can start a process of change in a man that makes a difference in his relationships. Q: What do you think about the increased attention to psychopathology as a root cause of men’s violence, whether it be the mass killings that have happened recently in schools, or domestic violence cases referred to a batterer program? A: I grow weary of the debate sometimes. One part of me says that a lot of these psychological theories are just being repackaged and renamed. On the other hand, there’s a kernel of truth to all those theories and related approaches. It is true that most men in batterer programs experienced childhood trauma, for instance. The interesting thing is that girls and young women experience abuse and rape inside and outside their homes, yet they don’t act out in the kinds of aggressive and violent ways that men do. When you look


Chapter One

at the sixty to seventy school shootings in the last fifteen years, you see that they have all been perpetrated by young men. So there is something about the gender issue that we can’t ignore. A lot of the people who employ an approach fixated on psychopathology want to believe that men and women are equally responsible for the bulk of domestic violence that happens in a relationship. This is not true, but some practitioners are making such claims. These same people think we can stop the violence by simply getting men and women to communicate better. Just teaching communications skills to men who batter is counterproductive—it may be dangerous to battered women unless these men are making significant shifts in their thinking. Moreover, you can’t just send everyone to mental health counseling; there are just not the resources to do so. I had to fight hard in the legislature to get money to shelters that were closed down during the recession, and those that are grossly underfunded to begin with. So, would I put the little available money in our state budget into battered women’s shelters, or would I put it into elaborate programing for offenders? One of the attractions of the Duluth program, in this regard, is that it strives to be economical and efficient, as well as effective. Ultimately, we should be having a discussion about all of this amongst ourselves in our communities, rather than getting into a war of words about what works and what doesn’t. Q: Some researchers suggest that there may be different types of batterers, including a portion of men who are impulse-driven beyond just their beliefs and need a more psychotherapeutic approach. A: Some of these men may have psychological problems. They may have personality disorders or may be substance abusers. We don’t deny the multitude of problems that they may have, or co-occurring conditions when they are court-mandated into our programs. What we are saying is that, underneath all of those sorts of problems, is this fundamental belief system that men who batter have around entitlement. Until the men think more critically and reflectively about their relationship to the women in their lives, and examine their beliefs about their own superiority over women, they are not likely to have a respectful, equal, and intimate relationship with a female partner. At the same time, there are men who I worked with that just did not belong in our groups. We often referred them out to mental health agencies for additional evaluation and treatment. I’m not opposed to men going to a therapist. I’m not opposed to marriage counseling either, if the offender has completed a traditional batterer program and the practitioners are relatively sure that the victim feels safe. To achieve this, however, you need to have a cooperative relationship with agencies in your community for referral and backup, and I think that’s what’s missing in a lot of places.

The Duluth Model 9

Q: How do you answer the assertion that batterer programs don’t work, and in particular that the Duluth program isn’t effective? A: I think that the Duluth curriculum was harmed by the earlier experimental evaluations in Broward County and then Brooklyn, New York. They both claimed to be evaluating Duluth-type programs and found little or no effect in recidivism compared to control groups. There were a number of methodological flaws in that research that weren’t fully acknowledged, as several researchers have pointed out. At the same time, I’m not aware of anyone who has come up with research that shows any other approach is superior. Moreover, the Duluth Model—not the treatment program by itself, but the Duluth model that includes a highly functioning CCR—is still a more effective approach at insuring that offenders don’t recidivate. So maybe we need to do the research differently to account for that. The bottom line for me is: Has the quality of life for a battered woman changed when her partner is involved in a program that uses the Duluth curriculum or other cognitive-behavioral treatment models? These are the kinds of questions that need to be asked, rather than just focusing on re-arrests. We need studies that not only look in-depth at the women’s experience, but also closely observe the program process to see if it is really doing what the Duluth curriculum intends. Is it truly dialogical around gender issues? Do beliefs change? Does controlling behavior along with the cessation of violence occur? In sum, the claims of “don’t work” are the result of a lot of misinformation and a lot backlash against an analysis that gender plays a major role in domestic abuse. Until I see research that conclusively says another model works better, I’m not going to spend a lot of my capital on trying to argue the issue. Q: What sort of recommendations do you have for the field? Where should we be going from here? A: I think that batterer programs need to have a better relationship with the battered women’s movement and shelters. We need to develop a unified front in explaining the power differential between men and women in domestic violence cases in a way that people can understand. If we don’t do that, we’ll lose the arguments about batterer programs and domestic violence in general. We need to say what we stand for; we need to say what our principles are about; we need to talk about victim safety. I remember Ellen saying to me that she was getting tired of battles about what works and what doesn’t. She felt that the biggest thing that we were able to accomplish in Duluth was giving a clear message of community deterrence, “You don’t get to beat women with impunity; you just don’t get to do that anymore. And if you do, there’s going to be consequences for it.” Yes, we will give each offender an opportunity to rehabilitate himself and change, and whatever model ends up doing that, so be it. But it’s not going to be the


Chapter One

overly expensive or complicated programs in our communities that survive. I still believe in that overall message, and the fundamental principles that accompany it. Q: What’s sustained you over all these many years that you’ve been involved in this work? A: I did not intend on staying in the field as long as I have, but the work was, and in many ways still is, exciting. As a long-time activist, gender violence touches on the things that I care about—justice, civil rights, reform, civil society, and social change. The “personal is the political” of this work requires ongoing personal introspection. Another part of my continuing in this work is that I was able to do a lot of international work over the years. I realized how much work we still need to do in order to make even a dent in gender violence globally. A training that I conducted in Tajikistan, for instance, reminded me of the daunting challenge women face around the world. Advocates told us that the number of self-immolations in their country was staggering—battered women couldn’t escape their abusive husbands, the police never arrested offenders, and there weren’t shelters—it was that desperate. In addition to doing this work (including writing books and curricula, and doing training and lecturing), I got elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives in 1996. I could translate what I had learned about domestic violence into legislation that would have an impact on victims of gender violence across my state. The Public Safety Committee that I chaired had oversight over the courts, corrections, the human rights department, crime victim programs, the Department of Public Safety—it was a perfect fit for me and I’d like to believe that I made a difference. The work that I’m doing currently has more to do with prevention—what I’ve thought of as the “next frontier” in the domestic violence field. Before Ellen Pence passed away, we started a nonprofit organization called Education for Critical Thinking (ECT). We really wanted to get back to the basics, especially since so much of the work in the domestic abuse field had become psychologized and increasingly professionalized. Ellen decried, for instance, the fact that the battered women’s movement was becoming so dependent on getting grants and operational money that a lot of the analysis about the roots of men’s violence against women was being neglected. As a result, we produced an award-winning documentary With Impunity: Men and Gender Violence, that focuses on the history of men’s violence against women. It exposes the social pillars that support oppression, the culture influences on men and boys, the backlash in the field today, and the need to refocus and change our community’s attitudes and norms. My wife Laura Goodman, who had a long career in law enforcement, and other colleagues

The Duluth Model 11

are building on the documentary and growing ECT in new directions. We continue to lecture and train nationally and internationally as part of this aim. Our main aim is to engage community organizations and individual men to challenge and change the social norms that perpetuate men’s violence against women. JOHN BEAMS John Beams, JD, LSW, co-founded the Center for Nonviolence in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in 1981 in response to the social movements calling for social justice. The Center not only established a program for men who batter, but also broadened to include programs for women and youth in multiple languages. John and his wife, Beth, who helps coordinate the Center’s women’s program, have also been national trainers for the Duluth Model of domestic violence intervention since 1996. John’s many honors include “Co-citizen of the Year” from the Indiana Chapter for the National Association of Social Workers and the “Exemplary Service to the Community” award from the NAACP. He co-authored the Indiana Standards for Batterer Intervention Programs, and has authored articles for the Bulletin of Peace Studies Institute and Changing Men Magazine. John continues to integrate his concern for social justice, attention to women’s experience, and emphasis on a coordinated community response with a process of Frierian dialogue among men who batter. Q: How did you begin in this work? What brought you to it? A: I had no intention of “founding” an agency. I had a civil rights law practice when we started this. My partner Beth and I had put our two sons, Jonathan and Garth, into a little alternative elementary school, a parent-run cooperative. I became friends with two of the teachers—Sox Sperry and John Edgerton—and joined them, along with several others, in starting a men’s consciousness-raising (CR) group. We met for three years in the mid-1970s, while our partners were off organizing around women’s health issues and founding a rape crisis center (which still operates). The men’s CR group would meet every week and talk about the supportive role men can play in a world where women are becoming more empowered and equal. We started an activist speakers bureau we called “Men against Violence against Women” to be allies with the women organizing against rape, pornography, and domestic violence. Richard Johnson and Jane Mildred went to St. Louis to do a presentation on the Rape Crisis Center. They met Craig Norberg of RAVEN (“Rape and Violence End Now”). Richard came


Chapter One

back talking about how RAVEN was working with abusive men and suggested that we stop just talking and take more action. I was still practicing law at the time, and got a call from Steve Sims, the new prosecuting attorney. Steve had noticed that rape survivors who had had peer counseling from women of the Rape Crisis Center were better able to follow through as witnesses in court. He wondered about peer counseling for men who batter. He proposed a pretrial diversion program. We opened the doors of the back room of my law office and let the men in. We changed our name to “Men for Nonviolence.” Q: Were there any other turning points that led to your evolving into the program you are today? A: transitional moment came at the Pottstown, PA conference in 1982 called “Visions for Batterers Programs.” It challenged us to get beyond “helping men change” toward more focus on accountability and organizing a coordinated community response. The women who organized the conference emphasized that patriarchal power was screwing up the world, implying that we men may be part of the problem. If we were serious about making a difference, we better take a crash course in women’s reality and align ourselves toward accountability for men’s violence. Several men got up to walk out in the middle of a presentation, but Barbara Hart saved the day by negotiating a shift in tone. She and Ellen Pence got honest with men without driving off those who had trouble being confronted. Those of us that stayed were brought into a realization that if men are going to do this work, we have to stop putting ourselves first. As Barbara Hart later pointed out, “You guys are so arrogant! How do you figure that, if abusers have been lying to us women for millennia, they are suddenly telling the truth just because they are in your presence?” So, humility about working with men was hard-wired into us. We were taught not to go around telling people these men’s programs “work.” Ellen Pence, who founded the Duluth Program, instilled a sense of lightness and curiosity: “Let’s don’t take ourselves too seriously; maybe batterer intervention doesn’t change these guys the way we wish, but, we just have to do it!” I can’t speak for other people in the field, but that’s sort of been the spirit in which I’ve worked over the years. It’s annoying to me, therefore, to be expected to compete with people who want to prove to the world that what they do “works” and what we do doesn’t work. I just feel that self-promotion cuts against the fundamentals of what we men need to manifest, which is humility in this day and age. I think this paradigm difference explains why we’ve been so miserable at defending ourselves and our work. Q: What has sustained you over all these years? A: It’s really a combination. First, the enthusiasm we have about social change— “the arc of history bending for justice.” It’s about being part of a

The Duluth Model 13

process of liberation that benefits victims, but also those on the other side of the issue, the perpetrators. The second part is that the Center for Nonviolence tries very hard to maintain a spirit of community that is a wonderful support to us all. Finally, and maybe most important, entering daily dialogues about nonviolence and equality enriches my partnership with Beth, my connection to my children, and my relationships with friends. I think everyone who works here feels the same way. Men and women working in a shared cause has sustained us. In the mid1980s, Men for Nonviolence was a volunteer batterers intervention project facilitated by men. We saw it as the work of male allies within the women’s movement. But working separately as men we lacked the presence, involvement, and guidance of women within our organization. So after a couple of years we changed the corporate name from Men for Nonviolence to Center for Nonviolence. We asked two women’s advocates—Sherry Hesting and Beth Beams—to join the Center in order to run support groups for survivors. These survivors organized a “women’s collective” which became the central body. The women’s collective was given final approval over selections to our “coordinating panel” and responsibility for monitoring the work of the men’s program. Eventually, we came to recognize male-female teams within men’s groups as the best practice (but women batterer program staff, like male staff, do not provide direct service to victims or survivors). Working as a consensus-based collective has sustained us. We now have the men’s batterer intervention program, a women’s program for survivors, a mothers’ group that helps with nonviolent parenting, a court-ordered women’s group for women who have used force, and youth groups working on nonviolence. Each program—men’s, women’s and youth—is operated as a semi-autonomous “collective.” The collective members—program facilitators—make policy by consensus. Our board of directors is called the “coordinating panel” (calling them to a spirit of collaboration). Their job includes seeking input from the program collectives before they make major policy changes for the organization as a whole. The consensus process, of course, takes a lot longer to get to “yes,” but once you do, you don’t have people who have voted against it going around badmouthing it. The process also enhances our listening skills: we have to listen to people who disagree with us, and then come up with proposals that we can either all say “yes” to, or “I accept what the majority wants, and will stand aside.” That’s a real different energy from a boss is telling everybody what to do. I think that makes the work more attractive to the kind of people who are interested in this field, because the collective process is an antidote to our society’s leaning towards authoritarianism, the use of “power-over” tactics to settle our national and local problems.


Chapter One

Q: Would you characterize or describe your approach to the men’s program and what distinguishes it? A: I would put it into the gender-based, cognitive-behavioral mode. But more specifically, we’ve been using the Duluth Model as the basis of our program at the Center for Nonviolence. In fact, I have been teaching the Duluth Model for about twenty years all over the United States to people who come from all over the world to get this training. At the Center, we run about twelve men’s groups a week—one in Spanish, one in Burmese, and the others in English. Each group has two staff facilitators. In the early 1980s, we created our own curriculum and then discovered Ellen Pence and Michael Paymar and got their training for the Duluth Model. Over the years, we’ve made progress in understanding the centrality of facilitating authentic dialog in working with men who batter. Our staff has tried to honor our founding principles—equality, women’s empowerment and nonviolence—as we work with the men. This clarity about principles helps the men feel that I, as their facilitator, know who I am and know where I stand. But, if I’m doing my job right, I’m not beating them over the head with my knowledge. My task is to pose questions, to be interested in their process of change, and to believe that the curriculum is the primary contradiction or confrontation to their way of thinking. I don’t have to pick at them with an aggressive confrontational tone, in order for them to be confronted by the information that they’re being exposed to. Q: And how would you characterize the format? What goes on in a group? A: When we’re lecturing to a group, we’re probably losing the battle. The whole idea of the Duluth approach (inspired by the work of Brazilian educator Paolo Freire) is to gather the experience of the people in the room, and then help them see their own experiences through new eyes. The way I, as a participant, get “new eyes” is to find ways to externalize my experience so that I can examine it in a less defensive or personal way. Facilitators pose questions based on the men’s experiences; we pose questions to help them name the beliefs that have guided their thinking and behavior. We ask them to imagine new alternatives. We sometimes show vignettes on DVD. The vignette arises from women’s stories of their abuse. The men definitely recognize themselves in it. Those role-play videos help the men externalize their own experience to make examination easier. Our goal is really to enable men to tell the truth about things they’ve been through that relate in some way to the curriculum. Their stories can be either stories of their own abuse of their partner, but they can just as likely be stories of a moment when they actually demonstrated loving and positive behaviors, based on principles of respect and equality. We also use “control logs” of abuse in relationship situations or “equality logs” to examine behaviors of respect. After years of focusing only on the

The Duluth Model 15

“control logs” of men’s abuse, the Duluth people came up with “The Equality Log.” It’s been magical in helping our men recognize how often they do good things, which removes shame from the process and in turn makes it easier for them to own up to their harm and control. When talking about the themes of emotional abuse versus respect, for instance, we ask the men to log a time when they used emotional abuse. Or, we ask for a time when they felt like abusing their partner, but demonstrated respect instead. We follow-up with questions like, “Why did you make a choice to be respectful? What were you thinking? What was your belief at the time, and what were you feeling?” Because a man is telling his own story, he’s being honored, in a way: “This is your story. This happened to you. Tell me more about it.” As you listen to everybody’s story, it’s amazing. Every guy that used emotional abuse had it blow up in his face; in some way something bad happened. Every guy that demonstrated respect found things turned out okay. They wonder what that’s about: “Do we have choice, do we have free will? Can we actually decide to do it that way? And why wouldn’t we?” It’s so interesting. As a facilitator, I’m trying to find out what makes people change by interviewing these guys and engaging them in the process of change. I have to add that there are people doing what they call the Duluth Model and doing it poorly. They have not taken time to understand and master the Duluth Model, or they merely grafted some of the Duluth material onto their own model, but tell people they “use” the Duluth Model. They rightly are being criticized by researchers, but then the Duluth Model gets painted with that same brush. Q: One of the challenges to the Duluth Model is the notion that psychopathology is an underlying contributor to the violence and needs to be addressed in programs. How do you answer that claim? A: Historically, I would say that the men in our program are mostly “just guys” with a “garden variety” of personalities. There are some guys who clearly have anger problems. But most of them don’t. It may be that we have a little higher proportion of men who have mental health problems than in the general population. Intuitively, I put it in the 10 percent range. I don’t see that mental health issues define most of our men or account for their violence overall. In our trainings we ask a panel of survivors to tell stories about the men who abused and assaulted them. I sometimes ask myself if the men who show up for our groups are the exact same population that is being described anecdotally in domestic violence trainings. I’ve wondered if the men these women are profiling are the “untreatable men”—men who are so sociopathic that the only appropriate intervention for them is containment, so as to give the community time to provide their victims with avenues of safety. I suspect that most of the “relentlessly violent” men don’t make it to—or through—a batterer program. We sometimes sense which ones they are, but we are not


Chapter One

equipped to diagnose. These few men are very difficult for anyone to treat effectively in any modality. At the Center for Nonviolence, the women’s collective—staffed and administered separately—monitors our men’s groups, and does partner contacts and advocacy. When we have any concern about continued or escalating abuse, our task as an agency shifts to containing the man and promoting safety for the victim (safety planning strategies, and resources). The man may still come to class, but the women’s program works to protect the victim. I think there’ve been a couple of times we’ve saved lives through this process. Our first task is to do no harm. Because we’re trained to be humble, we don’t have any delusions that we’re actually changing all these guys. But at least we give the man’s partner or victim an hour-and-a-half of freedom a week, during which an advocate can call her and discuss her situation. Our effort was to design a system that makes it more likely that she will be safe if the man continues to abuse. The effort to warn and protect the victim may be the difference between her being safe and being hurt or killed. Q: Is this your answer, as well, to the claim that batterer programs don’t work? A: I think our programs do work, for most participants. Ninety percent of the 350 men who go through our program annually say it helps. Anecdotal partner feedback is promising. This is not validated data, but I do not concede the mantra that batterer programs don’t work. Having said that, if the only success measure were outcome data on our group work, a man who is expelled for continued violence would be considered a failure. But if you’re looking at the big picture, our whole program may have succeeded in being an agent of victim safety. It may have failed by one measure, but it succeeded by a more salient measure. News of a violent scenario alerts our women’s program staff to work more closely with the victim to welcome her, provide information and heighten her protection. We turn to the courts to better contain or supervise the man. Working in community collaboration like this makes the difference—a difference that needs to be recognized. Q: A current trend is for more clinically-focused programs that focus primarily and almost exclusively on the man and his problems. A: Terry Moore recently compiled all university and statutory requirements in Indiana that relate to social work, psychology, and family and marital counseling. None of them requires even an hour of domestic violence. You can become licensed in all those fields and not know a thing about domestic violence. Furthermore, clinicians are not oriented toward system accountability and victim outreach. “Clinical bonding” is at odds with taking external accountability measures. Similarly, the hard-wiring of clinical programs to principles

The Duluth Model 17

of confidentiality too often redirects clinical programs away from tightlyadministered judicial reporting and victim outreach. Certified batterers providers, on the other hand, are trained as much in accountability as in skillful group work. Also, batterer providers know—to promote safety and avoid blame-shifting—their work must be kept separate from direct victim service. Q: What do you see to be the main challenges we face in the field more broadly? A: There’s an inexorable drumbeat toward replacing radical education with psychotherapy as the intervention. The drumbeat is driven by staff attrition. For an activist to come into this work and do it fairly well, he has to get a lot of training to run groups skillfully. So, “Why don’t we just hire a therapist trained in group skills?” Because therapists are not necessarily trained in interagency coordination, social change, cultural influences, and liberation. I feel sad to see the loss of activists in this field. Another challenge is how our very organizations may replicate the abuse we seek to reduce. I hear too many stories about authoritarian administration of mental health delivery and a heavy focus on the bottom line. If we can’t figure out how to run a small nonprofit organization in the form of a democratic partnership, how can we ask abusers to switch away from being authoritarian? Engagement in the Coordinated Community Response to domestic violence is really the basis of the Duluth Model. In Duluth trainings, I often hear: “When am I going to get time to do that? (i.e., no billable hours). We are so busy surviving that we can’t look at the root issues.” Q: How do you maintain or develop a Coordinated Community Response (CCR)? A: It can certainly be difficult to do. One problem is attrition in the system. The judge, prosecutor, and police move on and new people come in. You start all over. Too often the second or third generation of people comes with a form of resistance that the original generation did not have. Because they have read some articles, they may think they’ve heard it all. The second and third generation of office holders can use the “lingo” of collaboration but may not want to do the hard work of keeping victims first. Outside advocates are written off as strident or naive. Because outside advocates are in the trenches and see the suffering first hand, they come in with a sense of urgency. Office holders tend to rely more and more upon less controversial inside advocates instead. The second problem is that there’s a hardening of the arteries. Once an agency starts getting federal money, doing what worked when they wrote their first grant, they keep “Xeroxing” the next grants. I once got a request, due “yesterday,” from a prosecutor’s office to sign off on a STOP grant application: “I hereby certify that the Center for Nonviolence is an agency in


Chapter One

collaboration with the prosecuting attorney’s office…” I wanted to be cooperative, but it wasn’t true. They’d sent us a few cases, but they hadn’t shown interest in cross-disciplinary meetings to talk about the hard questions. Q: That’s a disconcerting exposure of the challenges underlying CCR implementation. A: It comes back to foundational questions, about hierarchy and power and control, among all the people who have constitutionally-created offices. They do not have to collaborate with anybody. Survivors of violence, however, don’t have a constitutional office. Their survival depends on the community really working together. Q: You mentioned that you see this work more as “a movement.” What do you mean by that? Maybe that accounts for some of these current challenges. A: I think of a “movement” as a ubiquitous, dynamic, social process in which change is in the air, and people have to choose sides. They’re either for a certain movement, or they’re against this movement. The women’s movement can rightly be called a “movement” in these terms. Women’s shelters and batterer programs have been an outgrowth of this movement from the mid-1960s. But in some ways the battered women’s movement has stalled. Much like the movement against Jim Crow, it has been reversed in some ways. It used to be that whenever batterer intervention professionals discussed why men hit their wives they would talk about gender role conditioning. Now, that is often brushed aside and even at times challenged as a cause. We really don’t have to choose sides like we did in the late 1970s. Back then, we had the wind at our back; we were driven by the force of that movement. We could see evidence that the social change we fought for wasn’t just about getting violent men to stop, but it was linked to women’s struggle for equality, which, in turn was linked to other movements for social justice. There was a shared vision of ending the legacy of slavery and colonialism. That feeling of participating in a movement toward global change provided reinforcement and energy that is stalled today amidst the conservative mood of the country. It changes the way people see the problem. Q: From the outside looking in, it sounds like you’re pretty much reduced to being a social service agency. What makes you more than that? A: That is how much of the community wants to keep seeing us. There’s a tendency for everybody to get into a normative mindset by which they see the world in this ordinary, bureaucratic mentality: “Let’s all just do our jobs and not make waves.” But I think the Center for Nonviolence has a history of activism that causes most people—at least around here—to feel differently about the Center. They may not be able to put it into language, but they know that we have addressed civil rights issues; we have written letters to the editor; we have organized rallies and protests. When we give speeches on do-

The Duluth Model 19

mestic violence, we ask why our national wealth is so often spent on violent solutions; we organized Nicaragua brigades in the 1980s. One judge stopped referring to us because I wrote an editorial comparing batterer’s tactics to U.S. policy in Central America. Much of that activism is in the past, but I think people still feel its pulse vibrating in our present work. Q: How do we recruit, train, and inspire a new generation to carry on the work you describe? A: Our era is over. The young men and women who are getting interested in this work cannot have the experiences that we had in the 1970s and 1980s. It leaves me trying to inspire others with what inspired me. But the same words that have guided me cannot mean the same today, because the context is so different. We have to figure out a new way to name and identify the lessons and foundations of the past in a way that young people can appreciate. Yet, there are plenty of young activists. When we first started in this work, I thought that men would go through our program and would naturally become inflamed with resolve to take up the work with other men. We tried and tried. One by one, they would do it, but their biggest stock-in-trade was always their personal story of being a batterer. There came a time when they just couldn’t tell that story again; so they left. In the late 1980s, on the way back from a brigade project in Central America, I was talking with a friend about his life. I couldn’t help but pop the question: “Why don’t you join our men’s collective, and learn how to do this work?” And he did! (He is still on our staff.) He sold his shotgun to pay his program fee. Back then, we still required a man who wished to volunteer as a facilitator to pay his way through the program first as a participant. But we found that it was white people who had the privilege of joining us as volunteers. Only after we moved from volunteer to paid staffing did we begin successfully to develop staff diversity. I’m still looking for young kindred spirits who understand the legacy of colonialism and are passionate about liberation. To me, it doesn’t matter what realm of oppression/liberation they understand. Young people who are passionate about social justice are scattered all over the world. Whenever we find them and put into shared language what is thrilling about batterer intervention, we can see the light bulb go on. A number of young activists have worked with us, then moved on. They tend to remain vigorous allies of the Center for Nonviolence and of this movement. Can any activists in the younger generation carry this work forward over the long haul? Right now, there are nine of us in the men’s program collective. Six of us have been doing groups for over twenty years. We have three “next generation” facilitators who have a chance to stick with this work. So we’ll just have to see what lies ahead. It’s increasingly in their hands.


Chapter One

GRAHAM BARNES Graham Barnes, BSW, has been a resource specialist with the Battered Women’s Justice Project in Minneapolis, Minnesota, since 2005. He consults with federal grantees nationally on developing their coordinated community response to domestic violence and teaches Duluth’s Creating a Process of Change For Men Who Batter, the updated Duluth program curriculum that he coauthored. Previously, Graham facilitated batterer program classes at the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project (DAIP) in Duluth, conducted a class for men coming out of prison in Minneapolis, and served as a Team Leader for DAIP’s National Training Project. In 1990, Graham was the founding coordinator for the men’s program at New Zealand’s Hamilton Abuse Intervention Project, a national pilot that adapted the “Duluth-Model” to a New Zealand cultural setting. He also worked closely with Duluth Model founder, Ellen Pence, on the “Domestic Violence Safety and Accountability Audit” which underlies his current consulting and teaching. Q: How did you get started in this work; and what motivated and sustained you? A: I initially became interested in social issues. It was during high school when I started reading authors like Vance Packard. I was a really voracious reader through high school and not particularly good at sports. But in New Zealand where I grew up, rugby was the way young men were expected to perform. I really didn’t like rugby and wasn’t very good at it, but it gave me an analysis of hierarchical behavior and influenced my thinking about violent behavior. I put all of it together a bit later when we formed a men’s group in my mid to late twenties. We formed a social collective that was involved in anti-racism. Ours was a social action men’s group. I got involved really at the urging of my wife who was going through a major feminist awareness. She was saying “I’m in a women’s group; you should join a men’s group.” She was suggesting that I do that because we were really not getting along that well. She saw things really differently than I did. The men’s group made me see things in myself that shocked me. It made me connect my social analysis about gender with my own personal experiences. Through my marriage break-up, I realized, “Oh, my gosh this is about me as well as her.” I felt terrible because even though I hadn’t been physically violent, I realized that I had been emotionally abusive in ways that I couldn’t have learned without having couple’s counseling with an excellent counselor who was quite confrontational. So that is what helped me to be able to see the issue of gender and the impact of my own socialization. You can’t do this work very well with other

The Duluth Model 21

people until you’ve sorted out yourself. It wasn’t until I really had to do that with myself—and it was very painful, but it was good—that I became ready to help others. Q: How did you transition into a men’s program specifically for men who are violent toward their partner? A: Our initial men’s group was much more involved doing community development: we were doing more anti-racism work than we were doing gender work. I was a single father by that stage, raising my children, and also a foster child. I was living on a single parent benefit and working voluntarily with the men’s group. Occasionally, we connected with a women’s shelter, called a “refuge” in New Zealand. The staff there wanted us to do men’s groups with abusive men. We checked with groups around the country that were also considering doing a program for abusive men. We started using the Emerge curriculum because that was the materials that were available. We didn’t know much about the Duluth curriculum at that point. About 1982 we started a program based on what we were learning about combining the curriculum with anger management. We really didn’t know what we were doing, but we were doing it in partnership with the women’s refuge. The refuge staff was great to work with: they were very supportive. We would also go on the radio, and do protests. We were a very active group. We would object to liquor license renewals of bars doing wet T-shirt competitions. And we were successful. Q: What’s kept you going for the last twenty years? A: It must be tied up with who I am. What I most want to do is work for social justice. This is partly why I am able to mix work and my life so comfortably. When I think about how I moved over to live in the United States, it was because I just really wanted to work with Ellen Pence who founded the Duluth Program. She had a big impact not only on my work life, but also on my social life as well. How she lived, what she cared about, and the way she thought, changed and shaped how I thought and lived. It just seemed like a very positive thing for me and for my family. Q: How would you characterize your approach to the domestic violence work? A: One is what I learned from Ellen Pence, which is about understanding in the context of how systems work; how the men’s program is really just one component within the community, and that we really have to take a much broader view of change. We can’t have too big of an expectation of individual change when we ultimately need to address the whole way we live. The difficulty is that we have been too focused on the groups rather than how our systems intervene, including the criminal justice system. The Duluth Program is really about a coordinated community response, and that is such a complex


Chapter One

system to evaluate, because each community will have its strengths with the various parts: how well 911 works, how well law enforcement works, how well the courts intervene, how well probation does their part, how well the men’s program reports to probation, how well the program orientation is done, how well the groups are managed, how well the facilitators work together, and how well the curriculum is implemented. Then how well are these components coordinated. Each of these parts has a bearing on the experience of the men who end up in the program. In the men’s program itself, I do a lot of role playing, and I use an educational approach. It works better for me when we act things out. I am used to doing it that way, but a lot of group facilitators are not used to it and therefore shy of doing role plays. I take abusive or violent incidents and replay them, and then we would all replay them, trying to have the men respond in a different way. Most often the men love doing it. They are really engaged when they do role plays and get such helpful feedback. If a man is doing a poor job, everyone can see it. I could say to even a new man in the group, “What do you say to that?” He might answer, “I just don’t think that he is telling the truth.” He might not even know this other man, and yet would say that to him because they are all right in the moment. They will just keep working over the incident together until they get it right. They will know when it feels genuine and when it feels non-abusive. They look for an “equal power” solution to a “power over someone” problem. They end up describing why a way of saying something to their partner is abusive, and another response does not feel like a put down. And it really is powerful. Q: How do you respond to the view that the Duluth Program is too confrontational—that it puts down or shames the men? A: It’s true that sometimes that’s how the Duluth Program is used. That is a disappointing way of using the curriculum, because when people are not familiar with how to use the program, or are not very skilled, then that’s how sometimes it is done. It’s certainly not how we teach others to conduct the program, but that doesn’t stop some people from doing it that way. I know first-hand that we have certainly not been teaching that way for many years. Nothing in the last two versions of the manual would suggest or promote what the critics accuse us of. Some people imagine that that’s what we say, but that is not what we teach. Q: How have you seen your views and your approach change over the years, if they have at all? A: I have become much softer in the way that I facilitate. I used to be much more confrontational. I think it has been good for me to lighten up at bit. Some others use the equality log more than I do. I am still much more inclined to use role play and facilitate the men’s involvement in it rather than

The Duluth Model 23

make the points myself. I’ve learned to leave things a little bit open and not feel like you have to bring all the the points home. People need to walk away saying “Hmm, I wonder….” I want them to keep thinking about it. I want them to be moved, but not so moved that they are frightened or disturbed. I want to push them, but not too fast. So there is a process of knowing how far you can push someone before you push them too fast. You are looking for that, so that you are bringing everyone along with you. That process is really sustaining and enlivening, not exhausting. Q: How has the field changed overall? A: A big challenge for the programs today is that we have to do the same or more with less. Many programs are in a business model that is so tight with just providing services, but they also need to work in a community coordinated response. A service provision model can only pay for a small segment of that. Men’s programs probably need to collaborate more with advocacy programs in a way that helps them both survive with the limited funding and still maintain a coordinated response. It is looking desperate for some programs unless they have some other form of credibility and support. Q: Many programs are attaching to mental health services. How do you feel about that as a direction? A: That may be one way to go, but unfortunately, a mental health program doesn’t necessarily enforce the community coordination work. An advocacy program will give credibility to all the safety and system work, where a mental health program could work against that or simply neglect it. I can’t see how the community coordination work would be enforced unless there is staff that make that their personal priority. Moving the men’s programs to mental health agencies might only reinforce the program service, but leave the other community organizing and system change work undone. Q: What is your view on the increasing attention to the psychopathology of these men and treatment of trauma, attachment disorders, and personality issues? A: I don’t think that men’s groups are in a position to do that because they are not resourced to do so. Also, some men’s programs do individual assessments, but what are they doing with the information they are gathering? Are they in a position to follow up with the information they are gathering? Are they making appropriate referrals, informing victims, or treating men for these problems? Q: Some programs are trying to address such problems in the course of the program itself by bringing in more psychological techniques and therapy. A: Are they going to increase the cost of the program as a result? Who is going to pay for that? I think it’s really good to be able to address those pathologies. Over time we are going to have to respond more effectively to


Chapter One

these and other problems. There are people going to prison for things that they probably should not be going to prison for. Some of the offenders may not be willfully responsible for their crimes. We are still in the early days of working out brain damage and dysfunction and their role in violent behavior. That whole field has a lot of development still to happen. Q: How do we integrate the understanding of how trauma works in individuals without losing the sensitivity to the social context you’ve talked about? A: We want to respond respectfully and appropriately to the soldiers who are coming back from war with traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder. We are still struggling to figure out how best to help these men. We need to hold them responsible for their violence. Men’s programs are still not in a position to figure out what to do about that. But they still have to be really careful because a lot of psychologists and psychiatrists are going to get that balance wrong. Their training wil lead them toward a “medicalizing” approach. As a result, they will be less likely to deal well with the underlying beliefs about male roles and masculinity, because that’s often not a part of their core training. They may see that as “too political,” plus it’s also so endemic in our society that it’s also likely to be how they do things themselves. They may not even be able or willing to look at themselves, and that’s one of the strengths of our movement—we look at problems within ourselves as much as we look at the problems of the men we’re working with. Q: What is your response to the ongoing claim by some that domestic violence programs are ineffective? A: Many men’s programs are not as effective as we would like them to be. There are some that are probably quite ineffective; partly because the community-coordinated responses are not developed. Some of them are not very effective because they are not very good programs in themselves. They are not run very well. Q: What can or should be done to help address what you just described? A: The court system and government agencies can take a much more supportive approach to improve the programs. One of the most important things is for partner agencies in the coordinated community response to provide more support to batterer intervention programs. Some already do, but many don’t. In most cases, they need to provide better information when they make referrals. Also, if a man they refer doesn’t comply and follow up with the referral, the agency needs to back up the batterer program at every stage. They need to do their part. I’d estimate that 80 to 90 percent of the coordinated community responses are not doing their part. They also need to find a way to help low-income men afford the cost of attending batterer programs. Most of them drop out because they can’t afford to attend. How can we resource the poor families who are paying for what can be quite expensive?

The Duluth Model 25

Also, unless the batterer programs are well connected to and trusted by the advocacy programs in their community, it’s difficult for effective intervention to happen both systemically and case-by-case. This requires that the batterer programs be well-run, competent, and transparent. For example, the advocates need to feel able to come and observe the men’s classes and understand the philosophy and practices of the curriculum. The advocacy program also needs to take the time to learn how a batterer program works and how it can complement the efforts of advocacy to reduce risk for battered women and their families. It’s a nuanced process that takes time and trust to develop. Q: Any thoughts on risk assessment? A: We’ve talked about how the various agencies each have their own contribution to make. Advocates, probation, law enforcement, and the men’s program, all have their own list of the ten most dangerous offenders. They could get together every week or so and talk about these offenders and what to do about them. The criteria are primarily based on what they are seeing at the moment. For example, one man in our group was thrown out by his partner. He was making progress in the group, but for whatever reason, his girlfriend threw him out of her place where he was staying. He came in to the next group meeting really mad because she put all of his gear in the front yard. He had to gather it all together and put in a truck. He had stopped smoking weed, but he ended up staying at his friend’s who was smoking weed all the time. His girlfriend had finally got the nerve to throw him out partly because he had been nonviolent with her for a while, so she felt safe enough to do it. But now, we felt that she was in danger because he was so mad. So we called up an advocate to work with her, and then we tried to help the man find somewhere to live. The advocate did not know that the woman was going to throw him out and that the risk had increased. The man really appreciated our helping him and as a result became less dangerous. Q: How might we better engage and help the large portion of AfricanAmerican men sent to men’s programs? A: Part of what we do is to partner with the “responsible fatherhood” programs. I think some of them do good work in helping men get jobs. Otherwise, we are putting more pressure on families that cannot afford expensive programs. Our programs are pretty cheap compared to most at about $350 total. Some programs cost $1,000 or more. They are beyond the reach of a lot of low-income families. We also need a curriculum that is constantly drawing on the analogies between race and class and other intersections. A lot of the programs are not able to do that very well because they rely on facilitators and curriculums that don’t draw those comparisons. There is also often a big gap between the people who run the program (often white, middle-class, and formally


Chapter One

educated) and the people who are in the programs (often people of color with little formal education). It is admittedly difficult to do that when you’ve got programs that are run by people whose life experience does not have much in common with the people who are participating in the program. The program is only as good as the lived experiences of the people running the program. Ideally, programs need to recruit people from the community who have that experience and can relate to the men. That is the responsibility of the program, but sometimes that is quite hard to do. When I worked in New Zealand, we formed special groups for native Maori men. A number of Maori men resisted being asked to go into the Maori class, but once they went, the resistance dropped almost immediately. They initially resisted being identified as part of the oppressed group, but when they realized that they weren’t being identified in some ghetto way, they responded positively. That group, in fact, created opportunities and freedom to be exactly who they wanted to be. They felt able to say some things that they would not have said around white people. It created a more inclusive learning environment. Q: How do you answer critics who insist batterer programs don’t sufficiently acknowledge women’s violence? A: We are not saying that women don’t use violence. There is still plenty of argument over women’s use of violence versus men’s use of violence. However, we’ve got some promising policy and procedures about figuring out ways of deciding whether someone is the predominant aggressor or reacting to the predominant aggressor. We’ve created some tools and training to help the system respond more effectively to this issue. Once again, we need good law enforcement, judges, prosecutors, and public defenders in place to avoid putting women into batterers programs inappropriately. It can be messy and difficult determining who is in fear of whom and ultimately how much to intervene. Sometimes you don’t want that system involved because it’s such a blunt instrument. It can raise the level of fear and danger. Friends, family, clergy, and other services are getting better in this regard, mostly because they’re getting better information. But all of this needs more development. It also needs to be improved for our response to LGBTQ cases. Q: I guess it’s a matter of acknowledging that sort of difficulty and listening to others the best you can? A: I feel the need to keep immersing myself with different people to be exposed to different ideas and experiences. If I don’t, I keep being dragged back into the mainstream. By the mainstream, I mean white, male, middleclass heterosexual ideas. Unless I keep referring myself away from these things, I keep drifting back to them, and they don’t always serve me well. For me to be effective in this work I have to reference myself in lots of dif-

The Duluth Model 27

ferent directions. I have to have lots and lots of guide ropes, because the wind blows in lots of different directions. I know that if I don’t, I drift back to the mainstream. When I think of the mainstream, I think of individualism and psychology. To me the community coordinated response is so much broader than just criminal justice. At the core of our work is a focus on victim safety and autonomy. Ideally, our aim is to liberate those who live in fear—mostly women and children, but anyone who can’t speak up because someone is keeping them silent.

Chapter Two

Individualized Problem-Solving

Leaders from two additional batterer programs illustrate an approach with more attention to individual needs and issues, while including the fundamental components of anti-abuse education and community collaboration. The Emerge program in Cambridge, Massachusetts was one of the initial programs formed in the late 1970s, and the Alternatives to Domestic Violence (ADA) program in Ann Arbor, Michigan started in the early 1980s. Both programs draw on a gender analysis, as the interviewees refer to it, of domestic violence and employ basically a psychoeducational approach which adds an “individualized” aspect to the group process. Both these programs use a staged structure to their groups to accomplish this approach. An initial set of sessions is more educational in conveying some basic understanding of domestic violence and ways to avoid being violent. As second phase is more discussion-oriented in exploring the beliefs, fears, doubts, and issues that underlie each man’s tendency toward violence and abuse. The group facilitators draw on other men in the group, as well as their own insights, to address a man’s particular problems, issues, or situation. Both programs aim, in the process, to convey a sense of respect toward the men, and in turn promote empathy and respect in the men themselves. This approach, according to its proponents, helps to reduce resistance among the men and motivates them to participate more openly. David Garvin of Alternatives to Domestic Aggression, furthermore, strives for “conceptual clarity” in all they do at his program; that is, they make sure that the activities and teachings of the program make sense to the men and are communicating the intended message. The object is to be practical as well as informative. Similarly, David Adams and Ted German from the Emerge program emphasize the importance of being sensitive to the batterers’ perceptions and not talking in terms of jargon or platitudes. 29


Chapter Two

For example, the ADA program translates the punitive version of “accountability” in criminal justice to a more personal sense of accountability that entails an individual checking a man’s own behavior in a way that makes him accountable to his partner and others. The Emerge program works on helping the men toward self-care in a way that lessens their dependence on their partners and lowers their aggravation. The staff also compile ongoing observation notes on each program participant that are used to inform and educate the courts as well as the men’s partners. The first interviewee, David Adams, is the co-founder and co-director of the Emerge program and trained programs around the world in the Emerge approach. He also has been instrumental in developing and teaching risk assessment as part of a national project on this important aspect of domestic violence intervention. David Garvin founded and supervised the ADA program and is now the head of the county’s Catholic Social Services of which ADA is a part. He has been especially instrumental in bringing together batterer programs through a coalition of programs in Michigan and national conferences convening in East Lansing. The last interviewee is Ted German of the Emerge program who is not only a longtime group facilitator, but also one of the primary trainers at Emerge. He has worked, as well, in a communitybased project to more comprehensively address domestic violence, and speaks candidly about the need for a broader social movement to confront the social, cultural, and political issues that undermine batterer programming and exacerbate violence and oppression of all kinds. DAVID ADAMS David Adams, EdD, is co-founder and Co-Director of Emerge, the first counseling program in the nation for men who abuse women, established in 1977. David has published numerous articles about domestic violence, and a noted book based on interviews with prison inmates, Why Do They Kill? Men Who Murder Their Intimate Partner (2007). He has also conducted trainings for social service and criminal justice professionals in forty-five states and sixteen countries. David has, for twelve-years, co-led the fatherhood parenting group which he helped develop, and is the director of the National Domestic Violence Danger Assessment Training Project, which has worked to develop risk assessment procedures and trained a variety of practitioners to conduct and use such assessment with men who abuse women. Q: How did you get started in this work? A: There are two levels of answers for this: There is my personal history and my family history, and then how Emerge got started. I was one of ten

Individualized Problem-Solving 31

men who founded Emerge. Most of us were in human services, social workers, or counselors, but there were also teachers, a cab driver, and men from a variety of occupational fields. But we were all friends of women who started the first women’s program in our area. They had been getting calls on their hotlines from men who were trying to track down their victims, but some of those men were asking for help to stop their abuse. The women didn’t feel it was their mission to help the abusers; so they asked us, as a group of men that they knew and trusted, if we were interested in responding to these men. Very little had been written about domestic violence in 1977, so the best way to learn about it was to talk with victims. One of these women was a professional PhD in education who had convinced her estranged batterer to send an audiotape to us about his experiences as an abuser. So we sat around one night during one of our meetings listening to this tape. In this audiotape, the man was apologizing to his wife but in a way that was very much minimizing his abusive behavior and also romanticizing it. It was our first introduction to how abusers rationalize, blame, and make excuses for their violent behavior. That was an eye-opening introduction to the impact and nature of domestic violence. As a result, we began to experiment with groups of abusive men. There were some men who wanted support groups for abusive men. The group leaders would talk about their own experiences and hold hands in a circle. I think there were four men who attended that first meeting besides the group leaders; at the second meeting there were two men and at the third meeting, there were none. Others among us organizers wanted to confront the sexist attitudes of the abusers. That was not very effective either. So it was a trial and error that led to what is the right balance: confronting men’s abusive behavior, supporting their efforts to change. We came up with this concept of “supportive confrontation.” We went on to receive court referrals, and developed a Latino program, a Vietnamese and a Cambodian Program, a lesbian program, and a gay men’s program, among other specialized groups. We diversified our staff as well to reflect the people that we were serving. It wasn’t just a matter of working directly with abusers. We devoted equal attention to changing the social environment that promoted domestic violence. From the beginning, we did a lot of community talks. Once we gained experience working with abusers, we gained the credibility needed to influence institutional responses through training police and other parts of the system. There is always a dual focus of working directly with abusers and also the social intervention and institutional environment. One thing that the founders of Emerge had in common is that we all were involved in various social change movements of the 1960s. Many of us were involved in the so-called men’s movement that was more a progressive social change movement. We had a speakers’ series where we would talk about men’s sexuality, homophobia, and men’s violence. However, we felt like


Chapter Two

there was a limitation in terms of who are we reaching. Working with batterers opened the door to a broader class of men and more diversity in terms of race. Q: What has sustained you over all these years of this work? A: For me personally, there are two things. One is that I have always found the experience of talking to the men about these issues—about their relationships with their partners and their children—to be a unique experience that we men don’t otherwise have. One of the most consistent comments that abusers make is that they never had these kinds of conversations with other men. I have done groups for thirty-five years and continue to find it very meaningful that we have these dialogues with men. I think it’s an important service that we provide beyond the issue of how well do we change the abusers. The fact that we engage men in conversations about relationships is important in itself. It is otherwise absent in their upbringing and their social lives as adults. The other part for me is running into a former client who says things like “I want you to know that you changed my life.” The men are exposed to education or experience that they may not make use of right away, but maybe in their next relationship it begins to make a difference. Another part that sustains me is the social change aspect of this work. I consider myself to be privileged to be working on a social issue that also involves social change. It is encouraging to see how institutions have changed, and see how the public has become more educated about domestic violence. Our stance has always been that the burden of change should not be on the victims. We should expect the people causing the problem to make the changes. The victims who we interact with don’t necessarily want to end the relationship; they want the abuser to change. Q: How would you describe or characterize your approach to working with the men in a group? A: We would call our program psycho-educational. We clearly provide basic education about abusive behavior and its impact on their partners and their children. We educate them about different types of abusive behavior and alternatives to that behavior. The “psycho” part of our approach is very individualized. After the initial educational component, we provide opportunities for men to get feedback from the group. We think this is important because abusers can be good at identifying other people’s abusive behavior, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into them identifying and taking responsibility for their own. In Emerge’s early years, the primary focus was on gender inequality as the starting point with men. We would try to educate the man about sexist attitudes, and male entitlement, but we learned that it wasn’t necessarily a

Individualized Problem-Solving 33

good starting point. We found that we were pushing for things that the victims themselves weren’t necessarily worrying about. We have since decided that a better starting point is to focus on respect and empathy because those were more universal values. Even men that come from a more traditional or conservative orientation believe in respect; all cultures that we know of believe in respect. Abusers in particular believe in respect, because they are always talking about being disrespected. I also think that respect is a better pathway to gender inequality. So a goal of our program is to provide an opportunity for each man to look at himself and get feedback from other men about his treatment of his partner, because each abuser is different in his constellation of behaviors. The men have different types of resistance to change. Our model therefore provides many individualized activities within the group, like having the men describe their relationship history. The purpose of that exercise is to help each person identify patterns in his relationships—patterns in terms of how they start relationships, how relationships end, and what was each partner’s biggest complaint about him? The exercise exposes patterns of abusive and controlling behavior too. One example is a man who met his current partner online. They struck up a very intense email communication where they began to see each other as their “soul mates.” They were communicating multiple times a day. He invited her up to Boston for a weekend, and she ended up staying for five weeks. She then went back to New York and got her stuff and moved in with him. She didn’t have a job, she didn’t drive; so she was very dependent on the man economically and for transportation. Consequently, we focused on his lack of giving her space and privacy. She had told us that after an argument, he would be so worried about her leaving him that he wouldn’t go to work the next day, and even get into the shower with her. In the relationship history, we are able to identify that, when they began their relationship, there were no boundaries between them, no space. The other men in the group picked up on that. One man said “I had relationships like that too.” So the relationships history raised a revealing issue of discussion in the group, and an opportunity to have a conversation with the particular man about lack of boundaries and privacy with his partner. We began to then focus directly on the need for him to give his partner more space. Q: What about hiring and training staff? A: We do some fairly intensive screening when hiring group leaders. For instance, we require a partner contact. We ask the potential hires about their own abusive behavior, and that results in a lot of people not being hired, whereas many agencies hire whomever is available.


Chapter Two

Q: You started off with the importance of treating these men with respect from the beginning. How do you do that? A: A good teacher is someone who has high standards, but always respects and is fair to their students. They don’t make their students feel stupid, and they are respectful when they address questions and problems. We learned a lot about that over time, because at the beginning we were more confrontational in a way that wasn’t necessarily always respectful. So modeling respect is obviously important. In the first phase of our program, we are not trying to give the men feedback, we are not trying to solve their problems; we are just trying to get them to participate in the group process and discussion. We want them to participate in the exercises; we therefore give them feedback on their willingness to do that and be open to learning about different types of behavior. We are not expecting them to take responsibility for their abusive behavior at that point. That is a long-term process. Another topic we do address early on is self-care. In observing Latino, Vietnamese, Cambodian, and gay men, we learned that addressing self-care and self-neglect issues helps to motivate men. Also, the men’s experiences of being victimized or oppressed themselves in some way raises an appreciation of what we call “survival strategies.” Whether there was violence in their home or in their neighborhoods, men would act tough, not trusting anybody, and appear cold and unaffected by things and people. So part of what we do is help the men to consider how they may have outgrown their survival strategies: how their survival strategies may have helped them to get by in a broader context, but how they are toxic to their relationships. For instance, it’s difficult to have a relationship with somebody if you don’t trust or show feelings. Q: How do men change their “strategies” to better deal with their partners without weakening themselves in their neighborhood? A: When the men are exposed to a different way of thinking and different kinds of values, they begin to think about the kind of peers they want and need to have. Who is going to support their changes; who do they want to have as friends? Q: What distinguishes the Emerge program from other such programs? A: Compared to the purely educational model of many programs, we have more opportunities to individualize the feedback to the men and engage them in individual problem solving. We look at other things in their lives, as well, that may have contributed to their abusive behavior. We are very much what you call a pro-feminist model that considers the abuse to be about power and control. At the same time, there is much more emphasis on individual responsibility and accountability, with an emphasis on respect and empathy. We see ourselves as balancing engagement with accountability.

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We want to engage men in their own change process. We want them to be active participants in the program. For instance, when we are in the second phase of our program, there are a lot of the activities that we call “individual turns.” A man gets feedback from other men about current interactions that he is having with his partners. The other men give him feedback from the partner’s perspective, so there is opportunity for the men in the group to learn empathy as well as for the man in question. There is emphasis here on how to give constructive feedback. Q: What are your thoughts on treating personality disorders, trauma, attachment issues, or other psychopathology in batterer programs? A: I agree that battering isn’t caused by one factor. There are multiple factors that contribute to it. I grew up in a violent home myself; my father was the abuser. My brother became an abuser, but I did not. I think that speaks to personality differences between myself and my brother, as well as differences in social influences. We had different kinds of friends. I had many more positive role models than my brother. Also I had a different personality. I think there are certain personalities that make people more vulnerable to copying abuser behavior. The purely psychotherapeutic approach misses the point. It locates the problem as primarily one of individual psychology, trauma, or lack of insight. There needs to be a primary focus on the purposeful aspects of battering. That is a very important part of what we offer. At the same time, we have the flexibility to address some of the psychological factors, but always bring talk about them back to the here and now. We have an exercise where we get the men thinking about what they learned in their upbringing; what they learned from their fathers in particular. Then we consider how that influences their current relationships. In the substance abuse field, maybe thirty years ago, there used to be a therapeutic approach trying to interpret the problem behavior. However, it was a miserable failure. It took away responsibility for the problem behavior and unintentionally contributed to excusing the behavior. Q: You have done a lot of work developing risk assessment, or risk management. How does that fit into this work? A: The risk factors that we consider are a combination of predisposing and situational factors. In Massachusetts, all the batterer’s programs are now piloting an instrument we developed with a large group of advisors. The idea is to achieve consistency in the assessment of danger. We want to make use of what’s unique in battering events and how they are changing over time. Some abusers become less dangerous and move on with their lives. Some of them get more desperate and more angry. A person may continue to become very agitated about lack of contact with his kids.


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The tools that we are developing include items like these, that we may observe in the course of the group. There is an initial assessment based on information that the person presents to us along with police records. Then we readminister this tool and include additional risk factors that emerge in the groups like jealousy or the ending of the relationship. The other aspect is risk management: What you do about the identified risk. In that, you come up against the inherent limitations of the criminal justice system. If we know that somebody is at high risk, one of the options is to terminate him from the program. Terminating someone is not necessarily the safest thing for a victim, however. How the criminal justice system is going to respond is unpredictable. The high-risk man may spend months awaiting trial, and all the while, having continued contact with the victim. When you have someone that is extremely jealous, for instance, there are re-direction strategies to try. You can help men recognize that there are other things in their lives that they can focus on rather than only their partner. We re-direct them by focusing on their kids, for instance, on their work, or more meaningful activities. One man turned his focus to living in the halfway house; another to volunteering with younger men. We certainly do inform the victim about the risk, as well as the courts, and develop different scenarios of response. Q: I know your reporting system is very sophisticated, certainly more developed than most. A: We report the abusers’ progress in the program to the courts periodically. We also reach out to the female partners with information about the batterer’s program and the abuser’s level of participation in it. Q: What do you do when you identify the major risk factors of major depression or alcoholism? A: If the person is already in treatment then it’s a matter of coordinating with the other treatment providers. If not in treatment, then it’s a matter of getting them in treatment so they can address their depression or suicidal tendencies and so forth. Unfortunately, there is no consistent language that batterer programs use in communicating risk, and so we began developing this for our program, probation, prosecutors, and the courts. This should help in our informing the system of risk factors that they don’t see and helping it to respond to that risk. Q: Any thoughts on diversity and what we need to do about it? A: I already mentioned some issues. Health care is one main thing that we found to be particularly important in working with new populations of men. Another issue is parenting. Latinos, Vietnamese, and Cambodian men have been very concerned about the impact of their behavior on their children. So we have a parenting program that we offer free of charge to all of our clients.

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For the most part, batterers are more concerned about their kids than their partners. Q: Why put extra effort into having different groups “based on ethnicity”? A: Part of the funding in Massachusetts for the batterer program is earmarked for special clients. It’s more than a matter of hiring someone that speaks the language. It’s a matter of achieving cultural competence and addressing abuse in a broad way. Here is an example: With our Vietnamese and Cambodian program, we started an advisory committee consisting of service providers who were already working in Vietnamese and Cambodian communities. We met with them once a month to devise this new program. They give us some interesting advice which was to hire older group leaders because age is respected in Asian culture. We eventually hired a Vietnamese and a Cambodian in their seventies, and they were amazingly effective. Asians aren’t used to discussing personal problems in groups, so we see them individually for several weeks. We focus on the laws of this country, because they wouldn’t have been arrested for hitting a child or woman in Vietnam. We help these men to become more efficient in English. It’s a matter of looking at the whole person, so to speak. Q: Do the people choose these groups or are they assigned to them? A: For ten years we had a group that was basically for African-American and Caribbean men. Joining this group was always a choice and some men didn’t want to be in that group. The men that did go to that group received more emphasis on health issues. One of the assignments was to get a physical check-up. The men reported back to the group that they had all kinds of health problems that had never been diagnosed, such as diabetes and high blood pressure. These groups had speakers from the African-American community who would talk about health literacy or education. It was an effective program but it was always an option. Q: What’s your response to the claim that batterer’s programs don’t work? A: The outcomes in many of the program evaluations are too narrowly defined in a kind of black or white thinking. Battered women’s programs are facing the identical problem in terms of evaluating what they do. They know that they serve a useful function, but it’s difficult to evaluate the outcomes as an all-or-nothing change. If a woman calls a hotline and subsequently does not leave her batterer, is that a negative outcome? I don’t think any type of program should be evaluated in this sort of black or white, all or nothing, kind of thinking about change. In batterer intervention, we promote responsibility which is a stepping stone toward nonviolence. The new information learned in the program may not result in immediately stopping the violence, but it helps a man to recognize that he has choices. There are also intervening variables to consider: the


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criminal justice system’s response, the partner’s response, and so forth. Also, very few studies have looked at batterers long-term or measures of partial change, like choosing different friends. One of the biggest contributions of the program is the ongoing observation of the men and the information that we are able to share to the courts, to the partners, and to the community at large. It helps everybody make better decisions about a particular case. Documenting noncompliance with the program is in itself a contribution, since program dropout is a strong predictor of reassault. Q: What might be done to bring a level of quality and competence to more programs? A: There is a disconnect between program standards and what programs actually do. Many of the things that we do in batterer intervention are expensive, much more expensive than a traditional mental health model. For instance, we attend many meetings in the community to improve or maintain the system response. Batterer intervention programs rising out of mental health agencies tend not to do that. Or they question the need to have two group leaders. Some who are doing the work are really not interested in social change. Some are completely isolated within larger agencies and get little support. Most programs, moreover, are under funded. We still have the idea that any funding for batterer’s programs takes away from women’s programs. But we are dealing with victims that are not served by a women’s program, for the most part. We are actually helping victims. So now there is a core group of men and women services in Massachusetts that work together for state funding of domestic violence services. We are pretty much like a team, educated by the value of working together. Prevention is really important, but when there are budgetary problems, it is the first thing to go. The original programs were free-standing, but now the majority of programs are affiliated with substance abuse or mental health agencies. Q: How do you respond to the claims that women are as violent as men and need to be included in batterer programs? A: One separate issue is whether in fact women are as violent as men. Emerge’s belief about that is that men are more severely violent; they are more dominant and more dangerous. Women are more willing to count things that they have done as violent, and even if it’s self-defense or a reaction to being in an abusive relationship. In the context of abusive relationships, a woman may even initiate violence. Domestic violence may appear sometimes as essentially a couple’s issue, that is, as a product of poor communication or a dysfunctional relationship. I completely don’t believe that. I think that that’s a very dangerous way of thinking. People make choices, regardless of bad communication, regardless

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of the many problems both people may have. One person is still making a choice to be violent or not to be violent. Couple’s counseling tends to cloud that whole message of who is responsible. The debate is sometimes dominated by extremes from both sides. Some people say women’s violence never exists versus those who say that it is equal to men’s. But when you think of battering as a mindset, you have to ask if women are capable of that. Our lesbian program has been instructive, because lesbians who batter tend to say the same thing as men who batter. They have the same attitude as their male counterparts. So women are capable of having those attitudes and being violent. It seems to come down to the individual’s orientation toward control or empowerment. While some women may themselves lean that way, most are bound by the impositions and constraints of society and the gender roles it promotes. As we’ve said all along, to really understand and address domestic violence, we need to consider our social context and its gender issues. DAVID GARVIN David Garvin, MSW, LMSW, is the chief operating officer of Catholic Social Services of Washtenaw County in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he founded, supervised, and directed the Alternatives to Domestic Aggression program (ADA) in 1986. He also is a co-founder and current chair of the Batterer Intervention Services Coalition of Michigan (BISC-MI). As the cochair of the Michigan Governor’s Taskforce on Domestic Violence, he helped to create standards for batterer intervention programs. David has also conducted trainings, consultations, conferences, workshops, and in-services around the country and been appointed to a variety of expert councils, advisory committees, and task forces. He is probably best known for his development of personal accountability for men and organizing batterer program conferences bringing together a wide range of practitioners and perspectives. Q: How did you get started and involved in this field? A: I was a teenage volunteer at a family crisis agency in the mid 1970s working along side mostly college students. The organization worked with teens and homeless adults and, by default, we also dealt with domestic violence as there were no battered women’s shelters in the state at that time. We had no training on how to deal with or even understand domestic violence; we had a list of people in the community who were willing to open their homes as “safe houses” to women and their children. Later in 1979, I finally and reluctantly made the decision to go to college, and issues regarding violence


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against women and children were still an interest. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, it was my understanding that the only place for a man in the battered women’s movement was to work with children. I had seen plenty of times where the good work that “I thought I was doing with kids” would be easily undone by the kid’s family; the next week the kids would be all unraveled from whatever good work might have transpired the week before. So I thought there’s something more that I want to do to address the epicenter of family violence. I started to pursue ideas and talk to people who were involved in responding to domestic violence. When it came time to go to graduate school, I had to convince the university to allow me to do my research project in working with perpetrators of domestic violence. They said I couldn’t do it because nobody had done work in that area and consequently there wasn’t much for me to research. That actually wasn’t true. I started to reach out and contact those I knew working in the field during those early days, and that helped me identify a variety of articles, research, and programs that could serve as a basis for my interests. As a result, the Social Work Department did let me do research projects on working with perpetrators of domestic violence. Over time, my real education began. This “real education” came from working with survivors of domestic violence and battered women’s advocates. They took time out of their lives to share with me how much I did not understand about domestic violence. They helped me to better understand domestic violence, and how to better articulate it. In what were pre-internet days, I tried to find people to converse with about what I was learning, and read whatever I could get my hands on. The rest of the push for me was in wanting to develop what I call a “conversation space” promoting discussions with people around the country about their expectations and state standards for batterer programs. It was a kind of “detective work” excavating and finding, in each state and around the country, a network of people working on these issues. Q: What gave you the determination to follow through on all of this? A: I’m a little determined, maybe even hard-headed, I think. I also credit a lot of this to the organization I work for (Catholic Social Services of Washtenaw County, or CSSW) which has supported me in doing this kind of work, and has done so, since hiring me in 1987. CSSW is an organization that believes in hiring good people, supporting them, and removing barriers to doing the work that needs to be done. Q: And what would you say has sustained you over the years? A: Surrounding myself with people who are brilliant, dedicated, and supportive. Those folks have been great to work with. I’m very fortunate to work along staff like that, to have folks who are visionary in their own right.

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Q: How would you characterize your approach to this work, or what you’ve developed over years? A: I started off as clinician, thinking I needed to bring clinical aspects to this work. As I learned more about the nature and dynamics of domestic violence, I moved toward becoming a “radical feminist”, leaving the clinical behind. If pressed, I now would call myself a “radical behaviorist” with a lot of influence from feminist theory but with a very practical use of intervention. That is, if our approach doesn’t make sense to the men in our program, we must find a better way to do it. I think for a long time we had a model which made us feel really good about ourselves, but didn’t necessarily make practical sense, at least in a meaningful enough way for our “consumers.” Q: How would you characterize that model that “made you feel good?” A: It was initially theoretical; it was very theoretical in that it just took various aspects of accountability and built on them. We talked about accountability in ways that were almost dogmatic. We would say “this wasn’t accountable enough” or “you need to be more accountable.” I think a lot of programs did or do that. Typically we would pick someone that we thought was demonstrating accountability and use him as an example of what we meant by it. But we didn’t have a language or a way to communicate accountability to another person in order to say “this is what it looks like.” Short of training someone for years to be able recognize accountability the same way as we did, accountability was subjective and illusive. Q: Would you say that’s an example of the shift or evolution that you’ve gone through? A: Over the last fifteen years, I have done a pretty standard training that can last anywhere from two hours to at least a day on what I would call “conceptual clarity.” My colleague Jeffrie Cape has taken this concept to new and impressive levels with the current curriculum simply titled: “The Conceptual Clarity Model.” Jeffrie Cape joined the ADA Program in 2001 and also has her own private practice (Charron Services) where she operates one of the larger batterer intervention programs in the State of Michigan. Conceptual Clarity is not any one thing, it’s a lot of things, but more importantly it is having a philosophy that drives and brings together all of the elements of a program so that the model has integrity. Early on, philosophy came last, and it was always changing. If we liked this exercise or that exercise, we might put it in our workbook. I think that’s what a lot of us did. With Conceptual Clarity, the initial question needs to be: what is the philosophy that ties these exercises or activities together? If you use an activity, but you don’t have any philosophy behind it, how is it making sense? Conceptual Clarity then becomes the philosophy that ties everything together. Whether we’re talking about accountability or battering specifically, it will be clear why that activity


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is there, and how this is going to help in achieving the goal of ending violence and coercive control. Under Jeffrie’s leadership we have strived to make everything we do, make sense. If we are hearing that this doesn’t make sense, then it’s got to go back on the workbench. Q: How do you know whether something is not making sense, or whether the program participants are just being resistant or stubborn? A: Our experience is that when things make sense, that helps reduce the resistance, stubbornness, and belligerence, because we start with the assumption of competence. That is, the people we’re working with want to have a satisfying relationship. They might be willing to get that at an expense of another person. But really, we’re not working with people who want to grow old by themselves; we’re working with people who want to grow old with somebody else and “live happily ever after.” We believe in order to achieve meaningful change, we must first help the individual to recognize their mind, their intentions, beliefs, and history of coercive control. Then we must help them to change their mind. Once someone has changed their mind, their behavioral change can intentionally, strategically, and instrumentally fall into place. Without this process of awareness, programs are simply giving “tools” to someone who has not changed their mind, intentions, and beliefs—and it is difficult or impossible for that person to achieve meaningful change. Q: You mentioned earlier that you moved from a “clinical perspective” to a “feminist” one? What do you mean by clinical? A: By clinical, I mean that we started off doing standard psychosocial evaluations on everyone, doing a battery of tests; at one point, we had well over fifty pages of tests, psychological profiles, and women abuse scales. We just had piles of good intentions maybe, but they didn’t really inform our practice. In some cases, the information raised our concerns about an individual, but we typically came to those concerns independently of a test. They would manifest those concerns, for us, in group sessions. So we stopped all the tests. Early on, I remember thinking, “Ok, all of these guys have ‘intermittent explosive disorders’ even though the DSM says that this is a relatively rare occurrence, and even though in other relationships, areas or arenas the men weren’t demonstrating any problematic behavior. It became clear that the violence and abuse was a crime that this individual is committing by a choice. This does not explain it; what explains it is our definition, which we painstakingly wrote and rewrote: battering is instrumental, strategic, purposeful behavior designed to bring about a certain outcome or advantage. It’s a definition that we as a team struggled to make air-tight. This is a definition that speaks to the mentality, the functions, and the strategy of this behavior; it’s not about a psychological problem or a deficit or something external to the individual. We do understand that if somebody has a psychological, alco-

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hol, learning, or medical problem, they need to get services for those problems, but because those other problems did not cause the abuse, treating them will not stop the abuse. They still need to be in a batterer program specifically addressing their coercive control, abusive, and violent behavior. Q: Say a little bit more about your response to the view that psychopathology is an essential factor in the violence, and it’s important to address in treatment. A: I think many programs are falling back to a primarily clinical model. I think it is part of our overall culture to want to find a way other than the contextual explanations that the violence is a manifestation of what is happening in the culture between men and women. The preoccupation with psychopathology is a way to over-simplify the violence, a way to bill insurance companies for it. It is also a way to marginalize, alienate, and suggest that the difference between men who batter and men who do not batter is much more than it actually is. To understand something as cold-hearted as “I’m willing to get what I want at your expense” is a lot to swallow for people, but underlies most domestic violence cases. Everyone wants what they want when they want it, and a certain category of people (men who batter) are willing to get it at the expense of another person. This is not to say that there is a small number of men who batter who could be seen through the lenses of psychopathology, but rather, there is not an overrepresentation amongst the population of men who batter. Q: Is there anything special you do in terms of psychological states or profiles of men who are violent? Do you assess such things at the beginning or identify them in the course of the counseling? A: In our community we are fortunate because we have a specialized domestic violence probation unit. If we get one hundred referrals, ninety-nine of them come from probation. They do a very thorough background check in terms of criminal complaints, arrest history, and convictions, as well as a thorough bio-psychosocial evaluation. So, if an offender needs psychological treatment, probation makes sure of it early on. If we identify additional problems, we, as licensed social workers, refer the men to the mental health department in our agency or the substance abuse department here or elsewhere within our community. Q: An emerging theme in the public and in many other programs is that domestic violence is much more complicated than assumed or acknowledged in the past. There’s the couple’s interaction, even women’s violence, as well as the past history of the person; trauma may be involved. In other words, we need to adopt a multi-causal model of domestic violence. What is your response to that? A: Our program has always understood that there are systems at work in domestic violence. Our program participants are each a three-dimensional


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person who has a past, who has a present, and who has a future. He is somebody’s son who may come from a dysfunctional family. He may be somebody who doesn’t have enough, somebody who has too much, somebody who needs help reading, somebody who is homeless, or somebody who has three homes. There is a wide range of people, and they’re more than just one thing; they’re more than batterers, they are fathers, sons, brothers, uncles, friends, coaches, bosses, workers, etc. It’s not so much that there’s anything new here. The attention to trauma, for some people in the field, is new; but traumainformed practice is something that social work has understood for years. Q: What does that mean, “trauma-informed practice”? A: If it’s a person whose spent fifteen years in prison, if it’s a person whose seen live combat, if it’s a firefighter whose been injured, if this is a man whose wife is an incest survivor; all these things are other elements in his life. If he needs or wants help with those, he should get help for them parallel to batterer intervention programs. This individual has a range of needs and hopefully receives services for them. Q: Could you say more about your going from the clinical to a feminist to more of a radical behaviorist perspective. A: If somebody needs some help, you can spend all day in their head, but when it comes down to the issues: what does a person do when he’s feeling this, or thinking this, or doing this or that? What helps someone with the immediate, right now? What should he do at that moment? Somebody needs practical yet simple solutions. Trying to think back to exercise seventeen or week thirty-five is difficult; those lessons are pretty far removed. So the need is to find ways to make the program meaningful and to come alive for each person. Probably what led to our approach to accountability was trying every kind of metaphor to help somebody understand what we mean by accountability in a personal and relevant sense. Q: How do you pass the sensitivity, awareness, and ability of doing this work along to the next generation? What should we be looking for in new staff, and what do we need to impart to them? A: People need to be mentored. As current as that term is, most people don’t really know how to do it. Part of mentoring is creating the environment where new staff feels supported. It’s where the “mentor” can inspire others, help them grow, and spur curiosity. We can create awareness, and we can grow awareness. Admittedly, that takes a lot of time and care; it’s not unlike raising a child. Q: What about the role of the community agencies, and courts, and what we call the “community coordinated response”? A: As my friend and colleague Kathy Hagenian, Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence Executive Policy Director, says, “The

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coordinated community response is a verb, not a noun.” It’s more than agency leaders getting together, planning an agenda, creating minutes, and then meeting again next month. The CCR is designed to respond when there is a problem that affects a survivor’s safety, we know who to talk to, how to talk to them, and how to create solutions. So the coordination part is ongoing, it’s dynamic, it’s always changing. Here’s a perfect example in our County. Lisa Larance, coordinator of Domestic Violence Intervention Services at Catholic Social Services of Washtenaw County, noticed the number of women being arrested for using force and referred to our program had dramatically increased. Such a sudden and high increase was likely a systemic problem. So we immediately were able to have conversations with the prosecutor’s office, with the judges, with probation, and with Law Enforcement. As a result, we were able to set up a training for Law Enforcement and court personnel about responding to women who use force. That led to a reduction in arrests and alternative responses to many incidents where women acted violently. Q: How do you respond to the notion that the batterer programs don’t work? A: I turn the conversation to what does it mean to you to “work?” What would that look like? Some people mean that program participants will never, ever, ever do anything bad, mean, or nasty again. In other words, we hold the worst offenders to the standards that the best of us don’t measure up to. Unfortunately, we as a movement of batterer intervention providers have not defined success. This is something we must define! Q: So it’s an issue of how we define the outcome that we’re aiming for? A: I also fear that some batterer programs are a bit stuck. Participants may just shuffle through the program without meaningful conversations that are individualized and practical. At best, they are doing what we did fifteen plus years ago, that is, having great esoteric, theoretical conversations about oppression, but not translating and applying them. At worst, there are programs that merely do anger management packaged in a way that is easy to deliver, but does not go far enough in exposing the intentionality and dynamics of domestic violence and help individuals to change their mind and behavior. One of the places where batterer program really skimp is in supervision of staff. We have developed a model of staff supervision that brings all the facilitators together twice per month to co-facilitate a group together and then after that have a two-hour supervision meeting to review, analyze, supervise, and train the staff. Unfortunately and frequently, staff in some programs may be launched as a facilitator with a manual or guide book to teach a certain lesson. You may have somebody who understands group process, or maybe you just have somebody who’s more of a lecturer. So it doesn’t surprise me that we


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hear that some programs don’t work. Maybe there’s 10 percent or more of the programs that are really doing good, meaningful, tangible work with the clients and leading them to say, “This is really exciting, it’s really helping me, it’s making me think about things I haven’t thought about before.” And then there’s the 80 percent or so that are keeping the chairs warm, and plus or minus 10 percent that may just be doing horrible things. This is the impression that I get in the conversations I have while traveling, both in-state and out-of-state, to conferences, and through internet discussions. Q: What do researchers need to take in to account to better represent batterer programs? A: I think they need to talk with that 10 percent of the programs doing good work and find out how they are you doing it and why they think they are making a difference. The world of researchers also has to find a way to write for practitioners. Most of the research reports and articles that practitioners attempt to read may be difficult to interpret and apply. Q: Your city served as one of the sites for the Judicial Oversight Demonstration (JOD) project funded by the National Institute of Justice. My impression is that you felt the results did not represent the experience of the practitioners at your site, and that the practitioners weren’t sufficiently engaged or invited to respond and interpret the findings. A: There were large segments of data that just weren’t even included as part of the findings. I know when the researchers looked at some of the numbers they said, “That doesn’t reflect what we were expecting; where did that come from?” Q: Where do we need to be headed as a field? A: We are shifting from the annual training conferences in which we bring in some experts to deliver the latest best practices and research, to having more technical assistance at the local level, directly with specific programs. It’s like what I said about the process of community coordinated response. It’s a matter of seeing the problem, fixing it, and raising the bar higher this year than last. It’s helping program services, in content, philosophy, practical application, and policy so they are always improving. Q: And why aren’t they getting better? A: To my mind it is a matter of experience and learning. Here’s an example: One of the conferences I attended early on addressed why batterer programs should have a relationship with the local batterer women’s service organization. Prior to that, I wasn’t aware enough to know it’s a good idea. After that, I thought, “How could I have not thought this? This makes so much sense,” but under the best of intentions it never dawned on me. I can’t even imagine thinking that today, but it was an astonishing revelation under the best of circumstances. I had good intention, but it never dawned on me

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that I should have a relationship with local battered women’s services. A lot of people have great intentions, but you don’t automatically wake up to some things. But when you hear it discussed, you are more likely to realize, “Oh, that makes a lot of sense.” So more of this kind of discussion and exchange needs to continue and expand. TED GERMAN Ted German, PhD, is director of training at the Emerge program in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he has worked with abusers since 1987. In addition to his training duties across the United States and in other countries, Ted also runs a group at Emerge, supervises other groups, and is involved in a public/private community-based project to comprehensively address domestic violence in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Ted is deeply concerned with how broader issues of political economy, racism, and ideology related to sexuality and gender intersect with, and either foster or hinder, solutions to the massive social problem of gender-based violence. Q: How did you get into this field? A: My parents were hard-core leftists. As a result, I grew up learning that culture, race, and class were important to understand. My mother was a doctor and a scientist, and a very strong woman; and my father was incredibly supportive of my mother. From them, I learned to be open to ideas that challenged the status quo, and, at least in theory, receptive to feminist material I came across in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In high school, I was reading The Nation and Monthly Review (two leading leftist magazines). Then I went to Vassar College that was in the midst of transitioning from an all-women’s school. In that environment, I was exposed to what “the personal is political” meant, at least to primarily upper middle class, mostly white feminists between eighteen and twenty-one. I lived with a group of men for the last three years who were similarly open to the feminist thought on campus and questioning masculinity. I was the guy who was considered the most male because I loved sports and wasn’t a super “gentle” man. But regardless, I was exposed to “Take Back the Night,” the beginning of the anti-rape movement, and gay and lesbian rights from a liberation perspective. When I finished college, I did a lot of political work and got involved with a left magazine, called Radical America. (Radical America interwove a new left economic perspective with an analysis of race and gender/sexuality.) After a lot of false starts in terms of careers, I decided to go to social work school as a way to channel my political outlook into some practical avenue.


Chapter Two

I then went looking for something like the Emerge program, and I found it. I knew that there had to be some people who were doing gender-based work around violence against women and similar issues. I did an internship with Emerge and stayed. And that is how I started. Q: What sustained you over all of these years in a field famous for turnover and low pay? A: One of the things was that I had freedom to think about work in ways that I wouldn’t have been able to do in practically anything else—unless I had been a tenured academic. It was very important to me to be able to apply my politics to making a living. Also, even though I was doing the work in a sort of theoretically-informed politically way, eventually the work shifted to not only doing men’s groups, but also doing public speaking and training. There were things that admittedly are a drag, like the relatively low pay, the repetitive nature of running groups, and the massive compromise of values and ideals. I have watched all of us narrow our focus to some degree, and put ourselves too much into the system. My left perspective would, otherwise, be highly critical of the criminal industrial complex embedded within a fundamentally flawed political system that we end up serving. So that is something of the effort to actually stay afloat while maintaining my political commitments. It has been a challenge because race and class always get dealt with in very limited, safe ways. You can talk about multiculturalism and cultural incompetence, but you can’t talk about systemic racism or actually challenge it. I have always felt too left politically for the batterer work; in fact, many of us get less active and some of us end up shaped by the state rather than shaping it. It would be okay as long as you really kept a critical perspective and understood the limitations of what you’re doing. For example, the idea of a coordinated community response is a necessary, laudable, but limited framework for approaching the problem of domestic violence. Yet, sometimes we put our hearts and minds into implementing this important goal without fully acknowledging its real limitations. I’m suggesting that the level of response needed to truly address the domestic violence requires a broad-based social movement that radically challenges the social, political, economic, and cultural order. This kind of social movement is currently deeply marginalized and not especially effective. However, it is my best guess that there will be opportunities, in the not-that-distant future, for this type of social movement to grow in size, power, and impact. I would love to be part of a powerful social movement that is deeply informed by a gender-based analysis—one that gets at some of the social, political, cultural, and economic roots that nurture oppression of all kinds. Q: It is amazing that you have been able to continue in a model of intervention that is so politically compromised.

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A: I have Susan Cayouette as a colleague, who offers tremendous personal support. She has an amazing commitment to battered women and to understanding the problem from the survivor’s perspective. I have been sustained on other levels, as well. I’ve fed my left political interests on my own; and I give myself credit for that, because I haven’t necessarily been reinforced for that in the community. I also know a lot of well-known activist types who offer encouragement. I have done political work outside of Emerge over the years and thus stayed in touch with the broader vision of social change on the political left. Q: How would you characterize what might be termed “the Emerge approach”? A: I want to communicate that the men who come to our program are obviously central to our work, but we consider the welfare, well-being, and safety of the survivors to be our number one concern. We offer the men a fair chance, and we are respectful toward them. We offer them an in-depth knowledge of the dynamics of what they do and the impact of their behavior—and what they could do differently to make themselves and their families happier. Nonetheless, we do this work with a bit of cynicism, because you never truly know what is going on in the men’s relationship. We can plant seeds or encouragement for a certain direction in people’s behavior, but there are no promises about how sustained the changes will be. Some people come to us unprepared and unwilling to change at all; others, however grudgingly, learn something if they stick to the program. Some people come into the program a little more open and receptive because of the circumstances of their lives. They are not in crisis in other ways. We’ve learned over the years how to better engage and motivate men and how to be convincing at least in certain ways. We convey that it is in their own best interest to change, and that they can be very valuable or very harmful to partners and their children. They therefore need to be very careful and reflective about how they behave, especially in front of their children. We can at times help survivors, as well, to gain a greater understanding and appreciation of their relationships—where they stand and why certain things are happening to them. We can provide them with conceptual scaffolding that can be helpful in thinking about important decisions: “Should I stay or should I go? Where’s this relationship headed? What’s best for the kids?” Q: And how do you do this? A: Any abusers program’s work has to be seen in context of what is available, and how the system works against or with the program. Our program is part of a system; we are not simply a dose of treatment. At the same time, we have responsibilities within the process to do a better rather than worse job. We can do better with what we say or don’t say to victim or survivors,


Chapter Two

and how we deal directly with particular client’s issues. How we document our interactions with perpetrators is also fundamentally important. That contributes to the process of accountability and to the safety and well-being of the female partners. The documentation also helps the court to determine an appropriate response if a man reoffends in the future. Our documentation of our clinical observations turns into written reports that help to inform the Department of Social Services on abusers and victims. Because we work directly with perpetrators (and have for a long time), we have some legitimacy with many services and organizations in the community. It’s not like asserting research results or information clipped from the internet. We can talk from concrete examples to illustrate a point or issue, whether it is about how dangerous someone is or how a partner should view a man’s change. We have a standard protocol for contacting partners. There are a lot of people working in batterer programs who have been uncomfortable with the degree to which we have contact with partners, but we put a lot of resources and carefulness into it. We have a trained partner-contact coordinator who is basically a battered women’s advocate and a lawyer in our case. The protocol she oversees and implements is very extensive, with its strengths and weaknesses, but overall, we think that is something that is very important. If you believe in empowerment of victims and survivors, you need, at a minimum, to communicate information that they need to make decisions about her wellbeing. The women need to know about your program philosophy and procedures, like are you going to be strict and punitive or are you going to collude with the man. Also, what are you going to be teaching the man? We of course don’t tell a woman what to do, but can answer specific questions about what we directly observe of him. Q: Is the contact you have with women’s advocates and services formalized in any special way beyond your coordinator’s information sharing? A: We have a formal tie to a women’s shelter and they periodically give us feedback about our procedures, policies, and the way we take the survivor’s safety and well-being into account. They also observe a few groups and give the program feedback about potential issues from the survivor perspective. We also do several community, based projects with shelters, including being part of a high risk team, and a community based public/private initiative around prevention and intervention. However, I don’t feel as if women advocates or service providers have the time, energy, or willingness to fully monitor what we do and how we do it. To fully monitor a program requires an understanding of why we do what we do, which isn’t just to yell at men in the name of accountability. Accountability becomes a place holder, far too often, for everything instead of the idea that someone can change. We are in-

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terested in the social and individual processes that would encourage, nurture, and shape change. I have always felt uneasy about the one particular version of accountability that focuses on being heavily punitive and confrontive, but it’s hard to be honest about that sometimes among women’s advocates. Over the years, there are times when I could not speak my position on the subject; I knew that if I said it, I would get shut down. For instance, I recall saying to a shelter advocate, “You know not every guy who comes to our program is a patriarchal terrorist.” She just looked at me like, “You don’t understand!”— or worse than that. What I was trying to say was we have slightly different experiences. She sees women who are at the most extreme end of abuse and violence. I’m sure if I were surrounded by terrorized, alienated, blown apart women—poor women or women of color—that I would feel the same. But we see a broader spectrum of cases that includes lots of women who don’t see themselves as victims and would never call a women’s program or shelter for help. Q: How would you characterize your approach with the men in your groups? A: It’s a combination of things. We’ve gotten better in the way we address the specifics of relationships like, “What is respect? What is respectful communication? What does respect look like in terms of sex?” Instead of saying “Well, that’s controlling behavior,” we will explore why that might be the case and ways to act differently. I have learned that it is too easy to say “Thou shalt not do,” than “Thou shalt do.” Telling abusers what is wrong with their behavior is very important to their being able to figure out different levels of controlling behavior, but offering credible alternatives is equally important. I also have become better in taking into account how human beings move through the world and the fact that abusers do have feelings and a range of them. I have a better sense of how they are going to interpret and react to situations. As a result, I have become better at pushing at least some men toward being more empathic. Q: Is what you describe part of a curriculum, or more a matter of the sensitivity you bring to discussions? A: It’s both. The Emerge curriculum is very specific in terms of educational aspects and structured activities, but our second-stage groups are much more “free form.” It’s not totally laid out; we have some very general goals for what are mostly discussions. We work hard at building a good group culture. We teach what good feedback looks like pointing out the defenses that get in the way and ways in which we can share with one another. The best groups are where the group leaders direct, synthesize, and lead the discussion, and group participation is very extensive and the people are engaged.


Chapter Two

Q: What distinguishes your approach from other men’s programs and general mental health programs? A: We have always worked to break down behavior and relationship dynamics in a thoughtful way. We speak to the partially articulated negativity of the men, so we don’t duck subjects like, “What about abusive women, or women who use force?” One of the standard responses historically to men who raise that sort of question has been, “You are the one who is here, so we are not going to talk about your partner.” But when you don’t answer the question you undermine the connection with the men. Some men are thinking you are just afraid of the question. I pride myself on being aware and sensitized to how abusers think about us group leaders and their relationships with their family: the things that are interesting and important to abusers and that can actually help to engage them in the group process of change. One of the things that we have gained over time is the ability to be sympathetic and empathic about the difficulties of fatherhood. I now have much more skill at communicating with a man about such things: “You did a lot of bad things, and your partner or ex-partner is really angry with you or doesn’t trust you. It really, really sucks to be her, but it also sucks to be you. It is very frustrating, and you are probably not going to save your relationship. But there may be some things you can do to help your kids.” So, I want to take a gender-informed perspective and, at the same time, talk to men in a real way. I find the “power and control wheel” very helpful, but also very alienating to many abusers, at least at first. It’s not like we don’t talk about gender; we do challenge stereotyping, we do challenge misogyny, we do all of those things; but we are less liable to trip over ourselves because we avoid the certain classics traps of cutting off the men. Q: What do you encourage in training group leaders that will make them successful or at least appropriate for the work? A: As a group leader, I want them to have a deep understanding of victimization. I am always emphasizing that they need to talk to battered women, formerly battered women, or survivors. You need to have that kind of regular, ongoing connection; otherwise, you lose the sense of what it is like to live with abuse. They need to know the continuum of things that happen to survivors and how their world is shaped and affected by those things. I also want someone who is sophisticated about human nature, understands masculinity in its various expressions, and is not intimidated by abusers’ glares or grunts. If they have anger toward abusers, they need to be able to channel it constructively in the work. In the group, I want them to be able to help any particular group member to expose and take apart his controlling, abusive, and hurtful behavior and offer him convincing and practical alternatives in thought and actions.

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Q: How have this view and your approach evolved over time? A: As I’ve been saying, I have a more nuanced approach today, a more empathetic approach. I have a very specific example. In 1987, we used to see clients three sessions individually and then put them in a group. In like my second session with a young man, he said to me, “I’m ashamed of what I’ve done,” and I said, “You should be!” A little bit of shame is okay, but not that much, especially at the very start. I have also learned from my own life experience that shame and rage are intimately connected. If you shame and humiliate men or anyone else, all you do is end up hurting your own cause. We want to be constructively critical without humiliating and shaming people. Another thing that shifted is our fixation on men coming into the group acting angry, and usually in denying, minimizing, or rationalizing their abuse. We began to also acknowledge that some of them hated school, some of them had never been in a group, some of them were really shy, some of them were really awkward, and some of them were severely depressed. We need to be sensitive to those aspects of individual personality. Imagine you come to the program orientation and the staff person says to you, “Tell me the worst thing you have ever done to anybody in your life.” Compared to asking, “Do you play the violin?” or something like that. I ask the group leaders, these days, to put themselves in the place of someone who is being challenged to make major changes in his life. Q: How do you deal with the psychopathology that is increasingly identified as an issue for so many violent men? A: If someone is depressed or had a severe trauma, I want them to get help in addition to the program. There are many factors that contribute to any particular person being abusive. These factors are not so much causal as meaningful in understanding a man’s particular way of being abusive. There are generalities that go across abusers, of course, but there also are individual characteristics and personality factors that come into play. I don’t tend to like the DSM (Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), but I would say that the extremely narcissistic outliers have little capacity for empathy and, consequently, serious limits to making fundamental changes. I do think that they can stop being violent, but I doubt that they can stop being controlling. So when I face somebody like that, I get rule based: “If you do this, this is going to happen,” and make sure it does. A lot of this goes beyond psychopathology. Many of the men are young, arrogant, and highly masculinized. They haven’t yet been punished for their repeated failures. However, they still may make some changes. For example, a white, working-class man came to Emerge three times. The first time he was about twenty years old; he was a drunk and said that all women were “assholes.” The second time, he was sober, but he was still really angry at


Chapter Two

women. The third time, he said to me, “I’ve had eighteen relationships, and I’ve finally realized that the problem is me. I am the common factor.” Forgetting about psychopathology, you get people at different points in their lives when they are less open or more open, or less capable or more capable, depending on so many different factors and circumstances. They may simply have a “screwed-up life” disorder. Those are the guys that I have the most sympathy for. Q: Do you screen for psychopathology or assess for it, or are you talking about recognizing these different expressions in the course of the group? A: Generally we accept people into the program as long as they are not cognitively impaired and can function in a group setting. Then we make our referrals based on group observations and what we know about the men’s lives. We frequently say to people, “You need to check about getting medicated. You are profoundly depressed, you need get some ‘talk’ therapy and probably some medication to help with that.” One of our staff has a long history in the mental health system, so we are able to draw on her, as well, for expertise. Q: What constitutes poor quality or less competent treatment in your opinion? A: There is a range of things. There used to be one sort of grouping of batterers, and group leaders would confront the hell out of the men. They’d put on a suit of armor and go into the group to do battle. Now, there is much too much of the overly therapeutic approach and a lack of appreciation of the broader community. We’ve trained in one state where I was unbelievably underwhelmed by everyone who attended that training. Basically, we felt like the program staff was colluding. They were dealing with native cultures from an oversympathetic perspective overlaid with a feminist perspective that was not well integrated. So those are some issues of quality—over therapeutic and over-sympathetic—that we face today. Q: What can be done about this unevenness in programs? A: More extensive training and supervision would help. Ideally, I’d train new staff in person for a few weeks, and then they would pay me to be their supervisor over Skype for a year. I was trained at the outset on how to talk with battered women and how to understand them. I continue to get weekly clinical supervision. It’s been a high level of in-depth training. More of that kind of training, I believe, is needed. It has to be more than trainers coming briefly to town, training people, and having those individuals then train others. There is, at the same time, the problem with over-professionalization that can undermine some of the very qualities that make the best group leaders.

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Well-trained therapists who have an understanding of community-based psychology, and a skeptical sense of the entire history of psychology, can are generally well-equipped for this work. While they have the insight into clients and the group skills to work with them, they also have the important broader perspective that we need to bring to this work. Q: How do you justify battered programs to judges who are suspicious of their effectiveness and utility? A: We offer a positive, constructive, and helpful way of change that in itself is worthwhile. People can make significant changes of all kinds in their lives, whether it is stopping substance abuse or coping with depression. But the changes that people make at an individual level are the result of many different factors. There are men who won’t necessarily change much in terms of their treatment of their partner, but they will change their behavior toward their kids. They want the best for their children, even though they don’t always do the best for their children. What I can tell a judge is that what you do, and don’t do, will affect what this sort of outcome looks like. If you want to be helpful to the process of change, don’t force us to take people when they are heavily addicted to alcohol or drugs, and don’t put us in a position of taking ten or fifteen dollars from a really poor man who can’t afford it and will resent us as a result. Q: What should researchers be doing to better represent this work and its contributions? A: I think one of the things is to create empirically backed—both qualitatively and quantitatively—success stories that we definitely have. We need to be able to say, “Look at this case and how this man changed.” We also need a more sophisticated, theoretical, and empirical based way of understanding why perpetrators do what they do—using an individual, psychological level without compromising or losing a “violence against women” approach. We can’t just have an argument strictly at a sociological level that then focuses solely on individual responsibility in ways that are unfair and misguided. This admittedly can be difficult to do in a culture that over psychologizes social problems. We have to tactically, strategically, and theoretically be more honest with ourselves without giving up the fundamental point that there is asymmetry in the way violence and abusive function in society. For some good reasons, and some not so good reasons, the battered women’s movement painted itself into a corner on this issue and put us in a defensive and retreating position, rather than being positive, constructive, and assertive on these issues. Q: What are your thoughts on the increasing attention to risk assessment? A: The attention is related, I think, to the effort to increasingly quantify everything that we do. The result is the overreliance on assessment instruments


Chapter Two

of all kinds. On the one hand, anything that is helpful to survivors is good. On the other hand, I can see us selling ourselves on “this is what we do” and be limited to that. The implications for abuser programs are a mixed bag, because risk assessment increases the focus on psychological factors that can divert us from the ongoing relationship circumstances and dynamics. I worry too about the effect it has on how staff think of their role and who can be a counselor for a batterer program. Basically, we need to have respect for the incredible limitations of risk instruments. They cannot be mechanistically applied. You have to step back from them and involve your broader observations and others input. Otherwise, they can mislead and endanger people, as well as get a program off track. Q: How should batterer programs respond to the question of cultural differences? A: It has always been problematic for organizations that have been predominately white to integrate folks of color in a way that they feel supported and empowered. We have been relatively unsuccessful over the years in having a racial presence and impact in the day-to-day operations and the services we provide. It would generally be helpful to have staff from the same community as our program participants be a visible and present part of the intervention. If you are working in a community where your clients are 80 to 90% black, for instance, then your staff should ideally be 80 to 90 percent black. Some of what is called “culturally sensitive” programing is not going to be that successful, unless it embedded in broader social change. Just bringing a few people of color to the table is not likely to make a fundamental qualitative difference. There is an understandable frustration among people of color when all they have is fatherhood and batterers groups, instead of fundamental changes in the economic, social, and political structure of the city and this country. All of our anger at the system and concerns about race and class get funneled instead into the batterer group. That doesn’t work well in every other sense where it has been tried, whether it’s schools, housing, or job training. A broader social movement is needed that includes people of color’s voices and direction, and our open support and response to that. Q: What are your recommendations for the field more broadly? A: Over the next five, ten, twenty years, the American economy, and the social structure of American society in general, are going to become more problematic for more groups of people. The resources in poor communities will continually diminish, and working-class and even middle-class neighborhoods will be affected as well. The focus will return to primarily protecting the survivors with little support for dealing with perpetrators beyond

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imprisonment. We will have to argue doubly that perpetrators can stop their violence and can change, and find creative cost-effective ways to do that. The social fabric is likely to fragment in a way that promotes even more aggressive expression of distorted masculinity, and requires more social activism to counter increased violence and abuse.

Chapter Three

Clinical Integration

A number of programs have increasingly integrated therapeutic and clinical approaches into the foundational educational approach to batterer programs. You might say they add further to the “individualized problem-solving” highlighted in the previous section. More specifically, they tailor their group interactions to the direct observations of the participants and use therapeutic techniques to treat psychological or emotional issues, with such approaches as trauma-informed counseling. As one of the interviewees explains, “You need to speak differently to different men.” Another interviewee adds that his staff are all “serious therapist” and consequently tuned into psychological issues that the men may present. Three well-established programs, Menergy of Philadelphia, the YWCA men’s counseling program in Calgary, and Allies in Change based in Portland, Oregon, offer examples of this integrative approach. They each rely on “thorough individual assessments” of each enrolling program participant and conduct an ongoing risk assessment of some kind. One program tends to screen and refer out men with severe psychological problems, while the other two have specialized protocol or treatment groups for high-risk or psychopathic men. The leaders of the latter two relatively-large programs also counsel women who have been severely abused, as well as women who themselves have been violent towards others. Yet these interviewees still consider the men’s beliefs and “mindset” to be the primary issues. After a decade as a therapist in mental health programs, the first interviewee, Paul Bukovec, established the first program in Pennsylvania, which came to be known as Menergy. He argues, similarly to the others, that “approaching the men more on the psychological rather than educational side builds relationship and helps create connections.” 59


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Gary Gibbens co-founded the Amend program in Denver (another of the handful of initial batterer programs in the early 1980s) and later moved to become manager of the adult counseling programs at the Calgary YWCA. The YWCA program is the largest such program in Canada and includes family violence treatment groups for women and children as well. Gary has also developed the High Risk Management Initiative with representatives from community services to monitor severe domestic violence offenders. The last interviewee in this section is Chris Huffine who started Portland’s Allies in Change. Chris considers his program a “hybrid model” that draws on feminist teachings as well as therapeutic techniques and skills. Becoming self-aware of emotions and learning to manage them is an important part of his approach, along with developing “alliances” which help counter the “disconnection from relationships” that contributes to violence and abuse. PAUL BUKOVEC Paul Bukovec MSW is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker whose clinical career spanned forty years before he retired at the end of 2013. He designed and ran the first batterers intervention program in the Philadelphia area, initially known as Project RAP, later renamed Menergy. After an initial decade as a therapist in both inpatient and outpatient settings as well as teaching at Temple University, Paul ran these two treatment programs for abusive men for thirty years. He remained committed to and engaged in direct service, program design, supervision, training, and public speaking throughout. Paul legacy includes recognition of a successful integration of pro-feminist and social justice principles with creatively applied, solid clinical practice. Q: How did you get started in this work? A: When I was teaching full-time at Temple University in the child care department of the school of social work, I was approached by someone who I had previously supervised at a community mental health center. I did a lot of direct service there as well as supervision of students. This woman told me that an agency, Family Service of Philadelphia, was about to be granted funding to start the first batterers intervention program in the city, and they were looking for someone who would be a good fit to lead it. I knew that I had a background in group work, coming out of a group training program at the state mental hospital, but I had no direct experience with batterer programming. This woman said, however, “You have pro-feminist values which is important in this sort of work. This would be a good job for you, if you are interested.”

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I looked into it further, and thought: this is interesting; this is what I would consider to be politically valid and socially conscious work. It would also be an opportunity to be a manager of something, which I had never done before. So I applied for the job. The founder of the local shelter, Women Against Abuse, put in a good word for me, and told the other women agencies that I wasn’t too bad a person. The women services weren’t too happy about money being spent on a batterers program. Once I got the job, the leaders of the women’s agencies asked me to come and talk to them, regularly, in order to make sure I was on the right track. When I did start seeing men at the Family Service, I realized that maybe I already knew something about this work. My father was pretty aggressive verbally and sometimes physically abusive, so I felt like I was not a stranger to the problem of domestic violence after all. I could learn from this work and extrapolate from my own experience, as well as read up on things. I went to meet with David Adams of the Emerge program in Boston and spent an afternoon with him talking about the batterer programs that were just developing around the country. I also did a monthly pilgrimage to Barbara Hart, who was one of the leading battered women’s advocates in our state. She was very interested in supporting us, because our efforts were to get some media attention in what was the largest city in the state. Barbara was very generous and very tough simultaneously. I brought anybody I hired out to meet her. Not long thereafter, she started gathering all of the people associated with batterer programs in the state in what was to become regular meetings of “continuing conversation.” Barbara was our supervisor and trainer, and in this way laid the foundation and much support for our programs. I came into it all with a masters in social work, a group model of my own, and ten years as a therapist, so my preference was for a cross of a profeminist, psycho-educational model with a group dynamic therapeutic model and some cognitive-behavior treatment mixed in. I always had an interest in working with people’s emotions, and I had had some training in Gestalt psychotherapy. Q: What kind of changes have you made in your approach as you developed your program over the years? A: We always, from the beginning, did a very thorough individual assessment of the men entering our program. Some programs don’t do too much of that, but we did at least a three session assessment. We also instituted a takehome background history form for the clients to fill out. As time wore on, we added more questions about early trauma, medications, and sexual histories. From an early point, we saw the value of having women co-lead groups and also conduct assessments. Some of the men coming to the program


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became attracted to our women staff’s empathic connection during evaluation, and as a result wanted to linger at the assessment stage. As a supervisor, I had to suggest to my female staff some ways of “chilling down” the therapeutic alliance. I started looking at a range of things that might interfere with the men’s group work, and began to focus the assessments on some diagnostic possibilities that could be problematic: Does a man have ADHD, a bipolar disorder, or an alcohol program? We continued to screen very thoroughly for alcohol abuse and dependence, and for some character disorder issues and brain disorder issues that might need more attention. If we had a strong sense that the person had ADHD or a bipolar disorder, we would lean on them to be psychiatrically evaluated, so that they would get additional help in the process of changing their behavior. They would continue in our men’s group at the same time. Occasionally, there were people who we recognized as so needing psychiatric help that we made it a requirement. We’d say, “Look, you can’t continue unless you do this because you are not going to learn much here otherwise. Your ability to contain yourself is a problem because you have a brain-based problem—as well as a learned behavior problem.” I would say that this applies to approximately 10 or 20 percent of the men coming to our program. If you are doing clinical work related to abuse and anger, you have a biased sample to begin with, and you are going to draw more people with brain disorders than the general population. In one of our advanced groups, we have three men out of ten, who are on medications for bipolar disorders; not all of them were directed to these treatments by us, however. We asked one of the three to get an evaluation for a mood disorder. The others came to us diagnosed with bipolar disorder and medicated for it. Sometimes we have gotten involved with the psychiatrists to help them see our insights into what is dangerous about a particular man. It’s interesting that the men don’t always report their dangerous side to the psychiatrist. Q: Many of the men who were involved in the startup of batterer programs were gay, as was one of your initial staff. What is your sense of the role of the gay men in the start of this work and where are they now? A: I had three gay men employees, three lesbian women employees, and two gay men interns, over the years. My sense was that the gay male clinicians were already interested in men and men’s issues and also identified somewhat with women’s issues and victimization issues. They were in the right place socio-politically to do the work when we started out. They worked with beginner men and eventually with men at all levels very effectively. We just didn’t talk about their sexuality. Now, for example, a lesbian woman works for me in a beginner group, which is the first ten weeks of our longer-term program. She talks openly

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about having a partner, but she doesn’t say specifically that she is a lesbian. But when we introduce her to men in the advanced group, she always says, “My partner’s name is Natalie.” We share a lot of ourselves and especially our personal lives with our partners. The men have to deal with that, and most of them are fine with the same-sex relationship. A few of them for religious reasons, however, withdraw when the subject comes up. With my co-leader’s strong urging, we have just begun to mix gay men as clients with straight men, and that is something I had never done in the past. I am amazed and pleased how well it is going. Most of the straight men are able to handle it, and give supportive feedback to the gay men. We haven’t had an incident yet. We are pretty careful. We discuss admitting a gay man with the men already in a group, and ask if there might be a problem for anyone or cause for anybody to give the new guy a hard time. We’ve done this twice in the last couple of months and it’s worked out well. Q: What has sustained you in this difficult work over all these years? A: I found something that I might have been even born to do or at least nurtured to do, because of the issues with my father and the conflicts within myself about my own aggression. With the kind of energy that I have, I wanted to be leaning forward in life, but at the same time, wanted to modulate that energy so that it’s not pushing over people. Doing the work has helped me modulate myself so much that it’s had an ongoing positive affect on me personally—both in my marriage and with other people. I also like a tough challenge. I have been learning a myriad of things about very different types of people changing and that, in itself, has been rewarding. I may not, however, have stayed with it, if I didn’t have an advanced group to work with on a deeper and more subtle and complex variety of issues. I’ve had good staff to work with as well. Another thing is that I have come to love working at the managerial level and forming my own teams. I try to find socialist-minded lefties and people with very positive gender politics, and ultimately find people who I can get along with and learn with. This has been enormously rewarding About ten years ago, we started to be funded by two different parts of the government of the City of Philadelphia: the Department of Human Services, and the Drug and Alcohol Division of the Behavioral Health System. With that base, we were able to subsidize many of the poor or working men who come to our program. That also helped me and my staff to receive decent pay, probably a better salary than most programs across the country can and do offer. Q: Any advice about administration or organizational structure that you would associate with the stability of your program?


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A: I think that keeping ourselves relatively small has been a good idea. We didn’t overreach at all; we’ve stayed focused and fairly lean. An important part of good staff staying with the program is being very careful about picking a team that works well together and working on the conflicts among the staff that do arise. Our team meets every week and spends time debriefing about where we are in our lives and work. We laugh and joke with one another and then talk about the clients with a serious focus. And paying staff well is a big plus in retaining workers. I’m always interested in the clients’ character and their defenses, and how they are getting in the way. What could we try, and what would make a difference? We are trying to be therapeutically strategic, not just trying to teach people things. I think most of the staff who work in Menergy consider themselves to be serious therapists, and they want to be seriously good therapists. They generally feel they have benefited from our working together strategically in this way. Q: Would you elaborate further on your approach with the men in your program groups? How do the gender issues and therapeutic concerns mesh together? A: Basically, we accept the notion that abuse is learned in the socio-political structure we grow up in—in any country or culture—and it is defended by a personality that is formed often, but not always, in a traumatic environment shaped by patriarchy. Most of our clients were damaged in some way by how they grew up and what they learned. We see it as valuable to understand the context that an individual grew up in, but we don’t accept that context as an excuse for one’s behavior. You have to try to be a better man and a better father, and that requires that you struggle through your psychological, characterological, and brain chemistry barriers toward being fair, just, and gentler. We are very focused in the individual assessments on getting each man to account for himself and his behavior. We prompt him to make a clear account of the precipitating incident that brought him to the program. Once we “arm wrestle” him through being specific about what he actually did to get arrested or referred, we have him role play his wife and then ask him, as his wife, a long series of questions regarding everything from emotional and verbal abuse to control issues and physical and/or sexual abuse. When he’s finished that, we ask him to return to being himself and answer how it felt to play his partner and listen to how she would answer those questions. So we’re starting with testing his empathy, and continue to work on his ability to consider how his partner feels about him and his behavior toward her. If the man shows some potential in that regard, we certainly keep him in the program. Individuals, who have no willingness or ability to feel where his partner is coming from, or won’t admit to having a problem, aren’t admitted to the program and are sent back to court.

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We also have each man fill out a fifteen-page questionnaire about his upbringing: how he was treated, what kind of abuse was done to him, whether he was a bully or he was bullied. We try to learn about who he is, how he grew up, what his parents were like, and how he’s been abusive to others. We then take an entire individual session to prepare him for participation in the group sessions. We tell him everything he is going to be doing in the group, so he can come in and hit the ground running. In our team meeting, the whole team hears about the new person: what his growing up was like, what he resisted in the evaluation, and what we think he might be able to do in group or not do in group. We talk week-to-week about what’s not working. If a staff feels that somebody in a group is a problem, we brainstorm about them. The men go for ten weekly sessions, and then graduate into the advanced group if we want them to and they really want to. The court system in Philadelphia is so overwhelmed that it has only been mandating men for three months of group sessions. We have been trying to expand that requirement for years. We only get about 30 percent of the beginner group continue into the advanced group. But interestingly we do see some significant improvement in just the first three months for many of our clients. Because virtually everyone at the advanced levels is voluntary, the advanced groups tend to be more motivated, and more interested, so we go deeper with those men with questions like: What are the impediments to stopping your abuse, and how are you “bullshitting” yourself about your willingness to change? Q: What do you say to the claim that batterer programs don’t work according to the results of a few experimental program evaluations and the meta-analyses that accompany them? A: I have a few standard arguments. I say, “What do you know about the outcomes of drug and alcohol programs? We are at least as and somewhat more successful than most of them. There are, as well, program participants that make noticeable progress. I can give you their testimonials if you like. Some women, moreover, say that their partners in the program have changed significantly enough that they feel safe to be with them. It’s also clear that if a man is being held accountable every week for three months, six months, or a year, we are providing a service in itself. The likelihood of re-offense decreases as they are being watched and reported on.” I would say all of those things, but more importantly, I believe in my heart that we’re influencing the men by showing them a better way. Some of them don’t change a whole lot, but some of them do change quite a bit. Nobody comes out of this without continuing to be somewhat abusive, but much less so in my opinion. I would argue, further, that when you approach the men more on the psychological rather than educational side, you are building relationships and maybe even creating connections with male and female figures (the group


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leaders) that these men had not had before. I think that creates an impact. So I go to bed at night feeling that I earned my salary; I am proud of what I do. Q: There’s a lot of talk about therapeutic alliance and engagement. How do you engage the men in your groups? A: We are very interested in where the men come from and what they are about in a genuinely supportive way, rather than a judgmental way. I certainly attempted supportive confrontation in the old days. But I was more like the confronter than the supporter, and I have become, over the years, more the reverse. I’m still considered to be a “fearsome fellow” when I want to talk no nonsense and directly to a client, but I’m also very invested in showing them that I care for them. I probably hire staff more because they’re good at the connection part, and then help them learn how to set the limits and boundaries and be friends with people as they work. This not-so-harsh way is what makes the men become more accountable. In sum, I was very harsh at times the first ten years, and I can be harsh now, but I am not, hopefully, as often as tough and mean today. I feel like I have mellowed quite a bit. I’ve learned that people want to feel understood and cared for, and they can take a shot from me here and there. Some men want a good strong coach, but they don’t want to be treated like a whipping dog either. Q: It sounds like you are very much aware, as well, with the psychopathology that needs to be addressed in some men. A: To do the work with abuse requires a certain broader socio-political framework as well and an awareness of the pitfalls of that framework. You have to be more aware of the particular personality qualities and issues of the abuser to do the work well, and to do the work well you need to recognize that it’s also a societal problem. I think you need gender politics and gender awareness to balance out the more personal aspects. Q: There are some programs leaders who emphasize more the activist side of the work, and feel that the focus on psychopathology is ultimately a distraction from what needs to be addressed. They argue that we need to focus on the men’s behavior and the accountability that goes with that. A: I do believe you can’t leave out accountability, and you must stay aware of gender imbalances. But I feel some programs leaders can be too doctrinaire about such things. Q: What are your recommendations for the field as a whole? What things do we need to consider as we move forward? A: It seems to me that if you can blend sound gender and socio-politics with sound clinical analysis; you can use different schools of psychological theory and/or practice. However, the work is draining and it can turn you dark, so you also have to have a supportive team. As I mentioned earlier, you

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have to have carefully picked people interested in working with one another. It has a lot has to do with being able to have a team that feels fulfilled in the work, as well. I have a hard time believing that strictly educational programs will work, except for a certain small segment. No matter how you mix an educational and psychological approach, our programs still will be best for the men who committed less severe abuse. In general, we do much better with abusive men than we do with severe batterers, so maybe we have to redefine the work more. I have had several discussions and even arguments about this. The term “batterer intervention” is borrowed from the batterer women’s movement. Most of the men in our program aren’t real batterers. They are more abusive men who are pretty noxious toward their families and partners, but still not terrorists. Most of us, as far as I can see, are not going to be very effective with the terroristic batterers. Some of these men end up in prison. Others out in the world just are not going to change their behavior. They are more likely to change partners and continue their abuse. I love the challenge these men present, but these sorts of men don’t really choose to be in our program, or they leave us as soon as they realize what we want from them. So maybe the “success” of our program is also predicated on the fact that we have more workable men. Q: What role do programs standards play, if any, in advancing or improving the quality of batterer programs? A: Program standards are valuable up to a point; they lay out some of the basics. In addition to standards, there should be an ongoing training institute of both theory and practice. There is a plethora of training institutes for other professions. You would have a better chance of developing acceptable practices that are not too regimented, but require that balance between clinical practice and gender equality principles. There simply isn’t a consistent training system and therefore some extremes that have gained hold. Q: Do you do anything special for dealing with African-American men or the diverse backgrounds of men in your groups? A: All of our beginner groups are run by a man and a woman, and a blackwhite team. It has not always been easy, but we’ve been able to offer that arrangement for almost thirty years. We also decorate our meeting place with a lot of African-American and Caribbean art and photography. We try to make it a place where African-American men feel comfortable. When a white staff is conducting the initial evaluation, he/she tries to be especially sensitive and interested in the men’s lives: what was it like growing up in in their particular neighborhood? The staff asks about the block in that neighborhood—what that block was like. Whenever an issue comes up in group that might suggest racism, like a black man telling a story about altercations in the street, we ask questions about race.


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Furthermore, we spend time in our team meetings talking about black culture, black language, and black issues. Our African-American staff, in particular, help us stay aware of the issues inside and outside of the program. At different times we also have offered groups for African-American clients by black male and female staff. While outcomes in terms of completion or recidivism don’t appear to be particularly different than in our mixed race teams, there something positive that is difficult to measure—that is, the feelings of comfort in the room when people of color are in an entirely black group. We feel proud to also have a Spanish language group. However, we have had a harder time recruiting and retaining our Latino counselors. They have tended to move on. One moved to Puerto Rico and the other went back Spain. The man currently running our Latino group speaks about the different Spanish-speaking countries represented in the group. There are frequently four or five countries represented in a group of six men. They frequently talk about Spanish language and different word coinages—different Spanish cultures use different terms. The point is that it is a complex and diverse culture to deal with. We need a lot more work in this area. Q: Risk assessment is receiving a lot of attention in the criminal justice field in general. Do you have any experience or thoughts on that in batterer intervention? A: We have included some possible lethality predictors into our background history—criteria that Barbara Hart developed a couple of decades ago. Research seems to suggest that, although it’s not strongly predictive, you do have higher risk if you were battered as a child, have drug and alcohol problems, and done severely violent acts. We look at the questionnaires and weigh whether we think a particular man has a higher risk and, if our sense is yes, we tell both him and his partner. We may, as well, try to explain to someone the effects of trauma and how they are more likely to be aroused and upset than the average person. They need a lot more work dealing with what happen to them, and how not to repeat their violence. We might add the motivating question, “Do you want your children to witness your abusive behavior?” The men are more likely to empathize with their children than with their partners. So there are a practical values and consequences in certain kinds of lethality assessment. Q: Could you say a little more about the role of linkages to other services and the courts? A: Our staff have been lobbying for much quicker referrals and determinations on domestic violence cases in the courts. The faster you get a man into a batterer program, the better it is for everybody. The district attorney’s office has listened and proposed changing how cases are arraigned in order to

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speed up the process. The head of the DA’s office is, however, in a bit of a struggle with the mayor over funding for diversion and referral programs, so we have to wait till the end of this fiscal year for an answer. If the proposal goes through, we will get new people into the program within thirty days of their arraignment, which is a big change from the previous four to six months delay. Q: Any recommendations for researchers amidst the current movement toward evidence-based practice? A: The one thing that stands out to me is more availability of researchers to do evaluation and research with and for programs. It is very expensive to hire someone to do an outcome study or even a smaller study. If there were a pool of researchers who were available because of an already funded project, more independent programs would benefit from some attention. Just being watched or observed would probably improve our work. The researchers need to realize that many programs want some kind of involvement in a research project, not just a select few that aren’t necessarily representative of the work being done. GARY GIBBENS Gary Gibbens, MA Psych., has worked in the counseling field since 1970, treating substance abuse, chronic mental illness, and psychiatric emergencies. In 1984, he joined the AMEND program where he served as co-clinical director and developed its court-ordered program in Denver. Since 1999, Gary has been the manager of the YWCA Sheriff King Adult Counseling programs, providing services to both domestic violence abusers and victims. He has assisted and conducted research on domestic violence offenders and programs in both Denver and Calgary. In 2006, he was instrumental in developing the High Risk Management Initiative, a program for addressing interventions with high risk IPV offenders. One of his main interests has been the integration of psychological treatment into domestic violence group process. Q: How did you get started in this work? A: I was majoring in literature and going to be the next great poet or author. But back in the 1960s, when I faced the military draft, I went to Canada. I had a Quaker community that would have supported me there, but I came back and I applied for Conscientious Objector (C.O.) status, and amazingly I was granted it. In Colorado, a C.O. status was difficult to obtain in those days. I wasn’t going to go to war, so I ended up working for two years in the mental hospital at Fort Logan in Denver as my “alternative service.” I found that I


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liked working with people. I didn’t have a college degree at the time, so I had to first get a diploma and then a master’s degree, all while working full-time. I worked for two or three years in various hospital units. I worked with kids for a while, and I worked three years with chronic alcoholics. In 1983, I was working at a community mental health center, and several of our female clients had clearly been physically abused. At that time, there was a growing concern in Denver about family violence. So in 1984, a group of us formed a collective and started our own private practice that included domestic violence counseling. I thought that working with men to make them stop violence was a way to prevent abuse in the family. We believed that we could make a real change. I see the abuse of power as being a destructive factor in our society internationally and locally. The push for power over others, of course, works. If you abuse someone you can gain short-term power or influence over them. But in the long-term, it damages the power seeker as well as the others. It damages the infrastructure to the community. Men, however, are not as aware of the consequences or the misuse of power and how destructive it is for them, as well as how damaging it is for their children, their wives, and everybody else. That is what I have been focused on since 1985: There has to be an alternative to abusing power, especially in the family. This issue is complex, as many men see themselves as victims in their relationships, just as many women see themselves as victims. Part of the work with men is to realize that their fears of being vulnerable, of rejection, etc., do not justify attempts to control a relationship through abuse. Q: Your AMEND program in Denver was one of the first men’s programs in the country. What happened to it? A: In Colorado, after 1991, a program could be certified to receive court referrals. So when I left AMEND in 1999, there were twenty-eight different certified programs in Denver alone, all competing for referrals. As a result, AMEND no longer had the inside advantage. Also, several people who were involved in the women’s shelters were very political, which resulted in their separation from the programs for abusive men. There was a split between the women’s and men’s services. Also, courts increasingly allowed men to be referred to alcoholic and drug programs that were private “for profit” programs, so they didn’t have to be concerned with nonprofit status. They may have one or two therapists who are certified and contract out other staff. They tended to pay their staff less and have short-term programs. So AMEND suffered in terms of referrals. Also, I don’t think that AMEND maintained a voluntary referral network as well as they could have. Another thing that AMEND didn’t do was link up with some other nonprofits, like the YWCA—an umbrella organization that would help support it. That could have helped maintain an administrative infrastructure.

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On the other hand, our program in Calgary is very successful. I was the program manager until I stepped down in 2010 to become a domestic violence specialist—the “old guy” they consult with. The men’s program is sponsored here by the YWCA. So we have several group rooms for running nineteen groups a week. We are one of the largest programs in Canada. We also have students who we are training to work in the field. We have good resources in terms of infrastructure, group rooms, parking places, office space, all of the things to operate a program. We even have easy access to transit which benefits clients who do not have cars. Programs tend to be so internally focused that they can be unaware of the costs and difficulty in administering a program. Certainly one thing to think about is a client database, and people to enter the data and to report to third parties, such as child services and probation. To sustain a program you need the ability to write reports and testify in court, and the resources to contact victims. Many programs, on their own, can’t do all of that. Once a charismatic leader leaves a small independent program, things can fall apart. A lot of the programs as a result become subsets of an alcohol, gambling, or shoplifter program. Q: How would you characterize your approach to working with men? A: There have been a lot of movements in treatment over the years. I have always, rightly or wrongly, worked on being open to what’s going on with a person. What are the person’s goals? I’m also really clear that we have a philosophy that we want you to learn what will help you. So we go between process and instruction with a philosophical basis. We have always been more focused on group process, so we never talk about the need to learn a set of things, or present a vignette and seek a right answer. Our approach has always been to engage the person, get to know him, and build a relationship that involves some mutual respect. I learned working with chronic alcoholics that I could say something like the following and get the client’s attention and some results: “We have something to give you (the client); we are not just here to be nice or just to talk for a while. We actually have skills that will help you if you use them, and you will feel better. We can help you manage your stress. We can help you manage your emotional response or your thoughts. We can work with you on dealing with conflict with your partner and with your children. We can help you understand your emotions—what are they about, how to take care of them, and how they are going to affect you physically and mentally. We can help you become aware of how important it is to be accountable.” Following along these lines, I specifically address the issue of power in relationships this way: “We have something to offer you that can be really helpful. We think we have better answers than what you tried before. We want to do it in a respectful way, but we are not just going to sit here and hope you


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discover your own answers. We will give information to you that the group can then process and apply in a way that makes sense. In other words, we will be giving you some direction for change.” Q: What’s your sense of engagement and how does that happen? A: I actually thought about that quite a bit. Just because you engage someone doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a good thing. Building a relationship involves a sense of respect. That kind of respectful relationship is individually tailored to the person you are dealing with. It is what happens when you are listening to someone and hearing it takes for my client to listen to me. I might in fact ask, “What kind of men have you trusted, or women? Have you trusted anyone? What’s the tone of voice that works for you? What’s the kind of dialogue that works for you?” It’s going to be different for different people, so in a group the therapist may have to switch back and forth in approach. A skilled group therapist will change the relationship slightly for different group members, and that actually helps the group members realize that he or she may need to talk to Jose differently than you do to Frank. By modeling that empathy you show the need to address people differently. Felix, who is very religious, may use a different tone than somebody else who works on a construction crew. Modeling this sort of relationship building is enhanced with a female cotherapist. In my experience, almost all male alcohol abusers wanted to work with women. They wanted women therapists because women counselors tended to be more nurturing. This is why having a male-female co-therapy model for DV is so important. Q: In the past, some program leaders caution not to be too sensitive, responsive, or encouraging to the men. How do you avoid that concern? A: I want the men to be accountable, but also I want them to be respectful. So if I’m working with someone who has raped his girlfriend several times and has blamed her for it, I still work on being respectful with him and building a connection. It won’t help to say, “You skunk, you horrible monster. What is wrong with you?” The police already roughed him up at his arrest. He has been confronted by the courts. So he is going to come up with his own defenses for all of that, and I’m going to give him an alternative way to respond. The alternative allows for change, but if he tries to “roll me” that is where some special skills are needed. If you have someone who is antisocial, for instance, who is trying to manipulate you, you might say, “You know I’m trying to be respectful with you, and you are trying to lie to me, which isn’t respectful, so let’s start over. Your not telling me the truth is not accountable or respectful. Now do you want to try a different relationship with me, or do you want to keep doing this? If you do this with me, I will start seeing you as someone whom I have conflict with. You want to do that with me? I’m pretty good at conflict too, trust me.”

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Q: How has your approach as well as your philosophy changed or evolved over time? A: I think it’s more trauma-informed now. I think I have a deeper understanding of what men do in terms of emotions and in terms of denial. We are really talking about men expressing a variety of feelings through anger, but some men even deny their anger. They just try to be robots and of course that doesn’t work. They see emotions as making them vulnerable. They see emotional situations and emotional people as insulting to them. So when their wives get upset, or someone in the group shows their emotions, they become upset and agitated. They see it as a threat to themselves. So understanding that pain men go through is something I’ve worked on. I also have gotten a lot better working with women around trauma. (I’ve worked with female victims as well as male perpetrators over the years.) Right now I have a woman who has been shot twice in the stomach. I worked with agencies around safety planning and high-risk cases and learned from all those efforts. We have a shelter next door and therefore can easily consult on the dynamics of a case if need be. As a result, I don’t see domestic violence as a simple thing. I don’t see it as one-dimensional. I always thought that it was more complicated than just somebody trying to control in an abusive way. A lot of men who are abusive with their wives really do care about their children. They really care about their wives. They are in fact really conflicted. There also are men who are not conflicted at all and sadistically enjoy the pain they cause. There are people all over the range, and realizing that range is part of what I try to help therapists understand. Flexibility is required to respond to this range of men. So if anything I’ve built my flexibility overtime. Q: What does it mean to do a trauma-informed counseling session? A: First, trauma has become a buzzword, and anybody can say we are treating that. But a lot of men who go into domestic violence counseling have been traumatized, express it differently, and defend it differently. They do sensation seeking and stimulation seeking, or drinking or drugging. They try to keep themselves going all the time in work or relationships. So they end up with these high conflict relationships and really intensive work situations that provide them stimulus. Its like, “I don’t have to feel anything. I keep active to block it all out. But I have periods of time that the feeling or the emotions start coming back in.” At that point, the men experience some depression or anxiety. It may be a defused, vague down-feeling or a more focused “I miss my wife or my kids and have to have my kids back.” It’s a way of taking away the pain and the stress, and, when they are with their kids, they feel better. Their emotions of anxiety, fear, and sadness are painful.


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So what do we do? We do guided relaxation, some deep breathing, physical stretching, or walking or exercising to help them. We encourage the men to identify the place where the emotions are physically felt: “Where do you feel it? Ultimately you need to recognize and talk about it to feel better. The sharing with each other, the response to each other helps. It’s learning about those emotions and sharing our fear with each other. How do you deal with that fear? How do you make it go away? How do you reassure yourself? Who will help you with that?” These are the kinds of things we do to address trauma and its effects. If in fact the person is having flashbacks, suicide thoughts, or panic attacks, then we recommend some individual work in addition to the groups. Q: What about women’s response to trauma and treating that? A: In my experience with some women’s groups, women tend to feel overwhelmed. They feel panicky. Building a sense of safety and support can really help. In our women’s programs, we have provided blankets or quilts for women who attend the program to encourage this sense of belonging and safety. Once that is achieved, helping them to be in touch with those feelings, in a safe way, can be helpful. The group can also help empower them for recovery. First help them share and give them the support. The group clients, then, can begin to overcome the overwhelming anxiety and pain of traumatic events. Once they get past that, explore how the women can take charge of their lives and feel more able to handle emotions. Q: What role does psychopathology play in all this; and how do we respond to it? A: William Eddie has done a lot of work with what he terms “high conflict people” that applies here. He found that about 7 percent of child custody cases take up 95 percent of the time. They are the ones who see themselves as victims. They build up tension and have explosions; they don’t learn. We actually have a high conflict program here that we adapted from Eddie’s work. It’s not part of our domestic violence program, but is a complementary program that brings insight to our domestic violence program. Most of the clients in this program score high on the narcissism scale of the MCMI. So personality disorders are a major issue in these cases. The computer metaphor, I think, best illustrates the role of such disorders. You buy a computer with an operating system. Even with the updates the operating system crashes now and then. Our personality is much like an operating system. It is the interface between the hardware and the applications. Our personality helps us regulate our emotions, our behavior, our thinking, so we can function effectively. If we overload, then we crash. If it doesn’t work, the personality disordered client can “malfunction.” So the most immediate issue with personality dysfunctions is that the person has trouble sometimes

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in regulating his thoughts, emotions, or his behavior. As a result, they get into trouble. I’d estimate that about 25 or 30 percent of our domestic violence clients have problems with their “operating systems” and may have personality disorders of one kind of another. Those with borderline personality disorders can be particularly difficult to help, but they are fairly rare. There are some men who are bipolar or seriously depressed. Once their mood disorders have been addressed, I try to work somewhat on their personality issues: “In some situations, you think only of yourself. You overrespond to people, and you are not aware of what other people need. What I see going on with you is that you think about yourself first and not about the consequences of what you are going to do. Sometimes that means that people do not trust you. What I am going to ask you to work on is going to be really hard at first. It is to think about how you affect other people and to start regulating your thoughts and behavior toward them. Think about what other people want first rather than just about what you want. That might be a goal for you in this program.” Part of it is… “How do you think about yourself? How do you deal with the sense of guilt and shame? What happens when you end up alone, your wife leaves you, your kids leave you, and no one wants to be with you? These are the consequences of being self-centered. Do you want this?” At least some of the men can learn to compensate for these kinds of personality deficits, but it has to be a choice. We used to formally assess for personality disorders with various instruments and still do in certain cases. But at this point I rely on my experience to identify men in the group who need more attention. The symptoms become fairly apparent in the men’s interactions. Q: What you are talking about sounds like a highly skilled task. What is it that you look for in recruiting and developing new staff to do this work? A: I have always wished that I could train new staff more than I do. I colead a group with the current supervisor for the YWCA training program, so she and I are assured of a similar approach. What has been very helpful at the YMCA is having a stable staff. We have had people who have a private practice with the community, but they have worked with us for fourteen years. We have several people who have done more than five years. So we have this long-term group of people who are mature and experienced. Probably twothirds have master’s degrees. Q: Any other qualities or characteristics that you look for in trying to hire or recruit people? A: The sense of openness, not being locked into any psychological therapeutic approach. If it is a woman, I need to know that she is not looking at things just from a feminist approach—that she understands the thought process of the male clients, and how she will affect the men in group. If it’s


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a man, he needs to be able to get in touch with his emotional side, and let a woman co-leader take the lead. He needs to be aware of the feminist values expressed in our programs. He needs to be aware of how men use power and be comfortable standing up to men who are abusive without overresponding. If someone gets in your face, stands up, or raises his voice, how do you respond to that? Can you stay centered? Can you regulate yourself—your thoughts, behavior and feelings? Can you intervene in a way that is positive and supportive? Graduate schools teach about family violence, but I am not impressed by how they approach it. Some do not have training programs on how to intervene or work with these kinds of men around these issues. Most people who come out of graduate schools can’t do this work without training, because they have not experienced dealing with difficult and/or resistive clients. So the best thing is to have people come and train in our program. The advantage of having a large program like ours is that we have thirtytwo facilitators to draw on. We have trainees who do their hours, work with our staff, and learn what it’s really like to do this work. I really hope that we can put together a training approach to building relationships with abusive men or abusive women. There is also an issue about psychotherapists taking care of themselves, and in particular dealing with stress and collateral trauma as well. I always thought that working with abusive men and women was a specialty; there should be special training for people in that area. I mean substance abuse counts as a specialized area. I think that family violence, if anything, takes more skill. People who work with family violence cases should have the ability to work with substance abuse and learn something about psychopathology. You need to have a generalist kind of counselor who isn’t scared off by abuse, violence, or threats. He also needs to know risk assessment. These kinds of counselors should also be well paid. Q: Anything special in terms of working with minorities: African Americans, Latinos, Asians, and Indigenous Canadians? A: I think we made real progress with the Hispanic community in Denver, but we probably should have had more Hispanic group leaders. With the black community, there can be a lot of lateral violence. So being aware of how dangerous the world that the client lives in can be very important, and having representation from the communities is critical. There are two particular issues in Canada. One is the multicultural community, so we have a multicultural counselor who speaks five languages. She works with an Anglo or mainstream counselor. Most of the clients are men from the Middle East, India, Pakistan, and so on. So we have a group where everybody in the group has cultural issues or language impairment. They do have similar issues when it comes to domestic violence. We are starting

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to deal with the problem of honor-based violence—which stands out in this grouping of men. Q: What’s your response to the claim by some that batterer programs don’t work? A: We had an outcome evaluation of our program and found that noncompleters were four times more likely to be rearrested than treatment group completers: One quarter of the men who didn’t complete were rearrested versus 6 percent of the men who did complete. You can always find reasons to discount such findings, but I find them at least encouraging. It would take such time and money to follow up with women’s reports about these men. Moreover, I question the follow-up of the experimental studies that are getting attention. Are they really getting at what’s happening any more than we are? What are our major indicators for success? If these programs are successful, should rates of arrest be dropping? Not necessarily. If the court and police are doing their job, and responding to our reports of risk and dropout, arrest may increase. If we were being honest, we would say that the arrest shouldn’t increase, regardless. But are you looking at a whole city or a country? I’m not sure what a realistic yardstick should be for evidence-based counseling. There have been very elaborate clinical trials comparing different approaches to depression as well as alcoholic abuse. They don’t come up with dramatically different outcomes. But depression is hard to define and a person’s sensitivity to depression varies. Substance abuse varies, and domestic violence is also a varying problem. There are a lot of people who just generally get better, and maybe didn’t need the intensive treatment. Others who need it may not get it. So I would like to see a study where a clinician would select clients for different kinds of interventions and then compare them with people with no intervention. I think a follow-up with their families and victims over a period of time would show a significant difference in those with intervention. Q: Anything else you would recommend to researchers? A: We should recruit men who completed programs who feel that it’s affected their lives, either negatively or positively, and interview them in-depth about their experience. That is, study men who say this program really helped or this program didn’t help. Find out why that is the case. What happened? What did you learn from the program? What do you want to take away from it? We don’t have these kinds of statements about how the men’s lives changed or didn’t change as a result of this counseling. Did you feel like you were punished by the system? Did you feel like you came away with something helpful? How do you deal with your adolescent daughter now? What about your ex-wife in terms of her situation? How do you handle things now? Are you now aware of what she was upset about?


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I think having more qualitative testimonials and assessments from men who completed programs and finding out what they think is important and worthwhile. Then taking a look at what was significant and what wasn’t. Another interesting thing is to look at the quality of parenting. What’s going on with the kids after dad or mom has gone through this kind of intervention. What are the issues for kids in school? What’s going on with the kids in terms of emotional functioning? If the parents start changing, things should start changing for the kids. What do they think? Q: What recommendations or advice would you offer the field? What do we most need to focus on? A: I think revisiting some of the basics would be helpful. Men and women who work in domestic violence should spend some period of time in a women’s shelter and be grounded in that experience. Let’s not make the mistake of focusing only on the theory. We have a women’s shelter next door. I can go over there and listen to the kids cry and the women dealing with trauma. Maybe a rotation through a shelter to become aware not only of the extent of the abuse, but also of the real problems it causes some of the women. I see a lot of new people who have no idea of what that is about. That kind of grounding can alter therapist’s approach and effectiveness. If anything needs to be fixed it is the training process. First, working with family violence is a specialty and it requires real training. It’s not about getting a certificate or degree. It is about learning how to do it. Learning how to do it means you have to do a fair amount of hands-on work. You have to have exposure to violence and its effects. You have to see what goes on with kids who have been exposed to this kind of violence, and you need to have a sense of reality. You also have to learn how to do group counseling, because it is the format that works the best for the most people. Doing group counseling, especially with men, takes skill, and it’s not simple. My wish is that there would be training for this sort of thing. I was involved in arguably the first set of standards in Colorado in 1991. We laid out a lot of testing requirements for program staff. They had to do three days of this and three days of that. Then they ended up with a certificate. I made part of my income training people to meet the standards there. I would push now for more of the kind of grounding that comes from spending time in the shelter, having a classroom experience with women who had been abused, and talking about their reality. I’d require some hands-on support in terms of doing groups. Maybe we need more internships and less classroom instruction; more support as opposed to restriction; and less of a hierarchy for who can do what. Q: What are your thoughts on the risk assessment trend? A: In Calgary, we have tended to use a tool like the SARA (Spouse Abuse Risk Assessment), a dynamic risk assessment tool. We also developed the

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High Risk Management Initiative (HRMI), which is a program where we have been monitoring very severe domestic violence offenders and providing support for vulnerable victims. We bring in probation, police, and other agencies and monitor twenty or so cases at a time. We have been following them for the last two years. All those people had been in domestic violence programs, but they didn’t get anywhere, refused to participate, had previously been to prison, or been involved in serious criminal assaults, like blowing up a house or attacking people with a machete. The HRMI appears to have decreased the risk of homicide and/or severe violence for the clients involved in the program. Q: How do you respond to that sort of assessment? A: The very high risk people sometimes don’t go into or stay in a group. They won’t attend, and of course that is a risk factor in itself. For people who are in a group, we work to support them around their stressors; we want to address the anxiety, depression, and sadness, and also help them stabilize where they live. We work on substance abuse, employment, and revenge fantasies or dependency. Of course, we help the victim as well. Q: Any special thoughts about the linkages with other services, the courts, or a community coordinated response? A: Hopefully there is a specialty team for domestic violence in the community with members who are involved and know each other well. This sort of team needs to involve police, prosecutors, probation, child and family services, multi-cultural programs, treatment agencies, mental health and substance abuse treatment, and women’s shelters or victim advocates. A collaborative community response can help support and inform intervention programs and provide the opportunity for open communication about issues for the various community programs. The Home Front program, in Calgary, is a great example of a successful “community coordinated response” (CCR) program and has helped develop domestic violence prevention in Alberta province overall. CHRIS HUFFINE Chris Huffine, PsyD, is a licensed psychologist who has been working with abusive men since 1992. He is the founder and executive director of Allies in Change. He has worked with thousands of abusive men as well as abusive women and abused women and men. He is a member of the Oregon state batterer intervention standards group and the Oregon Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team. He regularly speaks at both local and national trainings on working with abusive men and related issues. He hopes to provide trainings and consultations throughout the country and beyond to help improve the quality of work with abusive men.


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Q: How did you get started in this work? A: The way I came into the work against domestic violence is typical for a lot of people. It was not exactly what I was planning on doing. I got my doctorate back in the fall of 1991, and moved to Portland. I was looking for work and found the Men’s Resource Center was advertising for group facilitators. I knew that the Men’s Resource Center was a feminist organization, and I had a background in feminism. When I interviewed with the Center, I had a new realization, more or less. Even thought I had taken a women’s studies class in college and had been involved with the feminist movement, I was still thinking that stopping the violence was a matter of anger management. In my final year of graduate school, I had in fact developed an anger management group manual. I explained this background, and one of the interviewers paused and said, “We don’t see domestic violence as a problem of anger management. We see this as being a problem of power and control.” This was the first time I heard this being said. It put me on a new path. When I started working with the men, I realized that men’s violence against women was much more of an issue than I thought. Many people had a very stereotypical idea of it. Q: What has sustained you over the years? A: I think a number of things have. It has turned into a calling for me. Some of what sustains me is that I really enjoyed learning with and from the men. I really like the dynamics of group work. I also feel like this work is incredibly rich and complex. It’s not like a psycho-educational group where you can learn about how to treat depression and basically do exactly the same thing week after week, year after year. It’s much more dynamic, at least the way we run groups, so it doesn’t get boring. Also, I do work with victims individually. My agency also has groups for them. Working with victims and survivors can provide real detailed information about what happened in the relationship: you get the real story—whereas the abusers tend to offer the G or PG version rather than the R-rated. That adds to the picture and interest. Dealing with a resistant and difficult group is part of the challenge in the work that teachers in general face. My father was a high school English teacher. In the first couple of months of the school year, all he was doing was trying to get the students to pay attention. It was a lot of work and a lot of headaches, but then they would actually start to engage. That is the way it is with the group work: the men will have an attitude. If you know what you’re doing, you can help a lot of them make a shift over time. Moreover, I think there is a great need for this work. This is an area that is under addressed, especially working with perpetrators and including them in the equation of domestic violence. This is in part why I am trying to do greater outreach. Working with the men has much larger implications, even

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internationally. I’m starting to believe that most of the things that cause domestic disorder also cause the ills of the world: war, famine, bigotry, environmental struggles. The philosophies and beliefs behind those things are the same that drive domestic violence: There’s a sense of “power over” another, a Right way and a Wrong way to do things, one person has to be on top and the other on the bottom, and differences are seen as a threat or a challenge. One of the reasons I have seen many of my peers leaving the field is that they needed to make more money, which is completely understandable. I am willing to live a pretty simple life, economically. I am a psychologist. I make a pretty modest income. I had to make a trade-off between making more money doing other kinds of work, versus making a more modest income doing this work. It feels a bit like being a Franciscan monk at times. You make a modest living, and it is a kind of spiritual work. That’s the reason why some of the men continue to attend our programs. It’s not just because they are trying to stop being abusive; it feeds them in a very substantial way. Q: How is your program doing in terms of its financial viability and cash flow? A: I would like to pay the core staff a little more, especially myself and my administrative staff. We are a decent-sized agency. We run twenty-six groups for abusive men. We also do several groups for women. We do individual and couples counseling. So I have four full-time administrative staff. The office manager and the operation manager have been working for me for several years, but I am not really paying them adequately. As the clinical director and owner, I have also not been compensated particularly well. I am able to make a living and pay our staff pretty well, but I would like to be doing more writing, training, and outreach, but that doesn’t necessarily or immediately generate more income. If the agency could support me financially, I would be doing more of that. Q: What is your organizational structure? A: I’ve worked for a number of years with Men’s Resource Center prior to starting this agency. And it really felt like I wasn’t able to do what I wanted with that agency or another agency. So I started my own. The mission of our nonprofit is to address two overall goals. One is actually to try to target populations of domestic violence that other organizations are often overlooking— in particular, families that are primarily affected by verbal and psychological abuse, and with little physical abuse, and families that are more middle class than upper class and are often utilizing services other than domestic violence ones. In this way, we compliment the work that shelters and other batter intervention programs are doing. We also work with court-mandated physically violent men. There are plenty of families out there that have domestic


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violence intervention needs, but what they do is go to mental health professionals who do not know how to screen for domestic violence, and have staff who are not very knowledgeable about the problem. Q: What did you mean when you said you were initially influenced by feminism? A: I first got interested in feminism when I took a women’s studies class in college. I was one of three men in a class of about twenty total. The whole idea of gender roles, the different ways that males and females behave, and the socialization process behind it—all of that is of interest to me. My definition of feminism is the labeling and objectifying people based on their given gender, and ascribing to them predetermined qualities based on that gender. When I talk about this in a group, men respond that women are weak and men are strong; men are unemotional and women are emotional. Even when I was six and seven, I can remember the “boys against girls.” It never made sense to me. Why are we hating the girls? I didn’t understand. I tended to be more friendly with girls than the other boys. I think of myself as having a mix of both feminine and masculine qualities. This is maybe what led me to be more interested in feminine thinking and all of these gender role issues. We in this agency, describe ourselves as a feminism agency. However, “publicly” we probably should be more careful using the “f” word in some of the conversations we have. The term is too often misunderstood these days. I think it’s fine if people don’t want to explicitly label themselves as feminist, as long as there is a gender analysis in their work. It is absolutely my belief that there is a gender piece to this work that is related to our socialization. In fact, the model that we use is rooted in the way that males and females tend to act and behave. If programs lose that basis, then, I think, they are really missing the boat. I know this is happening more and more, and it is a bit troubling to me. Violence is so clearly primarily a masculine act. As we know, statistically, and I think that is not a coincidence. Q: Brain research and neuroscience suggest that men and women are “wired” differently, rather than simply socialized into gender roles. A: I have a real issue with that. A variation of what you are saying is that aggression and violence are just a drive that men have. “It’s wired in them; they can’t help it; it’s biological.” My counter is that we have a drive to eat. Eating is biologically driven, but how we eat, what we eat, when we eat, and where we eat are strongly culturally influenced. Even if violence were a drive, there is clearly also a strong drive for peace. If violence were so automatic, we wouldn’t need all of these cultural sanctions to promote it. But men and boys are continually being told how they have to be aggressive and tough. And I’m not saying there aren’t some neurological aspects to our human behavior, but rather that culture has a primarily role in how we behave.

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Q: How do you respond to the issue of women’s violence? A: We actually have two women’s perpetrator groups. We have them separated out by primary and secondary aggression, or those who clearly initiate the violence and those who are reacting to the men’s violence. There is actually a surprising level of consensus that most of the women we see are secondary aggressors. They typically have been victimized for a longer period of time. They don’t have a lot of power and control behind their behavior. They tend to be respectful in their relationships. If you were to pull most of those women out of their abusive relationship, their abusive behavior would stop. The secondary aggressors also tend to take a lot of the responsibility for the violence, sometimes too much, and tend to minimize the perpetrator’s behavior. The female primary aggressors tend to look a lot like the men. They tend to take very little responsibility for their actions. They tend to do a lot of blaming. They try to minimize their behavior, and they also tend to be abusive with others, most notably their children. Many of the primary aggressors are, in fact, referred by child welfare. I accept that women’s violence is a real thing. However, I fully disagree with the gender symmetry argument that women are just as abusive as men. I think there is a subpopulation of women that is abusive and do exert power and control, and they are more likely to target their children because their partners can get out of harm’s way more easily. But I’ve been looking for battered men for a long time. I have worked with men throughout my career for a lot of different issues. I think that while women’s violence is real and we need to acknowledge it, we have to put it in context. There simply aren’t as many violent women as there are violent men. Q: How would you characterize your approach to your men’s group? A: The model that we are using, we are calling the “Allies Model.” It is a hybrid model. It draws on the Duluth Curriculum, feminist teachings, the couples work of John Guttman and Patricia Evans, and work on men and masculinity. The basis is, first, domestic violence is a symptom driven by a set of beliefs. We see the work as being really about helping abusive men change the way they live and view the world. It’s very similar to the idea of sobriety in that being an alcoholic doesn’t just mean that you drink too much. And so you have to stop drinking. It means that you live in a way that is conducive to stopping. Sobriety is not just not-drinking, it is living the sober lifestyle, and that’s what a person has to do for the rest of his life. It is an ongoing process Additionally, violence is disconnection: disconnection from self, disconnection from people, and then disconnection from relationships. The disconnection from self is a lack of self-awareness of one’s physical state, needs,


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and emotions. People act aggressively in response to those needs being neglected or not being met. They blame other people when they are not doing well. That is because they are not very self-aware, and they don’t manage themselves very well. Therefore, the work in part is to help them become more self-aware of their emotions, their bodies, and their basic needs, and then how to effectively manage those, rather than expecting other people to take care of them. Regarding disconnection from others, we find that many abusive men are very egotistical. They are not very aware of other people. They are not very relational; they assume that the way they see the world is the way everybody else sees the world. It’s what they want, not what their partner wants. It is not so much that they terrorize their families, but that they neglect them. The need here is helping men connect with other people, to be aware of other people, to be thoughtful of other people. A great illustration of this is the difference between the Golden Rule and the Platinum Rule. The Golden Rule, which everyone knows, is treat other people the way you want to be treated. This works well for strangers, but it doesn’t work as well in close relationships. My wife may like small gatherings for her birthday, and I like surprise parties. If I follow the Golden Rule, I am going to throw her a surprise party, which she would not be wild about. The Platinum Rule is “don’t treat other people the way you want to be treated; treat other people the way they want to be treated.” And it is really saying that you need to be aware of the other. A final aspect is disconnection from relationship. Abusive men are prone to seeing their partners as being against them, and as if they take advantage of them. Consequently, they feel a need to keep their partner in line. The ideal is to assume that your partner is on your side, assume that your family is on your side, that they are your allies. That is what inspired the name of our agency, “Allies”—really working with these men to assume alliance, which is contrary to traditional masculinity. The work is to connect with self, regard the other, and trust the relationship. Q: Are group leaders consciously working to engage men, or is it the model itself that promotes a relational exchange? A: I think it’s both. A related controversy within the field is whether our approach should be education or therapy. Our Allies Model is absolutely therapeutic. Therapeutic change definitely needs to be done in a group. It is about men making real changes in their lives and challenging each other to change. It is primarily us modeling that behavior, encouraging interactions between the men in the group. We are definitely more about the group process than just passively distributing information. I think that as the program staff becomes more confident in themselves and what they are seeing, it’s natural for the program to evolve and become more complex.

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Q: Any other major changes that you have seen in your work over the years? A: There are very small ones, I still think what men need is definitely to change their behavior. Part of this is skill-building, but increasingly it has become clear what domestic violence is really about. It’s not an act of abuse or any pattern of abuse, it is about a mindset. The heart of this work is shifting the way men think about the people and the world. Until that shift, it’s easy for men to twist anything you give them into the tools of abuse and control. Once you change their mindset, then they might still need some skill-building and some behavioral practice. I used to think that it was a fifty/fifty split between skill-building, and addressing beliefs. I now see it is really mainly about belief and worldviews. The analogy that I use when we talk about domestic violence is a house. I draw a house, and there is a chimney which is the physical abuse and the verbal abuse. That stands out, but that’s not the house, it’s just the chimney on top of the house. The house is built out of emotional abuse and controlling behavior, and all of the more subtle things. The foundation of the house is the beliefs. Building a new house on a bad foundation is not going to be well supported. Q: What are your thoughts on psychopathology as an explanation for violence and as a focus for programs? A: That is a complicated response because historically the mental health services have done a poor job of identifying and addressing domestic violence. On the one hand, it is understandable that people would be worried about psychopathology being used to qualify for health insurance benefits and diverting attention from the need for perpetrator accountability and victim safety. At the same time, I don’t think giving someone a diagnosis excuses anything. A lot of people who get a DUI (Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs) can be diagnosed as having alcohol abuse, but that doesn’t excuse them from getting a DUI. It doesn’t mean they are not going to be accountable for choosing to drink and drive. It just helps us understand the problem better. In fact, many criminals receive a diagnosis and the diagnosis does not excuse the behavior. Thirty or forty years ago in the mental health field, alcoholism was considered a consequence of other psychological issues. If you treated the psychological issues, the drinking problem would go away. That was completely wrong. Consequently, alcoholics created their own movement of Alcoholics Anonymous, run almost completely by people in recovery. Nowadays, of course, the mental health professionals acknowledge that psychological issues can aggravate addiction, but they don’t cause it. Addiction is its own significant separate issue. I think that is exactly the same


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with domestic violence. There are psychological issues that can aggravate one’s sense of power and control, but they don’t cause them. It is important to understand that we can treat and intervene with the domestic violence without having to treat other issues. The other issues may also need to be treated, but they don’t have to be treated for the person to stop being abusive and controlling. There are plenty of people with other diagnoses and similar histories, but they are not actively living an abusive and controlling life. Among the available diagnosis, the most significant actually doesn’t exist in the DSM (Diagnostic Statistical Manual), which is psychopathy. We are generally not adequately screening populations of abusers for psychopathic tendencies. The traditional curriculum of empathy building and personal accountability might actually make these guys worse. Therefore, they need to be screened out of regular programs into specialized programs, and if nothing else is available, no program may actually be a better option. We are one of the few programs in the country that has specialized groups for who we call criminal-oriented men or psychopathic men. We run them very differently. These men comprise the one subpopulation that forces a choice of giving them a regular batterer intervention program or giving them no program. I really think that the better choice is no program. They need to be separated out of regular programs. Most psychopaths are going to be high risk perpetrators, and you have to work with them, I think, very differently. Q: What are your thoughts about risk assessment? A: That is another area that batterer programs need to improve. I don’t think there are adequate assessments being done. At our agency, we are attempting to follow the risk-needs-responsibility (R-N-R) model of risk assessment. In this model, risk assessment is an ongoing process. You use that process to inform the work you are doing with the men. You target particular risk factors that appear and attempt to reduce them. Professionals in other fields, such as the sex offenders’ field, are very familiar with this approach. In the batterer intervention field, however, risk assessment remains underdeveloped and static (based primarily on a one-time test score.) An example of the R-N-R model: If a man loses his job, his risk level just increased; so in group that week, you ask the man, “How are you feeling about that? What’s your plan? What are you going to do with your free time? How’s this affecting the way you feel about yourself?” Or in the case of alcohol problems, we might say, “Reports show that you started drinking again, how much are you drinking? Why are you drinking? What’s your plan around that?” In this way, we shape the group work to respond to the appearance of risk factors. Furthermore, we can sometimes collect collateral information through police reports or other agencies. We also have a check-in process, in which we

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ask different questions, such as, have there been any life changes in the past week? There are examples, such as changes in medical condition, in social arrangements, and in finances. In this way we can catch risk factors that warrant attention. Q: How do you respond to the notion that batterer programs “don’t work”? A: In all of my public speaking, the most common question I get asked is: “What is the effect of batterer programs? What is the success of your program?” Typically the questioners have an agenda. Some want the silver bullet. If we just do this or that, we’ll solve the problem. Some people are just curious. Others want to discredit batterer programs and promote their own approach. My response is that we have to intervene with abusive men, because we are not going to stop any domestic violence without stopping the perpetrators. In fact, every survivor that you rescue from an abusive relationship leaves a man who is likely to find and abuse a new partner. There’s no reason to think that the perpetrator will stop with one victim. Batterer programs have got to exist, how can they not exist? We should be asking, “How can we improve programs?” Not asking, “Should they exist?” Emotionally, the most difficult part of this work has been the hostility over treatment effectiveness. I have felt animosity from colleagues who disagree with what I’m doing. Advocates and even other providers have expressed flat-out hostility. I imagine that a lot of other providers, especially those who have been in the field for a long time, have a similar story. Q: What’s your sense of the reason for the hostility? A: I think the hostility on the surface is because I’m working with men, and in some way I am going to collude with the men or excuse their abuse. Part of the hostility is guilt by association: “I hate these guys, so I hate you for what you do with them.” I think what is really behind this, however, is vicarious trauma. Many people in the field are traumatized by the brutality they witness. It’s creating a level of cynicism and hostility with them that is acted out. In my over twenty years, the amount of hostility has definitely been diminishing, however. We are definitely heading in the right direction. For instance, one of the local shelters that some years ago had a very strong antibatterer program stance is now more supportive. I’ve been invited to speak in its training. The staff acknowledge that we have to find a way to stop abusive men. The field is evolving. Q: What needs to be done to improve batterer programs? A: One issue is that batterer intervention is given little respect or support. It’s underfunded, staff members are often undertrained, turnover is high, discourse is limited. Most working in the field are not familiar with related clinical treatment. Another issue is the need to fund programs that are working


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with perpetrators, so that staff can get training and make a living. It has become clear to me that this is work that you can’t learn to do well in a year or six months. So we need to retain people for a while, and stem turnover. We also need to become more organized. There are few national conferences, or local conferences of intervention programs. It is somewhat embarrassing how ignorant we are of research, how little networking we do. In my professional opinion, for men to make real, sustained change at a core level takes between a year or two, if not longer. You can stop the physical abuse and the illegal abuse relatively quickly. Back in the early 1990s, when I first came to the Men’s Resource Center, the program had recently been extended from three months to six months. The leaders explained that the reason was that, according to the partners of the abusive men in the groups, the physical abuse had pretty much stopped. However, it didn’t feel like anything had changed. There had been an increase in psychological abuse, and an increase in controlling behavior. The men were kind of swapping one behavior for another. The staff’s response was to extend the program to six months. Now I think that six months is not even nearly enough. It’s more like a year, a year-and-a-half, two years may be needed. So that’s something else we need to do: extend program length. Yet program standards in many states stipulate shorter lengths, and others like my own have cut back the requirements for longer lengths. Q: How do you keep men in a longer program without them dropping out? A: We are going to continue to have a high dropout rate because this is the reality whether you are talking about medication compliance, alcohol treatment, or anything else. You have to accept that you are seed planting; you are trying your best with motivational interviewing to engage these men and keep them in the program. All we can do is do our best to encourage men to stay, to challenge them to stay. Q: What about the role of linkages to the courts or other services? A: I think that they are very important. We cannot evaluate programs without considering the program context. I do believe that a coordinated community response makes a difference. However, there has been some drift from a coordinated community response. I hear people increasingly characterizing the coordinated community response as a “criminal justice” coordinated response. The probation officer and the police are involved, but that is not nearly enough. Schools need to be involved; also doctors, ministers, employee assistance programs. Coordinated community response is really involving everybody. Everybody needs to be educated about domestic violence and then do their part, saying “We won’t tolerate this.” In my time, there has been a great cultural shift around the issue of addiction as a result of involving the whole community.

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Q: What role do state standards for batterer programs have in making the improvements you’ve mentioned? A: I have a lot of ambivalence about program standards. I think there is a place for standards if they can be enforced. In Oregon the standards are not really being enforced, and there is really no standards group that meets to oversee the standards. The problem with standards is that they can prematurely impose rigid ways of doing the work. On the other hand, there is no strong evidence, for instance, that group work is the most effective approach, that psycho-education is the best modality, and so on. Almost everything standards require or recommend has no strong empirical support. That does not mean that programs do not have value. I think that things need to be informed by practical and professional wisdom, until there is substantial research to direct the work. The danger is that standards will prematurely hamper innovation. Q: What are the basics that you look for in recruiting and developing staff? A: The main thing I look for is individuals who are enthusiastic about this work, who believe in this work. They have to have some enlightenment about gender roles. In Oregon, there is a requirement that the groups have co-ed, cofacilitation. A male and a female lead groups together, and model a mutually respectful relationship. So I also look for people who can work well together. Also, I make it clear that I expect anyone I hire to make at least a two-year commitment to the agency, because they won’t really be doing great work until the second year. It takes some time to learn the curriculum and how to deal with challenges that arise in the group process. I’ve come to realize that running groups well requires very sophisticated understanding and a skill set that is not just taught. This is work that not everyone can do well at first, and in some cases not at all. Q: How do we deal with different backgrounds, ethnicity, race, and class? A: We probably have more specialized groups than any other provider in the country. We have specialized groups for criminal-oriented men; we also have a couple of groups for men that we call “emotionally intense,” which are typically men who have a history of trauma, and are more prone to rage and acting out. We have three groups that are exclusively voluntary groups. They are men who tend to be more middle class and upper class, and who do not have any trauma history. We have one advanced group for men who have been participating in group work for many years. They are already familiar with the core concepts, but want to continue to support each other. We also have a group for men who have sexually abused their partner. We have one group that has a heavier focus on parenting issues. All of these groups have the same core curriculum, except for the criminaloriented group. Not only is the core curriculum substantially different for that


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group, the facilitation style is significantly different. In the other groups we encourage men to talk to each other. In this case, we encourage them to talk to the facilitator. Also, there’s much less direct confrontation done in that group. Q: Is the main objective to foster familiarity and rapport amongst the similar men and thus enhance disclosure and interaction? A: Yes, I believe that ideally we would offer as many culturally-specific groups as we could. If men wanted to be with men of a similar culture, we would let them choose to do that. What needs to be specific to such a group are the analogies, the examples, the language, the interactions. All these need to be culturally informed. These specialized groups tend to have a higher retention rate. Another idea that’s becoming more widespread is this idea of “cultural humility,” as opposed to “cultural competence.” The latter is knowing a particular culture very well. The problem with cultural competence is that you can’t be culturally competent in every single culture, so what do you do about all the cultures that you can’t possibly know. A second problem is that people are not of one culture; every individual is an intersection of many different cultures, in terms of gender, race, class, geography, and so on. The alternative, then, is culture humility. The key premise of this is that you need to become an expert in your own culture, and make sure that you do not impose your culture and its presumptions on others. I need to be careful not to presume that anything that I do—whether it is how I eat, or how I observe holidays, or how I express frustration,—you will do the same way. I just need to be open and curious, and I have to make sure that I don’t make assumptions based on my own cultural background. To me that is an approach that is much more realistic. I don’t have to be trained in all of these different cultures; I just have to be open. I mentioned earlier the platinum rule; this is another example of the platinum rule. In order for me to practice the platinum rule, I need to be open and listening to you, and realize the unique way that you are different from me. Q: Any final thoughts on the direction and needs of batterer programs? A: My goal going forward is to share what we are learning with other programs around the country and help to break down the isolation and divisions among programs. I understand that providers typically have little money, and so we need to be able to share resources at low cost. Perhaps more of this can be done through websites and online seminars. There are some wellestablished fundamentals underlying batterer programs, but the work needs to be elevated generally.

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Activist Oriented

This next set of interviewees represents a focus on community change and social justice, in contrast to the increased attention to individual men’s needs and issues expressed by the previous program leaders. The batterer program in this view is more a vehicle for launching “change agents” rather than just “fixing men.” The most important outcome in this regard—and what program evaluations miss—is the program impact on the community at large. Is the community safer for women and children in general as a result? Underlying this focus is the concern that only a small percentage of men who are violent toward their partners ever end up in a batterer program. Sending men from the program back into the same community context, furthermore, often perpetuates their behavior. What needs to ultimately be addressed is “the culture of disrespect,” “the imbalances of power,” and “violating of the male-role belief system,” according to these program leaders Each of these programs still has educational curriculum which extends into engaging discussion that offers the men the opportunity to change their perspective and behavior—a format one interviewee termed “didactic conversation.” The curriculum includes an emphasis on a gender analysis of society that the men in turn apply to their individual situations in what another leader calls “transformative education.” Atlanta’s Men Stopping Violence program additionally requires the program participants to bring a friend to a group session, to teach some lessons to four peers and report the experience to the group, and identify “witnesses” to support his change after the program. The Menalive program in the Bay Area trains and develops peer group facilitators (men from the immediate community and previous group participants) also as a means to further engage the broader community. The men’s program following the “New York Model” works especially on promoting respect among the participants and accountability. The latter is done through enforced 91


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attendance and payment policies, as well as reporting to and response from the courts and other referral sources—which in itself is start of community change. However, responsiveness from the criminal justice system is not sufficient and often a diversion from the needed change in the broader community, according to these interviewees. The group work is, however, framed with a broader anti-oppression perspective in general—one that sees sexism, racism, classism, and heterosexism as all interconnected. Batterer programs by themselves, according to Phyllis Frank of New York’s VCS program, may in fact be “a ‘smokescreen”’ over the real work that needs to be done. All of these interviewees had cautions or skepticism of an over-emphasis on psychological diagnoses and professionalization of what they consider to be community work with a grassroots basis. They also raise concern about the “business model” of some programs which aims to make money through treating individual men. A broader social movement is more the ideal, one that is allied with a variety of social justice efforts. The interviews began with Dick Bathrick, one of the initial staff of Men Stopping Violence (MSV) in Atlanta. Dick has not only been a family therapist, but also developed the curriculum for what was another of the initial batterer programs in the country. His recent book, We Are the Work, recounts the instructive history and lessons of the program’s development. Dick’s MSV colleague and current director, Ulester Douglas, has also been instrumental in bringing national acclaim to a “social justice organization” dedicated to ending male violence against women. He brings particularly an understanding of the relationship of racism to this work against sexism. Phyllis Frank, the director of the Volunteer Counseling Services (VCS) and founder of the “New York Model” of batterer intervention, works to engage not only court-referred batterers, but also other community leaders and service providers in a gender analysis of domestic violence. In the process, she raises cautions about over-relying on batterer programs as a means to change. The last interview is with Hamish Sinclair who founded the Manalive program in the San Francisco area. He’s extended his community organizing model to groups of prisoners, gays, teens, and veterans to promote a belief in equality and nonviolence throughout the community. DICK BATHRICK Dick Bathrick, MA, LMFT, is co-founder and former director of programs at Men Stopping Violence in Atlanta, where he also helped to develop the curriculum for the nationally recognized organization. His current book, We are the Work: The Making of Men Stopping Violence (2014), recounts the strug-

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gles and lessons in establishing what is characterized as “a social change organization dedicated to ending men’s violence against women.” Dick has also co-led trainings for a variety of organizations, including the National Council of Churches, the U.S. Army and Marines, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, and the American Orthopsychiatric Association. As a licensed family therapist, he continues a private practice with individuals, couples, and families helping especially men make responsible decisions as a co-parent and as an intimate partner. Q: How did you get started with in this work? A: I had been active in the Civil Rights and Antiwar Movements, and was very influenced by that experience. I sensed that my mission was to be committed to social justice movements. I noticed that in those movements, both civil rights and antiwar, the disrespect of men for women was rarely addressed by men, including me. I was aware of it, but I wasn’t really thinking about what I was going to say or do about it. I also heard women in those movements, sometimes in tears and sometimes in rage, telling about what it was like to be on the frontlines and have men say or do things that were horribly sexist. When I came to Atlanta in the late 1970s, I started an independent psychotherapy practice. I knew I wanted to do something that was socially relevant. A friend, Gus Kaufman, had just come back from training at the Emerge Program for abusive men. We talked about what we could do that would be socially redeeming and relevant. We both agreed that work to address men’s abuse toward women would be meaningful to both of us. We started to talk to women in our local community to figure out and find out what would be useful and not just another problem for women. I was assuming that they would be thrilled by our interest, and it turns out that they weren’t. At a less conscious level, there was a personal experience that influenced me. A primary caretaker in my life from the time I was six years old was brutally beaten to death in our home when I reached the age of twenty. She was very important to me; I loved her very much. I also really liked the man who killed her. Interestingly, my dad ended up identifying the murderer, and that resulted in him being incarcerated. I remember my dad having some fear that the man might retaliate when he was released from prison. He eventually died behind bars. So it was a very devastating and complicated experience for me, and went unresolved for a long time. The work with violent men became an opportunity for me to address very unfinished, unresolved feelings, and to feel as though maybe I could do something in response to this experience. Q: When and how did you actually begin doing men’s groups? A: In the early 1980s, Kathleen Carlin was hiring men to lead a group for violent men with her, and she hired us. We knew nothing about what was


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really happening in the men’s relationships. It wasn’t until Kathleen and the women working with her told us what the men were actually doing at home to their partners, and even in the group sessions, to manipulate us. We realized that to do this work we really needed somebody directing us in a way that would result in real safety for women. Q: What has sustained you for such a long tenure in this work? A: I have several answers. The first is Kathleen saying that these men do present with psychopathology, but that is not what’s governing their mistreatment of women. So, we moved to a psycho-educational approach. In the beginning, I was moved and motivated by my outrage at men’s violence against women, and the epidemic nature of it. As a result, I was somewhat self-righteous and judgmental in challenging men. Over time, I began to realize that I was more like the men in the group than unlike them. I began to understand how patriarchy works and how we all are affected by it, including myself. I began to actually feel empathy for them. It didn’t mean that I excused them, but I understood them. I felt a connection with them, and could respond with more compassion rather than judgment. I think early on, I was more trying to convince women how great I was in trying to stop men’s violence. I came to realize that engaging with men really worked. They could see how it was in their own self-interest to be challenged in ways that we normally don’t challenge each other. It showed men how to be more compassionate themselves. In sum, I saw how much it was in my own self-interest to stay in the work. It transformed my own relationships with significant women in my life, children, and other men. I learned how to connect with other men and women through this work. But I also realized the learning is an ongoing, life-long process. To walk away from the work was to walk away from myself, and the things that are most important for me. You have the moments where you wonder what am I doing here, what’s the point? Generally speaking I could always answer with “It’s because I cannot do without this.” Q: How do you engage men that are often resistant? A: I think men who arrive in the program with resistance are really saying, “This isn’t for me. I’m looking at these other guys, and they have a problem. I shouldn’t be here. Look at me. You can see I’m not one of them. I can see why they are here, but honestly I don’t belong here.” We start there—with the resistance and the understanding that every man who walks into this room thinks he doesn’t belong there. Of course, that is the heart of the problem; we are not conscious and responsible for the choices that we make and how we affect others. All we ask is that the men engage in a conversation that looks at whether there is something that you can learn from being here: “We are not going to

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try to convince you that you have a problem. We are going to give you information that allows you to figure out whether this program is something you need to do.” For some men, the courts made the decision for them to attend. But they have a choice about how they enter the room. That’s how we address the resistance. We are not going to pursue them or claim we are actually going to turn them around. Instead, we just talk about men and ourselves: how men operate, how we affect each other as men, how we affect women. We really break it down and get into the “nuts and bolts” of masculinity, and the costs and benefits of living by it. Q: How would you characterize the format of the group session? A: That’s a very good question, because we are now into our third curriculum. It is a more structured curriculum; we do have very specific didactic pieces. But we create a space for men to engage with other men around questions, concerns, resistance, and all that comes up in response to challenging material. So we have a sort of didactic conversation. Q: How would you characterize the change in the curriculum over the years? A: I would say that there is more accountability for the group leaders in the sense that we have to cover very specific areas with the men. When we are talking about sexual violence, we are going to talk about rape; we are going to talk about sex trafficking. We are going to talk about every kind of sexual violence. We are going to teach it didactically, but then we are going to require men to consider how they’ve used sex in relationships with women. We lay out the context of sexual violence as it’s used by men, and then explore it personally. Q: What distinguishes your program from others? A: A bias of our program is that only 2 percent of the men, who fit the definition of battering, actually end up in a batterer intervention program. Getting these men in a room and working with them is not going to address the scope of the problem. What we try to do is exponentially increase the number of impacted men by requiring those men in the program to bring men into the work. Men who they know cannot only be supportive to the program men, but also hold them accountable outside of the program. They can, furthermore, become more aware of the issue and take steps to address it in their own lives. Every intervention that goes on in the classroom has to be mirrored in work outside of the classroom. We don’t think that confidentiality is necessary for men to “get real” in the room. We have therefore opened some of our classes to the public; we have done training with fifty people watching a class and the men go right through the work. The men themselves say that people need to know what they are learning and doing. They work to be accountable for their behavior and challenge each other respectfully. In the psychopathology or medical model, there


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are all kinds of concerns with confidentiality that we think are limitations to the work that needs to be done. Q: What is your reaction to the increased emphasis on psychopathology in general and the importance of treating it? A: Realistically we don’t take an either-or position on this. We don’t do diagnosis and treatment of an individual’s psychopathology. We think that the men entering our program are clearly influenced by social norms that reinforce men’s use of violence to solve problems in most relationships. The use of threats and intimidations is part of our culture. So we insist on men understanding how patriarchal culture influences them individually and the importance of dealing with it. But we know that many men come into the program presenting narcissism or depression. What we believe is that the skills that we require of men, such as taking responsibility for feelings, thoughts, and actions, actually prepare them to do some of the healing that they need to do for themselves. When they learn, “I am responsible for my feelings, thoughts, actions,” they also understand that they took responsibility for being abused as a child and learned from the abuser or from the culture. They felt that things that they did resulted in them deserving the abuse. When asked about their childhood, they say “I was beaten, and it taught me that beating people was a right thing; I deserved it.” Part of learning about being responsible and accountable is that they didn’t deserve being beaten, and they deserve to actually have this victimization addressed. What we say is it is very hard to address this past abuse, at the same time you are addressing the choices you are making as a victimizer. It’s confusing, so work on the things you do, that are devastating to the people who are currently in your life. That is the first step toward healing your own past victimization. We work on men listening to and validating feelings that are very awkward and vulnerable. As a result of that, there is a lot of healing going on and the teaching of what healing looks like. We don’t call this treatment. We are not diagnosing individual men, and we are not maintaining confidentiality. We are saying to men, your abuse is learned because, very often, you were abused or injured yourself and in the process learned power and control as a coping mechanism. You can unlearn this and learn how to operate differently with yourself and other people. It is very therapeutic, but we don’t call it treatment. We call it a form of education, “transformative education.” Calling it psychopathology is misrepresenting the problem. Focusing primarily on a man’s narcissism without including all of these other aspects is a disservice to him and ultimately to his partner. Q: What is most essential for a new staff? What do they need to be able to do in what you described as your program approach? A: We require every man who works with us to go through the program as another member of the class. It is difficult ethically and with integrity to

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challenge another man, if you haven’t addressed the ways in which you experience power imbalance in your own life. It could be gender, race, class, or all of these areas. Going through that class is basic training for how you do this work. As a member of the class you have to listen and learn that other men who are identified and caught as abusers can actually bring an understanding of the issues. That raises humility and compassion for the men who you will be working with. You are less likely to demonize that group of men, if you actually learned from them—not only from their mistakes, but also from their wisdom and their life experiences. New group leaders also need to be steeped in women’s reality and experience. They really have to hear the history of their abuse. They need to go places where women are talking about their experiences. It could be with women advocates or survivors. They need to listen, talk, and process what they hear: “What does that mean to me, what am I going to do with this, how am I going to engage with women now that I know?” We really have to know the truth of what it is like for women. We try to recruit people who are part of the environmental movement or other movements that are working for social change. If you are dealing with food, homelessness, housing, or immigration, we would love to have you join in this work of stopping men’s violence. We want our efforts to also contribute to their movement and be connected across movements. There are young people who are on fire about dealing with social justice and transformation. They are out there. The question is whether our movement is big enough, or open enough, to attract and support them. Q: Any special skill set that you see to be essential for people wanting to do this work? A: In the beginning, I tried to recruit other therapists. Then we realized that therapists had to unlearn all of this therapy gobbledygook. “Joining” with a client can result in flat-out collusion. Diagnosis is often an obstacle to the work that needs to be done with men in this field. Consequently, we don’t think that men with a social work or psychology background are necessarily good candidates for our program work. It’s individuals who feel a passion for social justice and understand the importance of addressing power imbalances. You can teach them how to promote empathy and listening. They first have to feel the fire around our mission. As a trained clinician myself, I had to unlearn a lot to get to where I needed to be. In the beginning, I carried a fear that if I was direct with what I was experiencing with a client, or what I expected of him, I would break the alliance between the two of us. What I found was that when I was clear with him, like saying, “I don’t know whether you can do this,” the opposite happened. The more I said, “This is what is going to be expected of you,” the better the alliance, the better the connection with the client. If you have low


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expectations, he is not going to deliver. But if you convey that “you can do this, but this is hard,” connections really open up. Men are grateful when you are real with them. Q: Any special links to the community that you think are essential for this work? A: Talk about partnerships in the community and community accountability usually means we are here working with the men, you are over there working with the women, and you other people are working in the criminal justice system. We have things to share that are actually relevant to other people’s work. For example, we may say that the faith-based community needs to be more involved. Ministers have a very hard time knowing how to compassionately engage with a parishioner who is being violent with his partner, or even knowing how to act with the survivor. There are skills we have that they need to learn. They need to listen and not preach. They need to recognize when men are denying or minimizing their abuse, and how compassionately to say, “You know I think you are minimizing what’s happening. I don’t think that you understand how you are affecting not only your partner but also your children and the whole congregation.” We have things that we know how to do and say that we need to share with the other partners, so that they can help with this problem. Ultimately, we all need to know about those skills and be able to use them on a sidewalk when abuse is happening. We have to break down some of the boundaries between programs and services. Batterer programs will be as effective as the rest of the community is in making change. It is not enough for me in a Thursday night class to do what I’m doing. Other gatekeepers in that community also need to be sharing the same kind of information. Q: Do you have any thoughts on the attention being given to risk assessment as an integral part of intervention? A: I am concerned about going overboard with risk assessment. I think addiction, family history, and lethality are all very important. But if assessment doesn’t take into consideration the cultural context and the forces at work in the culture, it misrepresents the actual risks. Assessment has to include the culture, because the culture is the disease. Risk assessment focuses on the elements in the individual that are the disease carrier rather than the culture. We do risk management of sorts when a man comes into the program. We get a sense of where he is and what’s going on with him. The group helps manage the man’s potential and likelihood to be violent. That ideally extends into the community with people keeping an eye out for a problem and responding to it. It’s done through the network of men and services around “the risk,” and not just through an instrument in which someone checks off certain behaviors.

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Another thing we are really working on in this regard is restorative justice, because most couples are going to stay together. They may say that they are not, but one way or another they are likely to end up together. We are considering ways that a man can be doing some of his change work with her, while being held accountable by the other men in the group. The context of her network of family and friends also helps by supporting the woman and monitoring the situation. The intervention has to be more than the couple just working on their communication skills. Q: What do you say to the claim that women are violent too and therefore men and women need to be treated together? A: There is a lot to say about this. I do think some women are abusive in relationships. I know that, personally, women say and do things that are abusive and injurious in a relationship, and that needs to be addressed. But you have to look at the context of the abuse to determine if it’s self-defense and the actual meaning of the behavior. It’s a context where men are socialized and reinforced to use violence and women are not. It’s not cool for a woman to do that. There is a whole other meaning for women’s aggression. Yes, it has to be addressed, but we have to look at the meaning of it. What is the purpose of it; what is the impact of it? Is it for gaining dominance and control in the relationship, or is it for protection and coping? Q: How do you respond to the call for evidence-based practice and the claim that batterer programs don’t work? A: My first response is what do you mean by “work,” or that a program is effective or not? You have to unpack what you are talking about. Are you talking about program completion or rearrests? There are so many things that need to be considered to determine whether a program works or not. What we are most concerned about is whether the community is becoming safer for an individual woman and the women who live around her, and whether the program is helping to make it safer for her and ultimately the women and girls around her? When you measure a program merely in terms of arrest six months later, it could be that a man hasn’t been arrested but has emotionally terrorized his partner without anybody knowing it. I struggle with the claim that batterer programs are not working because of what they are set up to do. They are serving a very important function amidst an onslaught of limitations. Other interventions not considering the social context can be outright dangerous. Also, a lot of women have complained that their partner goes through this program and comes out with amazing information and awareness, but they have no clue what is going on in the program. The women are left out of whatever that process is. That is wrong. Those promoting couple’s work make a strong case that they include the woman, but do they recognize the potential risks of couples counseling and the cultural issues that need to be addressed?


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There is a group in Albuquerque working with a variety of immigrants. They’ve come to us for trainings, because they believe that you can’t just talk about domestic violence. You have to talk about all forms of oppression that their communities face. That is what we bring: the larger picture. You can’t just climb into the silo of a psychological or medical model. Our emphasis is on the whole community that works with the survivors, the batterers, other agencies, and citizens. The challenge is how to do that in a way that doesn’t alienate people and keeps us in the broader conversation. Q: What do we most need to be doing and thinking about to move this work forward? A: We rely way too much on the criminal legal system. It doesn’t work for so many people, yet we throw the bulk of our resources into it. It’s not that it doesn’t have a role. It’s just that it has an incredibly exaggerated role in terms of what would really help a woman and her children. There are so many communities, like African-American and Latino communities, that will have little to do with the criminal legal justice system. We would be better putting a lot more resources into the faith community than we do now. I am not saying that the faith community isn’t flawed, but they reach so many more people. Many people in need come to them for help before they come to anybody else. The faith leaders have an enormous influence while we are left to hope that the few men in our groups show up. We haven’t been very intentional about reaching out to those parts of the community that can make more of a difference than the criminal justice system. I just don’t have much confidence that the criminal justice system can fix individual problems or help change the community at large. We don’t need to go out and defame others who disagree with us. We simply need to claim our position in a way that has more visibility, more clarity, more intentionality. There is an unspoken competitiveness in which we are all running around to get the scraps of money to do this work. You can end up engaging in the scramble, but that takes your eyes off the work itself. We need most of all to bring our work forward in a way that is compelling and accessible. ULESTER DOUGLAS Ulester Douglas, MSW, is interim executive director of Men Stopping Violence (MSV), a nationally acclaimed social justice organization dedicated to ending male violence against women. He is also an adjunct professor at Emory University, and a psychotherapist and community organizer with extensive training and experience working with individuals, families, and

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communities affected by child sexual abuse and other forms of violence. He has authored and coauthored curriculum and published articles on male violence against women; provided consultation, training, and keynote addresses in forty states and the Caribbean; and appeared on national and local news shows, including CNN, PBS, HLN, The Al Sharpton Show, and Atlanta’s V103. His work to end violence against women, and expose the gender and racial oppressions associated with it, has brought Ulester honors from Lifetime Television for Women and the National Network to End Domestic Violence in 2003, and from The Ford Motor Company in 2012. Q: How did you get started in this work? A: The entry point, in a formal sense, would be during my undergraduate work at the University of Michigan. It was a very politically active environment at the time. The campus was mobilizing to get the university to divest from apartheid South Africa, for instance. I was inspired to get more involved with social justice work and eventually applied and got accepted to the Master’s of Social work program. I didn’t know what I really wanted to do when I graduated, and one day I received a letter that said I would be a very good candidate for this National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) fellowship to study child maltreatment, particularly incest. I was invited to apply. I thought this was as a great opportunity since I didn’t have the money to finish school on my own. My mother at that time was working for minimum wage back in the laundry room of a Caribbean a hotel. I was one of two in my family of nine children who had ever gone to college, and the only one to graduate school at that time. It was through my perseverance and the support of friends and family, especially my sister Lindley, that I found my way to one of the most expensive public universities in the country. The NIMH fellowship required me to work in a nonprofit organization for two years after I completed my MSW. So I ended up at the YWCA Counseling Center, in Grand Rapids Michigan, working as a full-time family therapist with families affected by incest. During that time, the center had a group for men who batter, and the therapist, who was facilitating that group, died suddenly. My supervisor asked me to take over the group. I’d never done a group with men who batter before that! My female co-facilitator, however, said, “No problem; you have the skills, so we’ll work with you to adapt them.” When I moved to Atlanta in 1994, I wanted to continue doing the work. I did some research and learned about Men Stopping Violence. That’s where I’ve been ever since. It was, in a sense, a bit of an accident that I ended up doing this work. But I am clear from my own definitions that it was a spiritual calling. I grew up with domestic violence. I witnessed it in my family and many other families.


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This field offered an opportunity for me to work through my own wounds and trauma from being survivor. I was wise enough to honor the calling. Q: What sustained you in this work for all these years? A: A lot of us who end up in this work are survivors—that’s no secret. One way or another we’re called to do social justice. We’re also much more predisposed and trained to care for others while we neglect caring for ourselves. Fortunately, I gained a lot of insight early on in my training as a family therapist to care for others and for myself. In case consultations, our mentor would say, “The tendency is to start talking about the client and formulate a diagnosis. What I want is: whatever challenge you’re presenting, to start with you. What came up for you?” As a result, I view self-care as a priority. For example, I make a point to cross out four to five weeks on my calendar for vacation before the calendar year begins. And they are real vacations: no calling me, no checking my email, etc. I suppose some people leave the work because of low or unreliable income. I could make twice the amount of money I’m making at Men Stopping Violence, but that has never been that important to me. There is a sense of fulfillment that sustains me. There is a sense of reward and accomplishment in helping others, in knowing I am making a difference in an individual’s, family’s, and community’s life. What also sustains me is the environment in which I work. What a wonderful organization: It is very nourishing and nurturing; there’s flexibility; we value each other; we respect the men with whom we work. I can bring all of myself here. Part of our philosophy is not to do an “us and them.” We believe that we are those men; we just happen to have made different choices. We all have been socialized in so many similar ways. We therefore do not psychopathologize the men or shame them. We hold them accountable and challenge them, but in a very respectful way because we can see ourselves in them. That kind of environment is a very fulfilling, spiritual, and loving space that helps keep me going. I don’t ever recall the word “burned out” in my vocabulary. Yes, there are times I feel overwhelmed; there’s so much on my plate. But I don’t allow it to ever get so far that I feel like I want to get out of this work. Q: What is the broader vision or the aim of your program? A: One thing that really distinguishes Men Stopping Violence from most other programs is, first of all, our ecological model. We locate men in broader contexts—primary community, micro community, macro community, and global community. While it is important to have a space for men to do transformative work, the emphasis cannot be on individual transformation. It has to be about transforming the communities in which these men reside. Most men who are violating women will never see a batterer intervention program.

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It’s just not going to happen. So we believe “change the community—change the man.” As a result, we require, at the twelfth-week session, that a man bring in at least one man from his community who is significant in his life. The idea is that after a man leaves the two-hours-a-week class, he’s going back to his primary community where he spends a hundred plus hours a week. It is important, therefore, that men in his community know what he is doing in the class and the changes he is aspiring to make so they can support him in that process. We’re offering a different way of being: we’re saying, “Violence is unacceptable. You’re responsible for your choices.” That message needs to get reinforced outside of that classroom. So we want to impact the systems in which a man operates. That is the cornerstone of our approach. This philosophy is reinforced at week twenty-four when he is required to bring at least two men to class. He is also required to pick a lesson, sexual violence for example, and share it with four men from his primary or micro community. There are some structured questions that he’s expected to ask of the men, and he prepares a two-page report of this experience using those questions as a guide. During the final class, the student summarizes the report and a review of his work in the program with at least two of these four men as witnesses. The visiting men then share their observation of how the student has changed, and what they think he needs to work on. They have a better view of his transformation than anyone else. At the same time, they’re also invited to commit to doing things within their community that would advance safety for women. In essence, what we’re employing is a prevention/ intervention strategy. The program is acting as a “change agent.” While the classes inherently have intervention elements and principles, we also are really helping to organize men. The class is an organizing tool designed to impact and ultimately transform communities to come together to end violence against women. We see that the solutions lie within the communities in which we reside—not in the few individual men that come to a program. Q: What have been the major changes in your outlook or approach over the years? A: I’m more and more convinced that being community centered, working to engage the communities, is the best approach. We’re not saying, “Get rid of batterer intervention programs”; we’re just saying, “Give them context.” Let’s be more thoughtful about what it means to put most of our resources in these programs, and very little into organizing communities to prevent violence against women. This also means addressing intersectional issues such as racism and poverty.


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Q: What do you look for in recruiting or enlisting new group leaders? A: I feel very strongly about new leadership. On an organizational level, I think about whether others could do what I do if I weren’t here tomorrow. That’s also true for broader community work. So, it is essential that we be more intentional about nurturing new leadership. There are challenges in recruiting and enlisting new leadership, but we have to step to the plate. Q: Anything special qualities you look for in new group leaders or potential organizational leaders? A: I did not answer the previous question, so I’m glad I have another opportunity to do so. The first thing we look for at Men Stopping Violence is the willingness to be introspective. It is one of the most critical measures of success for class facilitators or potential organizational leaders because we believe very strongly that doing our personal work positions us to better engage men in the classes, as well as in the community. I have found in my twenty plus years in this work that we end up spending an enormous amount of time dealing with relational challenges with colleagues, students, etc. And this impacts all levels of the work we do. When we attend to our own issues, this positions us to have more effective, stronger, meaningful, interpersonal relationships.” Q: Is that something that comes from training, or is that an inherent personality trait? A: I’m not sure what the answer is, but I lean more toward the former. What I do know is that one of the things that inhibit self-awareness is dominant, patriarchal narratives about masculinity which include very strong instructions not to be self-reflective. Q: Are there any special skills you look for, or try to encourage in people. A: Of course, facilitation skills are also essential. I started with selfawareness because that in itself allows us to be better facilitators. When a man brings something heavy, like his own aggression or violence, into the discussion, we need the ability to monitor what is being evoked internally— emotionally, cognitively, and affectively. That way we reduce the chance of becoming aggressive with him and instead are respectful of his experience. That is a start point as well as a goal for facilitation. A commitment to social justice is also important—that includes the willingness to challenge all forms of oppression. One may not have thought about making a commitment to create safety for women and girls, but they may have strong concerns for racial justice. We try to tap into that passion; we believe it can be transferred to gender justice. Our work is to demonstrate how those forms of oppression are linked. Q: New staff these days tend to come with a clinical background and interest. What is your response to that?

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A: When I attended the University of Michigan’s School of Social Work, I was very intentional in choosing what was then referred to as the interpersonal practice, basically clinical practice, even though my mind, body, and soul were more aligned with their community organizing concentration. I wanted to be able to get a job quickly and thought a clinical background would enhance my opportunities. So I have an understanding and empathy for what it means to come to this work with a clinical background, interest, and theoretical framework. I’m therefore able to invite the clinically oriented to look beyond what, to me, can be a very narrow scope. Even if you are working with an individual, you still have to engage him with an awareness and acceptance that he is part of broader systems, no matter his presenting issues. He belongs to a primary community which is part of a micro community, which is part of a macro community that is connected to a global community. He negotiates all those systems, and they have an impact on his overall quality of life and how he moves through the world. Yes he’s responsible for his choices, but those systems have a role in the problem as well as the solutions. Q: What do programs need to do to better engage African-American men in the group sessions and in the community organizing work you mentioned? A: As a general practice, we believe there should be at least one AfricanAmerican facilitator/organizer present when working with African-American men. This is especially critical given that African-American men are overrepresented in the criminal legal system. It is very important that a man sees himself in the work and feels he can share in it. We do believe there are some unique issues and dynamics in the African-American community that can be best addressed in an all-African-American class. Thus we have an allAfrican-American class. I am troubled by how little programs talk about the fact that we live in a racist, classist, sexist, and heterosexist world. Our criminal justice system is just one place where structural inequality is readily apparent. We see there a gross overrepresentation of black men and men of less economic resources. How do we acknowledge this overrepresentation and the racism it represents in our programs? I think one of the reasons folks don’t discuss it is because they think that would undermine accountability for the men’s behavior—that it would provide an excuse for abuse and violence. It’s a reflection of America’s continuing unease about the tentative issue of race and class. We believe, however, that these factors are important pieces in a man’s experience and his transformative work. We deal with inequality in the lessons. That helps to validate the men’s reality and show them that the facilitators really care. As a result, they are much more responsive to the work. When we feel valued and respected, we are more likely to drop our defenses.


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Q: So many of these men are living in neighborhoods where there is a lot of violence outside the home. Might asking them to be nonviolent in their home turf be a dangerous thing? A: When men bring that up—and they do frequently,—we say, “That makes sense to us.” We validate their experiences. Many of the men do live in trauma zones, which are not unlike a war zone for some. People are being killed. So we say, “We’re not asking you to be passive. We want you to take care of yourself. But let’s explore a different way of being in the world that does not have to involve aggression.” What some these men believe is that you’re either a prey or a predator; there’s no in-between. It’s “survival of the fittest,” and “I’m not gonna be the victim!” We listen to them, and then invite them to consider an assertive approach where you can still stand up for yourself without being violent. Most of the men never thought there was another way. But, even if you are in the middle of a war zone, you still have other choices. This approach avoids a power struggle between us and them. Rather than saying, “You are wrong, we are right,” we show, “We hear you. And you have some other choices. If you think you have no other choice, then that’s the way it’s going to be. It’s about expanding your possibilities rather than giving in or giving up.” Q: There seems to be an increased attention to psychopathology rather than the social circumstances that you point to. A: That’s what many graduate counseling programs are teaching. There is some attention given to systems theory, but we don’t seem willing to extend it to this work. So, I think it’s partly the training that folks are getting. Also, an individualistic, psychopathologist approach makes us feel more competent. A system’s approach makes the problem appear too big; we feel less competent. I see and hear the discouragement in the faces of clinicians at our trainings. After all, they were told they have the answers, that they are competent. They know what it takes to change individuals. Telling them that there is much more to consider beyond their tool boxes if we are to prevent violence against women, makes them feel inadequate. There is, furthermore, the matter of protecting one’s turf. There is the potential to earn a lot of money doing this work. Some of what we are saying threatens their livelihood. Imagine, somebody without a bachelor’s degree, never mind a master’s or Ph.D., could be running these “groups,” working with these families. They believe, “We are clinician, we are licensed. We should be the one doing this work.” There’s a broader backdrop at play, too. We are a highly individualistic society that believes social change is achieved by individuals taking “personal responsibility” for their actions. It is in the air we breathe: “Your success or

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failure is a result of your own individual choices.” So any consideration of social or structural factors is often dismissed as an excuse—this is especially true of race. Q: More specifically, what’s your response to the role that psychology plays in the violence, and what needs to be done in that regard? A: This goes back to our analysis of why men batter women. If one thinks it’s about psychopathology, then the decision to use a psychotherapeutic approach makes sense. At Men Stopping Violence, we believe male violence against women is grounded in patriarchy. Among other tenets, patriarchy provides clear, uncompromising instructions about what it means to be a man. One of the expectations is men must be able to manage and control women’s lives—women’s bodies. In our work over the last thirty plus years, that has been the common denominator among the men who abuse and batter women. We hear the entitlement; the right to control and manage their partners. And that is consistent across race, class, and whatever other social identities you pick. Yes, there are cases where men are also struggling with a myriad of psychological issues. But the idea that those issues are causal just does not add up. We see also many cases of men who are not presenting with psychological disorders, yet are very aggressive and controlling. I do believe we have to address the issue of trauma, however. Some of the men we see are survivors of one form of trauma or another, and this has profound implications. But if our primary responsibility is victim/survivor safety, then it is not necessary to fully address those traumas in an intervention program in order to promote women’s safety. Men can be given the insights and tools to make nonviolent choices without necessarily having to do deep trauma work. We provide referral sources and encourage men to do trauma work after they leave the program. Q: Many critics and detractors, including many women’s advocates, claim that batter programs simply don’t work, and that there’s little or no evidence that they do? What are your thoughts on that? A: When I hear that, my first response is: How are they defining “do not work?” How are we measuring whether they work? One of the most common measures is recidivism—loosely defined in this context as whether or not a man reenters the criminal justice system for a similar crime after a specific period of time. We do not believe recidivism is a reliable, meaningful outcome measure. A man can terrorize a woman without using physical or sexual violence. He can use other methods to keep her off her balance—be it threats, withdrawing economic support, name calling, and so on. Those actions are not usually counted in recidivism statistics. We do not believe the measure of a program’s success should be determined by individual outcomes. Declaring


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that a man is no longer abusive is methodologically risky and dangerous. MSV makes no such claims; we operate our classes more as organizing tools, and less as treatment spaces. Q: Any other recommendations or urgings for researchers like myself? A: Yes. I would urge them to challenge themselves, and funders, like the National Institute of Justice, to pursue more funding for Participatory Action Research. This approach is one way to have program staff more directly involved in the research and have the research be more relevant and true to practice. PHYLLIS FRANK Phyllis Frank, MA is currently associate executive director of Volunteer Counseling Services, Inc., (VCS), a family service agency with an anti-racist, social justice mission. She continues to direct all aspects of VCS’ domestic work, with a major focus on domestic violence offenders, batterer programs, offender accountability, and accountability to the battered women’s movement. She has also been heavily involved in professional training on these issues. As director of social justice programs, Phyllis works on racial justice and LGBT affirmation and equality. One of Phyllis’ main contributions has been her commitment to accountability to the marginalized community (in part, through the battered women’s movement) and development of the New York Model for Batterer Programs. In all her endeavors, past and present, she strives to live the ethic she teaches. Q: You’ve been involved in the domestic violence field for a long, long time. How did you get started in this work? A: I was at the edge of the second wave of feminism and beginning to understand what sexism was, and how much my life was being impacted by it. I was a child of the 1950s: picket fences, a mommy and a daddy, two-anda-half children, and a car. Then Betty Freidan’s book, “The Feminine Mystique,” came out and helped explain what was really going on. The groups that Betty’s work helped start was how I got into feminism. I’m sure being Jewish and being a child who was born during World War II had something to do with it. I had a sense of fear and oppression as a Jewish person. As one of my brothers said of me, I also had an enlarged injustice gene. I got into a little radical feminist group in in the late 1960s and early 1970s, which did readings and talked about women’s issues. That led me to some very early meetings in New York City on domestic violence. That resulted in my bringing this information to Rockland County, where I was living, and

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getting involved in organizing with the very early feminist group, Women’s Way. In 1975, we created a battered women support group that would eventually become our full-service domestic violence program. We had two people facilitating the group, and one formerly battered woman whose job was to let the community know about our work. We decided that even if no one came, we would sit and talk to each other once a week for two hours just in case a woman showed up for the last few minutes. The women who did show up didn’t have a hard time talking to each other. The word spread, the group grew. The group was eventually so large we had to move our meetings to a larger space. That was the beginning of the battered women’s movement within my community. I was absorbing and learning things from these women’s groups. There was no literature, articles, or magazines besides Del Martin’s book, Battered Wives, that was floating around among us. So we were figuring it out, for the most part, as we went along. We had plenty of questions to sort through together: Should one woman or another have cooked dinner at the time she had said she was going to? Was her partner right that it was not okay for her to wear a red dress when going out by herself? Should she expect to get beaten if she threw a brush at him? What we learned those first years was, one, under no circumstances whatsoever was the violence a husband did to a woman justifiable, and, two, no matter what a woman did, the man’s behavior was not her fault. This was new news back then. The women’s stories were all similar in so many ways. Out of that came a joke that we were all married to the same man. He’s running from one house to the other. So many of the men’s strategies or tactics were repeated again and again. As a result, I realized that even though my husband never hit me or pushed me, there were so many ways that he was disrespectful in ways that men were/are to women. I didn’t have this word then, but the overarching manifestation of mistreatment by men, physical—or otherwise—was really based on culturally supported “disrespect.” Q: Well how did you get from there to working on men? A: At the time I was working at another agency, where I’m now associate executive director, called Volunteer Counseling Service. The agency director, a man, become very interested in what I was learning about domestic violence, because many of the women coming to counseling were abused by their male partners. All of these things came together, including the coalition of women who were creating a shelter for battered women. We were figuring out, from what the women were telling us, that we had to go the source of the violence, which was the men. Otherwise, we would be creating a shelter for women who were in the streets with three children and a dog and had no place to go, but men’s violence and abuse would likely go on and the women’s situations likely worsen.


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The director of our agency said, “Well then, why don’t we create a program that would stop the men’s abuse?” The director was taking his lead from me (but giving me no credit that he was beginning to receive), which was interesting in itself. We came up with a model for the men’s program, which was based on a six-week model for people in crisis. It assumed that, when a person is in the worst trauma of their life, one of two things happens: You die or you start getting better. We figured six weeks might be enough for men to either die from their trauma or begin to get better, and then we’d get some credit for making a difference. This was happening in 1978–1979! To help them “get better,” we’d talk to the men, figure out what was going on with them, and try to motivate them to stop being abusive. At that same time, we were creating a state coalition to share our learnings with each other across the state—this was to become the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Both the women in the coalition and the local shelter said, “If a men’s program is starting, it has to be done by a woman who we know is listening to us. You’d be the one who knows what we are saying, and can change the program to do what is needed.” I was to see that the voice of battered women didn’t get lost. Q: How did your program develop from this initial start? A: I realized that these programs are not sufficient to fix men and stop domestic violence. Some of the programs out there have excited people to think men are going to get fixed by showing up in a program. Whether or not they’ve physically assaulted their partners, most of the men do not become respectful of their partners. To continue to give women the sense that you’re going to stop domestic violence through batterer programs, or even give the country the idea that you can stop domestic violence through a strong criminal justice system, is taking peoples’ eye off the prize. The problem is the culture of disrespect which exists in just about every country on the globe: Men’s disrespect of women, male supremacy, and ultimately patriarchy. If we don’t find a way to establish mutual respect we’re not working on the source of domestic violence. Batterer programs, in my opinion, have created a smokescreen over the real work that needs to be done. The name of a workshop that I began offering at national conferences says it all: “Don’t do batterer programs until you figure out how to end domestic violence without them.” Q: What then should batterer programs be doing? A: It became very clear that batterer programs were born prematurely. The community of feminist women around the country was in the midst of more fully developing our analysis and definition of domestic violence and its root cause. The small number of batterer programs, working with relatively few men, may be helpful to those men and a few women, but it does little to end

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domestic violence overall. By the time, we had recognized that there is a worldwide epidemic of domestic violence, the batterer program industry was already deeply entrenched with more batterer programs opening every year. So, I stopped thinking about what should we do instead, because it was too late. With the help of the battered women’s movement in the state of New York, I was pushed to think about a batterer program model that would least undermine the social change and social justice work of the battered women’s movement. What would least undermine, not what would be safest for battered women. I don’t think batterer programs make women safe, or even safer. In many instances, batterer programs undermine the safety of the women, because women end up putting aside their own sense of their partner’s danger when their partner is in a batterer program. As others have said, “We put too many of our eggs into the criminal justice response, and too few of our eggs into the social justice response.” The batterer programs are part of criminal justice, they are not part of social justice. Q: What distinguishes your model from others? A: Number one: We clearly say that you can’t assume that men will change and become respectful of women as a result of being in a batterer program. The information that men will get while they are in the New York Model of batterer programs is more than enough to make their personal transformation a reality, if they choose to apply it. However, it’s proven that the likelihood for that is very low. Of course people will say, “So what good is your program if it doesn’t work?” Well, I think the New York Model does work if “work” means holding offenders accountable, monitoring their adherence to achievable requirements, and learning that something of significance happened to them for what the court believes they did. And it “works” in that, if they don’t comply with program requirements, the court issues a consequence! That leads me to a second distinguishing feature. Most men’s programs have been willing to start batterer programs for women. That is a deep breach of our political analysis of domestic violence: patriarchy, male supremacy—and the history, lore, and culture of this nation—totally affirm men’s sovereignty and superiority over women. As such, when women use violence—why they do it, how they do it—is totally different. The language used and programs for women must also be different. Q: How does that translate into what you do with men sitting in a program? A: We give this analysis to the men. We speak to the men in the same way that I am speaking to you. We don’t think they’re idiots; we don’t think they’re stupid; we don’t think they have a deficit that other men who aren’t in the program don’t have. We treat them like they are intelligent adults. I


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believe the New York Model treats men more respectfully than I have heard men treated in any program that I have ever visited or heard about. Q: How is that respect conveyed or established compared to other programs you’ve observed? A: I have heard instructors or facilitators talk with condescension, aggression, and even sarcasm. I never want to speak or be spoken to in that way. I have heard men in programs speak to the facilitators in a manner that would be deeply disrespectful and unaccepted in the way we operate. I have seen so many manifestations of disrespect and lack of accountability, which is a second issue. For instance, I’ve seen men told that they have to bring money to pay for their session, but if they don’t bring money nothing happened. The material that we teach is not designated for men as if they are different than men who aren’t in the program. Our program material is the same that I use to train probation officers, therapists, or social workers. That’s the level of respect. Q: Is it primarily didactic and instructional, or more discussion-oriented? A: It’s all of the above. Sometimes I’ll use a snippet of a video; sometimes I’ll do a whole lot of talking. I always make space for “Q and A,” as well. The material is not about them and their lives; it’s about an analysis and understanding which they may choose to apply to their own lives. I believe that every single man who has ever been through our batterer program is totally capable of being respectful to the woman who is his partner. But he has to a) understand our definition of respect and b) he has to figure out if he is willing to be respectful to his partner. And that’s what we talk about. Q: A lot of programs emphasize certain techniques or skills. . . . A: We don’t do that. The men already know things like that; just like you and I already do. Let me give you an example. If you are stopped by a police officer, appearing in court, or attending a meeting with your boss, do you know how to listen? Do you know how to interact? Yes, when you want or need to. Everyone knows how to be respectful in church or a synagogue. They often don’t know that they’re being disrespectful when they interact with the women who are their partners. We don’t have to teach them listening skills. Q: How has this program approached changed over the years? A: Everything has evolved and changed. Everything. When I began this work in the 1980s, I wrote the little book called the “Spouse Abuse Educational Workshop,” about how to create a batterer program. If I look back at that book, I say, “Read this for historic purposes only.” It was written at a time when we didn’t have the knowledge and experience that we have today. There is nothing sacred that I wouldn’t change the moment I got a collective sense from women that change is needed.

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Q: What would you say is the major focus of the program at this point? A: Our goal is to provide the men with the information that they need in order to comply with our program policies and thus comply with their court order. We hold men in the New York Model Program fully accountable for what we can hold them accountable for. That means we can hold them accountable to arrive on time. There is no such thing as being late: if they’re late, they’re considered absent and they don’t get to attend. We hold the men accountable to bring the amount of money that we assigned to them, which goes from $90 down to $10. (Most men pay between $30 and $10.) If they do not come with the money, they cannot attend. Most important, we require that the men be respectful from the time they enter our parking lot until they leave. If they do not comply with that, they are asked to leave. We tell them that we will show the same respectfulness that we require from them. In this program, we are the authority and they are not. So we get to say, “If you continue behaving the way that you’re behaving, or speaking in the tone of voice that you’re speaking, you’re telling us that you don’t want to be here tonight and we will ask you to leave.” Very often a man will answer back, “What? What am I doing?” And our response is, “If you don’t figure it out, you’ll be rude again and we’ll ask you to leave.” Most all of the men figure it out and realize that they’re not in charge. Q: If they’re not accountable in these ways, do the men go back to the court to face additional consequences? A: That’s 100 percent correct, and that’s the very important part. The men are allowed three absences, which of course must be made up in order to complete the program. So if I ask you to leave on a given night, you are welcome to come back the next time and comply with the rules. On the fourth absence, whether it’s because we dismissed you or you simply don’t show up, your case is closed and sent back to the court. But here’s the piece that is vital. When someone is ordered to the program for the first time, our staff phones the referral source to explain the following: “We are more than happy to monitor this offender and to hold him accountable to our policies and practices. We will also meticulously keep you informed of his participation in any way that you request. But you have to agree in advance to levy an additional consequence if he doesn’t comply with your order to attend our program. If you cannot or will not levy an additional consequence, we will not accept him into the program. That would make a mockery, not only of your order, but also of the women’s experiences. And we will not collude with that.” I very much want to do research of our own on the effect of this approach, but nobody’s found the funds to do so. However, I have been maintaining


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records that now show approximately 85 percent compliance with the courtordered attendance. This is up from about 32 percent in the 1980s. I track every man who’s noncompliant by contacting the referral source to see what they did in response to the noncompliance. I think our compliance is up and there are consequences for noncompliance, because I check on what the court, and other referrals, are doing. That I can do. There is no way, however, for me to know a man’s behavior in his relationship based on his interacting in the program. An exception to this is when a man is being, nasty, insulting, intimidating, or belligerent to us; then the likelihood is that he’s being abusive to his partner. But men can very easily “play the game” and appear cooperative, and still be abusive. In fact, there are men who are really horrible to their partners and are also pillars of the community. Q: What do you look for in instructors or group leaders in your type of program? A: Anyone who’s willing to become an instructor and is available when I do training/supervision. Most important is someone who wants to do the work and is open to learning the analysis well enough to teach. Background or education—they don’t matter so much. You need to hear our analysis and be excited by it. On the other end of this analysis, really living it can result in a sense of intimacy with one’s partner that is otherwise not possible. You can’t just teach this, you have to believe it. You can’t just have a curriculum written on a piece of paper and read the lesson. Q: How do we best respond to and accommodate different ethnic and racial backgrounds? A: The people who are running our programs have to be deeply committed to an anti-racist, social justice perspective. It is critical that programs be antiracist, and understand LGBT issues. The courts should always be aware of issues of oppression and the impact they have. The scales of justice are not balanced: they’re imbalanced. The programs will be imbalanced, as well, unless they recognize power and privilege. The possibility of creating programs that are exclusively for African Americans, or for any particular community, may not be feasible. So the programs that do exist need to have an anti-oppression analysis and act on that analysis with men from every possible community. Q: What’s your response to the increasing attention to psychopathology and mental health as a way of understanding and treating men’s violence? A: I ask people if they agree that men’s assault on women exists in just about every country on the globe. Need I say more? Q: What about the very organized backlash that says women are as violent as men? A: Those people have an analysis of domestic abuse that ignores the patriarchy and male supremacy in our society and the world. I deeply believe in oppression theory, and that the United States of America was built on male

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supremacy and white supremacy. It’s written into the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the fabric of our culture. Did women have the vote? Could black people own anything? That doesn’t mean women don’t scream and shout, and throw rocks and knives; women can do that. But if I use the same language to describe what women do to men, or what people of color do to white people, we obfuscate the imbalance of power. Q: There continue to be claims based on research that batterer programs don’t work and alternatives like psychotherapy or couples counseling maybe more effective. A: When people say batterer programs don’t work, they mean that the men don’t get “fixed.” I say batterer programs, based on our New York Model, work 100 percent of the time. Men learn that they’re being held accountable for something having to do with domestic abuse. They learn that the court means business. All we ask is that when a man appears in court for having assaulted his intimate partner, he gets the same response as he would if he had assaulted a police officer. That begins to feel like social change. The fact is that most of what the research has come up with, in terms of batterer traits and program outcomes, is simply misleading. It’s based on such a small and unrepresentative group of men: The vast amount of the illegal acts of domestic abuse, of course, are not seen in courts; only a small percentage of the few cases that get to court end up in a batterer program; and only a small portion of those programs and the men in them are studied. What does that really tell you? Q: What would you recommend that researchers do in order to better support or substantiate the principles you promote? A: I’d like researchers to assess what the courts do when they order a man to a program and he doesn’t comply. What percentage of those men disappear in the cracks? In terms of the bigger picture, I would love a “think tank” that explores the need for social change and how to bring it about. I’ve been so angry at researchers whose research is more important than the lives of women, and produce findings that end up being hurtful, as well as untrue. So much of it then gets cited by the next researcher or graduate student, and takes on a life of its own. When men come into our program, I tell them and their families that I want them to have every bit of information that could contribute to their understanding of what is meant by domestic abuse, and to their motivation to change their interaction with their partners. If you ask me what percentage of the men have chosen to do that, I would say, “I don’t know.” But if I ask the instructors who work under my tutelage and supervision, how many of you have changed your life as a result of the material that you’ve heard in this


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program, every man and woman raises their hand. How do we get those kind of findings into the research? Q: Any thoughts about program standards? What role might they have in improving the field and the quality of the work? A: I’m proud that I refused to participate in the formation of standards in the 1990s when every state was coming out with them. The development of batterer programs wasn’t anywhere near where it is today, and resulted in legislative standards that are counterproductive and even harmful. Many programs end up doing the things that are harming women, as a result. I was involved in the group that was trying to make standards for New York State, and every time we did something, three months later we had changed our minds about it. With the information that we have today, we could possibly have guidelines. But we need to ask what can we realistically hold programs accountable for; what can we really assess by visiting or monitoring a program? Q: Where does the field need to go from here? A: I’d either control batterer programs in the way I’ve talked about, or wipe them all out and start over with our initial analysis of domestic violence. I bet we’d get some brilliant thinking about how to shift culture. I try to have this sort of discussion with other program leaders and my voice has often been drowned out. I am often treated disrespectfully by men in this movement who don’t happen to agree with me. When they treat me disrespectfully in the ways that men often treat women who are their partners, what hope do I have that this work is about social change and respect for women? It seems to me there should be collaboration rather than rejection in terms of the importance of accountability for violent men, and the importance of recognizing oppression and injustice against women. This is something on which we should be able to find agreement and at least have serious discussion. Q: What do you see to be the main issue in what you refer to as the batterer program industry? A: There’s a “Big Divide” between the type of program that is a New York Model (a nonprofit) and ones that are out there making money by telling the courts and their community that they’re going to make the man violence-free and abuse-free. The research has indicated, however, that most of the men in those programs will not be abuse-free, and most abusive men will never be in a program. Putting all this energy into helping people believe that batterer programs are going to end domestic violence is self-serving and exploitive. I also disagree with programs that send the very men who have been ordered by the court out into the community as if they are now the champions of social justice and respect for women. They still put out men who have

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completed the program and are doing testimonials about how now they’re fixed. When you conflate the batterer program with the community work, you confuse the issue. When we say “batterer programs,” it doesn’t matter that I’m also part of a broader effort in the community; the focus remains on the batterer program “fixing” men. The real issue is where does that program stand within the community and the efforts to bring about social change. HAMISH SINCLAIR Hamish Sinclair founded the Manalive program in 1980 in response to the Marion Abused Women’s Services in California. His reeducation approach for men extended to a network of related programs in the San Francisco Bay area, including Manalive-based programs in prison and jail. The Fatal Peril jail program was documented in the film on American Public Television, Manhood and Violence: Fatal Peril (2004). A former documentary filmmaker, labor organizer, and mental health worker, Hamish currently presides as the executive director of the Manalive VIP Training Institute. He continues to train a wide range of professionals from across the country in Manalive intervention techniques and violence prevention. The fundamental aim of Manalive has been to replace the false and destructive Male-Role Belief System with a belief in equality—not only in individuals, but also the community at large. Q: How did you get started in this work and when? A: It’s part of a whole sequence of events. I came to California in 1974 to figure out why men beat each other up. Domestic violence was not a central interest to me. I came to it much like most men I work with in the program. At that time, I was community organizing. I had to go underground for six months while we organized a street truce over my support of one organizer who gotten beat up by another one. The fact that the survivor was a woman married to her assailant, sadly, had no significance to me at that time. She was a street fighter; every bit the organizer; good as any man and better in tight spots than her assailant. I was righteously upset that her assailant had taken her down. And he was righteously upset in return, that I had the gall to challenge how he handled his wife. These days, I could say it was his male-role beliefs versus his political loyalties to the movement. All I thought then was that he had chosen to interfere with my job and I made an issue of it. The dispute over women’s leadership role was so bitter between men and women, everyone took sides, and the internal battle closed down and ended a whole five years of citywide work


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in a week. This was in Detroit with auto and steel workers and their families. But the same kind of thing went down with coal miners and their families around Hazard, in southeastern Kentucky. In both places, the biggest organizing difficulty for me was men’s authoritarian attitudes and our violations of one another. Soon afterward, I went to Berkeley to work with Claude Steiner, who has written extensively about transactional analysis and life scripts. He had a posse of radical feminist women who helped this straight-up, “Hitman” out of Detroit to see the issues that I’d been wrestling with in terms of “internalized oppression.” In Detroit auto-plant terms, it came to me as the bosses’ way of enforcing their oppression of men working on “the line” by teaching us men to oppress ourselves. Through that connection with Steiner, I got a job as community team leader in a residential psychiatric facility. In effect, I was to test the theories of internalized oppression with some of the most troubled patients. It turned out that many of the most violent so-called schizophrenics seemed to gravitate to my team. In fact, the mix of Detroit street experience and internalized oppression worked rather well. Four years later, I was ready to take this training back into community organizing and that’s when I discovered Marin Abused Women’s Services (MAWS). The MAWS women were ready to start a men’s program for the battering partners of the women in their shelter. They invited me to design the curriculum and interventions for a program based on their radical notion of responding to women’s experience of men’s violating them and their urgency that men stop their abuse and violence. As a result, we developed the Manalive program of classes, along with an active group of community advocates from program graduates. The “advocates” against violence set up a 24/7 hotline, worked with women staff and volunteers on community outreach, and ultimately fed some of the Manalive program gender-based theory and content into the legislation for California Batterer Intervention Programs (BIPs). Q: What do you look for in recruiting and developing peer counselors? A: Men from working-class neighborhoods, who have graduated from our state-mandated, gender-role-based BIPs. They have the basic experience that peer facilitation requires. They are violent men who have learned how to stop their violence and are trained and experienced in a special way to work with other men. We graduate about five hundred men a year from the different Manalive classes around the Bay Area. A few recruits emerge during the fifty-twoweek, three-hour-a-week program who seem to have a passion for the material and for the peer teaching process they experience in the classes. They light up! You can see it. They recruit themselves, it seems, to be peer coun-

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selors. They approach me, or another of the Manalive facilitators, and just say outright, “I want to do this work!” The Manalive program is their basic training. They have to have that first. In fact, I look at Manalive as an apprenticeship program. The “batterer intervention program” concept gives us the chance to run training programs that dismantle our learned violating skills and open up the possibility of re-learning some basic intimacy skills. Violence is a skill that we all had to learn just to stay with the pack growing up. The trouble is it doesn’t work for intimacy. That’s a whole different set of skills that Manalive aims to teach. Q: So you think domestic violence is about skills? A; Absolutely! We men had to learn how to be as violent as we are. We all have the potential to violate when we arrive in this world. You have to kill to eat, let’s face it. Gender-role socialization hooks into the part of our early predatory history and sharpens us up on our prowess, prevalence skills. It begins when some of us get blue bands and others get pink so we can be trained for what’s coming up. It’s all got to do with what kind of heat you pack down there between your legs. We men get one kind of training and women get the other. It’s not that complicated. Q: How do you incorporate this understanding of violence in your training curriculum? A: That all happens in the first year of “basic” programming. The men progress through three stages. The twenty-week First Stage is called, “I Stop Violating.” That’s where we define the gender-role basis of our violating others, and the skills we have learned to get good at it. Our violating is a weapon. Each week trainees help a classmate use a six-point diagram to break down the weapon into its six component parts using the incident of violating that got him into the program. This deconstruction method allows us to name what we call our “Hitman” roles and demonstrate the precise moment (we call “Fatal Peril”) when the Hitman detects that his male-role superiority is under attack and how he defends it. The objective is to reestablish control of our perimeter of gender-role superiority. The “violating” skills are based on a fairly routine graduated reaction sequence we have learned to use according to the severity of the attack and how sustained it is; 1) emotional violating to control basic resources like money, mobility, access to allies etc.; 2) verbal violating to weaken, demoralize and threaten the attacker and, 3) physical violating to repel the attack and render the attacker incapable of a response. The exercise takes an hour to emphasize that we employ these tactics to defend our hardened gender-role loyalty to a pernicious, superior-over-inferior, male-role belief system. It ends with learning how to switch this loyalty for love. We use a somatic and verbal eight


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“change agreements” exercise to accomplish this shift and bridge the gap between our Hitman and our real Selves at a Fatal Peril. This is an encouraging way for men to view our violating. It is the opposite of judgmental. It puts the socio-political assignment right out on the table, and credits men for their well-learned violating skills, and paves the way for the next assignment which is to learn the new skills of loving and respecting self and others. The men then enter the sixteen-week Second and Third Stages to learn the intimating skills that we need to replace the redundant violating skills. If you’re not trying to prevail, you don’t need to violate! Q: Does this qualify the identified facilitator trainees to facilitate now? A: There is more to do in order to become a facilitator. Working men and women, and those from the streets, don’t come with any formal peerfacilitation training or skills. We’re loaded with street skills to mediate our way around the commonplace, everyday violence we face. So, we build on those. We assign recruits to a seasoned facilitator to volunteer to co-facilitate for six months. They learn how to graft their first-year, stop-violating-andstart-intimating skills onto their street skills and apply them. And they learn how to be an agenda-keeper, collusion cop, and safety monitor for the program classes. They also serve as secretary for all the probation mandatory compliance paper work that’s required. Q: How do you manage to get these men engaged and motivated to change? A: The truth is that for many of them, we don’t. Most of the men think that they’re in traffic school or something when they register for Manalive. Perhaps 20 percent will absolutely refuse to change, 60 percent in the middle will go either way, and the remaining 20 percent will change if you are real straight with them. Among what I’d call “the refusers” (the men who resist the program) about one in a hundred gets really belligerent when we call out their Hitman. They refuse to accept that they violate others and aren’t willing to stop. We insist that those men leave and go back to their probation officers (POs). We call this intervention the “bounce,” because we have trained the POs to call in the men, show them their “jacket” (records packet) with their survivor’s bruised-up pictures in the police arrest report, remind them that this is called “violating,” and offer them jail instead of the program. We catch up to them again in a more intensive intervention program in jail. Some men do come back to Manalive ready to work. It’s a sensible form of triage overall. The men who do stick with the program may be taken aback by the bluntness of the gender-based theory and our insistence on their accountability for violating, but at least we are not judging them, or calling them crazy, so they make the “change” agreements and start working. Q: Why hasn’t peer facilitation been more broadly used in other batterer programs?

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A: Maybe because there is not a general understanding of what we term “violating” among many academically credentialed professionals, nor much respect for what the men in the trenches know and what they can do about it as organizers. We have seen this in the trade union movement and even in the women’s movement as their leaders collude in getting a larger share of the mainstream funding rather than challenging the structural problems and policy-making processes that undercut this work. I’ve watched my sisters in the battered women’s shelter movement follow the same kind of path as so many batterer programs. They have chosen to professionalize over the years for all the best reasons: to raise money from state and federal grants and private foundations. Yet I’m afraid that one consequence that comes from this is a suspicion of peer facilitation and training that all but eliminates its use in the shelters and among supportive men’s programs. Many of the grassroots people I’ve worked with over the years think that their experiential voices have been silenced and that peer facilitation is a losing struggle. Formally accredited, medical-model styles of leadership suppress grassroots peers from promoting what is really a movement and replace it with a policy-making apparatus. Q: There are programs that are saying we just need to be more compassionate; we need to recognize the men’s trauma and build out from their sense of victimhood, as well as help them better understand why they do what they do. It sounds like you keep the focus on society at large and what it is teaching and doing to us. Is that right? A: If that were all that we did, you’d be right to say that we are blaming society for our violating, and we don’t. We are clear that the male-role belief system exists as a socially-defined, cultural training system. And that system hands us a righteous belief in our superior authority and our obligation, as men, to defend it with violence. We are also painfully aware that we are this system’s first victims growing up. The Hitman training to disallow our human emotional responses in order to harm others is brutal, although also sometimes subtle. By definition, we are all traumatized victims of a truly oppressive system. That is the source of our empathy and compassion for one another and for our survivors. We have a name for this kind of “victim” in our program. We call him the “Victim Hitman,” the “poor me” image of a man, so traumatized and bullied that he is unable to react with obligatory force to a partner’s challenge to his authority. We have learned that we better not stay in that place for long. In a split second we flash out into our learned Perpetrator Hitman, and the game is on. We don’t quit until we prevail, or a third party intervenes, or we get tired, which is unusual—or we get lucky and somehow learn to use the program to help us stop.


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Q: You are beginning to answer the challenging question about batterer program effectiveness. Many researchers say that they simply don’t work. A: I think they’re right about that, because many programs are caught short with the wrong tool in hand for the job. They use individual therapy to fix a social problem. It doesn’t work for us to pick up each grain of sand on the beach, polish it, and put it back down again. The tide of male-role behavior runs in and out every twelve hours to wash all your work away. It’s like trying to solve racism with group therapy. Racism and sexism are socio-political problems, not symptoms of an aberrant dysfunctional individual. Q: Has your approach varied or evolved in any special way over the years? A: It hasn’t really changed much from gender-role theory and peer reeducation. That approach has been working and moving us along. I’ve refined the curriculum some and rewritten the Second and Third Stage manuals on intimacy skill-building. These changes reflect the feedback from our jail participants calling for a livelier call-and-response style, instead of the Eurodidactic style, which is my tradition of teaching and learning. The intimacy material is more fleshed out, more grounded, and more theoretically detailed than before. I delve deeper into the core belief system inherent in notions of the loss of Self that we suffer from Hitman training, and how to recover from that. I’ve written a trainee evaluation tool that tests theory, concepts, and peer interventions. Now I’m working with a feminist sociologist on how to evaluate peer-intervention theory and practice. They’re all refinements, really, rather than new directions. Our organizing strategy is evolving, however. We did the first phase in the 1980s, experimenting with the basic curriculum and working with shelter staff to keep the curriculum focused on survivors’ needs. And we developed the ground rules for an accountable, advocacy graduate training course for peer facilitators. In the 1990s, we had the program graduates ready to respond to the mandatory arrest and reeducation conditions set forth in new Violence Against Women laws. We helped these graduates train and set up new programs to field the influx of referrals from probation departments and parole Agencies in the region. They did all this as volunteers, mostly, without central direction or supervision. It was all from their heart and their passion to take the reins of change in their own hands. Some progressive women leaders who were judges or probation officers backed our development of a city-wide “point-of-sale” network of batterer intervention classes. We had over three hundred men a year from San Francisco’s impacted neighborhoods in eleven multi-ethnic programs by 2003. With that and our San Quentin prison program, the female programs director of the San Francisco Sherriff’s Department invited us to set up the new Resolve to Stop the Violating Project (RSVP) in a dedicated pod (with

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fifty-six men) of the county jail. We really worked at the peer/professional relationships among police, probation, jail, and prison staff. These collaborations highlighted for us the importance of forging alliances between civilian programs and criminal justice staff at all levels. Q: I would think that you could work on making the system more responsive and supportive for victims and holding men accountable for their behavior. A: That was certainly our goal in this second phase of our development through the 1990s and the first decade of the 2000s. But implementing the law inevitably has its problems. Its implementation tends to be racist. It disproportionately sweeps up men of color. The inefficiencies of the best offender tracking efforts are a deterrent to program compliance. Frequent court-to-jail leadership changes have an inordinate effect on overall program quality throughout the system. At one point, we closed down all our Manalive classes to protest the deterioration of batterer intervention standards following a disruptive leadership change. These sorts of problems are reason enough to suggest that alternative approaches to punishment are in order. Q: You have certainly broadened the boundaries of your work over the years, but how would you characterize your approach? A: Explorative is the word I’d use. I have been and still am exploring how gender-role theory and peer reeducation works, not just in the home, but also in the multitude of social milieu where batterers and battering is an issue. The main broadening, though, was applying our successful experience with domestic violence intervention to perpetrators of street violence in the county jail. Street violence has the same male-role roots as domestic violence, and gets us into the all-important territory of men-on-men violations. In addition to the jail work, we started a gender-based program for gay batterers in the LGBTQ Center in the heart of the Castro district, a Teenalive program in a major San Francisco high school, and one with violent residents of a locked psychiatric facility with the New Zealand Prison Service. We also have a Womanalive program for female perpetrators; and a Humanalive program for male and female participants in the kink BDSM community. We just started with a great staff of women to explore Manalive’s value to vets with post-release domestic and general violence charges, some with PTSD issues. We’ve got a solid core of ten to twenty trained peer facilitators who are doing the work. They are very experienced, down-to-earth organizers who are looking now at issues associated with expansion, and are ready to explore ways to transfer their work on gender-role reeducation directly into our neighborhoods. Q: What message do you have for researchers about program evaluations, outcomes, and evidence of effectiveness? A: First of all, program evaluations are needed. Jim Gilligan and Bandy Lee did one for us at the jail and came up with some really encouraging


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results. It was a standard, quasi-experimental design to measure recidivism. The main finding was good news: men enrolled in RSVP for four months had an 80 percent lower recidivism rate compared to nonprogram inmates with similar crimes. Currently, I’m working with a colleague on a broader and more qualitative approach to assessing program processes and outcomes of a Manalive program, named Men In Progress at the renowned, Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco’s historic Tenderloin District. Q: What do you see as the needed next steps? A: Political action. I think our future lies in building a powerful grassroots movement among the men and women graduates of our programs. They have successfully faded their loyalties to the male-role belief system. They will help to define the political campaigns around violence cessation. While Manalive’s first-year interventions are focused on personal liberation and change, our second year focuses on community liberation and change. Our peer-led programs are, therefore, training grounds for community leaders who will campaign for gender-role “free zones” for themselves, their partners, and their children. Their no-violating movement will take on and replace the old principles of male prevalence with a new ethic of equality and justice.

Chapter Five

Women Leaders

The program leaders in this section are all women who themselves founded or developed batterer programs closely associated with battered women’s shelters. The impetus of their work is, at least in part, their personal experiences of violence against women either from an abusive partner, between family members, or rape of close friends. While they echo themes in the previous interviews, such as the importance of a gender-based perspective and respect for program participants, they accentuate these themes with a “victim-informed practice.” These leaders acknowledge the role other women advocates have had in helping them develop their programming, along with the battered women they all have worked with in the past and currently. Their programs, moreover, all include a form of “partner contact” that, for the most part, goes beyond that of most other programs and is considered essential to their programs. One program invites the men’s partners to attend one of the men’s group sessions; another has an extensive orientation for the women about the men’s program. One interviewee explains that her staff offer an ongoing report to the men’s partners so that the women can make informed decisions about their safety and relationship. All of these interviewees consider the male dominance in that “sociopolitical” or “patriarchal” structure of society to be fundamental to understanding and addressing domestic violence. However, they each add that the male privilege, entitlement, and dominance suggested in this viewpoint, “hurt men too.” Many of especially the low-income and minority men additionally experience oppression and victimization of their own. Acknowledging the men’s experience opens the door to trust or rapport and can help them empathize with their partner’s experience of them. 125


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The interviewees explain, as well, how their approach has developed over the years from one that was more confrontational and even judgmental to one that is less harsh and engaging. They rely little on curriculum and instead allow and encourage a more open discussion of a variety of issues related to the men’s lives. But there is an underlying balance they seek between empathy and respect, on the one hand, and confrontation and challenge, on the other, as so many of the other leaders suggest. In their case, close contact with the men’s female partners and experience with other battered women, alerts them to when men are not telling the truth, avoiding the issues, or resisting change. The programs also all have a diversity of men in their groups in terms of race, ethnicity, and class. The interviewees see that feature enabling a kind of social education in which the men learn from each other, recognize commonalities, and gain an appreciation for differentness. The victimization and oppression that the men reveal also helps them make connections to the women’s experience. These interviewees look to a flexibility that makes for an open and learning discussion, along with an ongoing self-examination that helps the group leaders, as well as the men, learn in course of the group process. They expect and encourage the same sort of self-examination in their staff through supervision and peer support. The aim of accountability and safety are still primary, but overall there is a nurturing tone that belies the stereotypic accusation that feminist group leaders are necessary harsh and imposing. Toby Myers, the first of the women leaders, is considered by many as “Mother of the Texas Battered Women’s Movement.” Like the others, she began working with a battered women’s shelter, and the PIVOT batterer program that she founded continues a close affiliation with the shelter. The second interviewee, Alyce LaViolette, founded the Alternatives to Violence program in Southern California in 1979. Besides her co-facilitating groups with a male counselor, she works as an expert witness on domestic violence in criminal cases. Sara Elinoff Acker sees herself as a feminist activist who worked at the Men Overcoming Violence program in Massachusetts. She developed a model partner contact program that keeps the women advised, and the program informed, about the men. The last interviewee is Lisa Nitsch, a director at Baltimore’s House of Ruth that serves both battered women and men who batter. Her program has made a special effort to engage the low-income minority men of the city and integrate a women’s perspective into the men’s group work. TOBY MYERS Toby Myers, EdD, LCSW, LPC, is recognized by the Texas Council on Family Violence as “Mother of the Texas Battered Women’s Movement.” One of the

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many domestic violence programs she helped start, develop, and lead is the PIVOT program for men in Houston. She also is a founder of Houston’s AVDA (Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse), the Texas Council on Family Violence, and the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence. Toby currently maintains a private counseling practice, works with attorneys as an expert witness, and trains practitioners in the area of domestic violence. She still dreams of people living in intimate relationships that are not only nonviolent, but that also are also mutually respectful, satisfying, and growth-promoting. Q: How did you get started in this field? A: For me, as a formerly battered woman, it was “physician, heal thyself!” I remember listening one time to Marvella Bayh, the wife of Senator Birch Bayh. She talked about cancer in a way that applied to my experience with domestic violence: “You know, I never would’ve chosen to have cancer, but it presented opportunities to me and ways to meet people that I never would’ve had. It enriched and sustained me in ways that were unimaginable.” It was fortuitous that this came to the forefront in my life just as attention was being paid both publicly and professionally to woman abuse. I sought out our local initiative to develop a shelter and began working with other women who were abused and battered. I’m sure one of the underlying reasons was because I couldn’t figure out how to save my own relationship. You love this person and you have children with this person, and you wonder why it isn’t working. Like every other battered woman, you think, “What did I do wrong, what could I have done better, what needs to be done so this doesn’t happen?” There ought to be something that somebody could do, because these two people love each other in some way. They just can’t make it work. Then once you get into it, you learn all kinds of other things have happened that you never imagined and you need ultimately to make a major change. Q: What sustained you over the years? A: I’m now mainly seeing domestic violence cases for the Coast Guard, and, if appropriate, refer them to AVDA (Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse). I do court work and expert witness testimony, as well. What keeps me going are successes. It’s intermittent reinforcement. When you don’t get any successes, you go away and leave, but if you have some, they sustain you. Some of the successes aren’t just within the program, but the opportunities of meeting the most interesting, hardworking, good-thinking people, like Debby Tucker, Ellen Pence, Barbara Hart, and Joan Zorza—the whole multitude out there. It’s been such a privilege to be part of that. Q: How would you characterize the approach of the men’s program you helped start? A: The Houston program for men who batter, PIVOT, is still going as well and evolving. Initially, it was just about stopping the violence. If you could


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just stop the violence, you were successful. Then we started getting into what really held the program together: the sociocultural perspective of male privilege. I remember Ellen Fisher of the Texas Council on Family Violence one day laughing, because some of the programs, especially in the more rural communities, saw that as “too hot to handle.” They just left male privilege out of the whole equation. The other feature about our approach, that I thought was unique, is one administration for Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse (AVDA) and PIVOT for men who battered their partners. We felt that arrangement would keep us close to the battered women’s movement and would allow the women’s programs to expand their services. We developed relationships with all the domestic violence programs in the area and brought PIVOT to their area, thus expanding theirs services along with ours. The other programs provided PIVOT with a room to hold our group meetings, a drawer to store materials, and use of a copy machine and VCR. I thought that was a wonderful model. The Executive Director of AVDA was an intern of mine before I retired. AVDA came into being in 1980 and was started by the National Council of Jewish Women. Houston already had Houston Area Women’s Center. What was lacking was legal advocacy and representation for victims. I brought PIVOT to AVDA and that made a victim and an abuser program. Q: So the men’s program was directly linked to the women’s program, rather than standing as an independent program as such? A: Yes. I remember a long time ago, at one of the batterers conferences in Baltimore, a woman from Illinois came up to me said, “We’re going to have a conference, and we’d like you to speak. We want a counterpoint on whether it’s better to have batterer programs associated with a women’s program or freestanding. Would you be the one to talk about being associated with a women’s program?” And I said, “Oh sure.” Then I started thinking about it: “Who is going to be taking the other position?” And she said, “Oh, Ellen Pence of the noted Duluth Program.” As it turned out, Ellen was exceedingly merciful. In my experience, so many of the freestanding programs have become renegade operations that are often at odds with the women’s centers or services in their area. The main benefit of our men’s program being associated with the women’s program was the oversight the women’s program offered it. There has also been an exchange and sharing of information that has been helpful in both directions. Some women’s programs have resisted this sort of association with men’s program. They see it as fraternizing with the enemy which I find disturbing. When PIVOT began at AVDA, I made it very clear that we would not take money away from the victim’s program and would be self-supporting.

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Q. Would you give some features of the PIVOT curriculum? A. Several things come to mind. One of the things we did was include women partners. Participants signed agreement and provided contact information for partners. PIVOT sent them a copy of our Progress Reports that were sent to the referral source. We had a partner advocate who was available for contact with the partners. The partners, in fact, were invited to our program orientation, which was the first session for the men entering the program. They got to hear about the program and in the latter half of the orientation they met separately with an advocate to answer questions. We frequently saw subsequent partners who were convinced that the man’s initial victim had made up the story of abuse simply to get the program participant in trouble. Many of those new partners worked hard not to make the same mistakes that former partners had made, and were sure they could be a better partner. I remember vividly one group of women who had been victims discussing what was their obligation to the new partners. They concluded that they could not tell the new woman about the abuse, because she would think the former partner was trying to break up the new couple. What they decided was masterful! They decided when they saw the new partner, usually on the exchange of the children, the former partner could say something innocuous such as, “If you ever want to talk to me about anything, you can do so.” They concluded that the offer may not mean anything special at the time, but if there was trouble between the new couple, the new partner might remember the offer and seek out the former partner. In another activity, we invited partners to come into the group when the man was about midway through. That way it was not so early in the program that it would “freak” him out, nor too late to work on any issue she identified. The women’s visits supplied insights of what it might have been like for the woman, and the fact that they were the partners of men in the group helped to lower the men’s defensiveness about the “women’s perspective.” Moreover, the visits satisfied many women’s curiosity of what happened in group with the men. The visiting women also got to ask the group members how they thought her participating partner was doing. Q: Anything special you look for in group facilitators? A: One thing that stands out to me is how our male facilitators made a major effort on their own to work together on self-examination. That, in a sense, was the impetus for their interaction and counseling with the other men. They were modeling and sharing their own kind of journey. That put them with the men rather than above them. They have been a great example in that way, as well. Male facilitators could include themselves in things such as, “We have to quit doing this.” Female facilitators had the advantage of conveying what it was like for a woman hoping to bring that clarity to the group.


Chapter Five

At PIVOT, we encouraged each facilitator to develop skills that he had and could use in group. I was trained in psychodrama, so I often had one group member play another member’s partner, talk about how it felt being on the receiving end, and what the partner might want from the participant. We would then change roles, allowing the participant to be his own partner. One time, a man reported that a woman looked frightened when the two were in the elevator alone. We acted out different scenarios of how that could be handled. It was great fun and creative on the part of the participants. Another evening one of the men talked about suicide. We had him lie in state on the floor while the rest of us conducted his funeral. Each member spoke about how he viewed the man and what he could have done to help. It was impactful; the man continued in the program, completed the required sessions, and went forward with his life. Q: How has your outlook on this work changed over the years? A: My outlook has broadened from focusing on the violence to the psychosocial underpinnings of abuse. Men are vaccinated with needles so subtle that they don’t even realize what’s happening to them. We have to recognize and deal with that, rather than want to get back at them. We were able to get most men to a pretty good level of attitude and behavior, and then they’d go out and have a fight with their partner. Somebody would say to them something like this, “You shouldn’t let some woman talk to you like that; who wears the pants in your family anyhow?” So until society reinforces what a man learns in the program, it’s hard to sustain his progress. So we clearly need more community education, as well as programs for men. The education now being done in the faith community, in education, and in the general public will potentiate what programs work to accomplish. When men entered the program, they first attended an orientation session with other new men, and would often be furious about being there. We would say, “Look, you’re not the only people who should be here. You’re the ones who got caught in the net. And we’re thrilled to have you with us. You need to see this as a privilege.” I remember Ellen Pence giving me the line, “They don’t let bank robbers sit around in groups, talking about why it’s not a good idea to rob banks. But they do let men who batter their partners go to a group program.” Batterers are simply not regarded as such a big deal by the system. I looked at research from Phyllis Frank of the New York Model of batterer intervention that assessed the community responsibility instead of how much men changed in the program. She was interested in what the courts do if a man flunks out of the program. Do they just send him to some weekend program, or do they give him some additional sanctions? One of the good things about batterer intervention programs is that they are a sign that somebody’s paying attention to domestic violence, and doing something about it; the bad

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side of it could be, “We’ll just send him to that program over there, and it’ll take care of him. We don’t have to do anything.” Anybody who says that batterer programs are not effective are not looking at the big picture of what is being done in addition to the programs to support them and their work. It’s the bigger picture that makes the difference. That big picture includes society at large: the haves and the have-nots, and the big money and lobbyists that get funds for prisons and at the same time cut services for the poor. It’s all these things—they’re interrelated. Poor people and middle-class factory workers in Wisconsin are losing their houses and jobs, and don’t have benefits; yet Wall Street is doing just fine. It can drive you crazy. Being preoccupied with program evaluations that just look at whether a man’s rearrested or not can be a distraction from these real issues. Q: How did you deal with male privilege that you mentioned was a central aim of your men’s program? A: That was mainly the zeitgeist of what we did. We begin to see so many of the terms that are women-limiting, like “codependent.” When I would hear such words, I would think, “Gads, that’s only a term for a well-socialized female. But what we’ve done is make it a pathology.” I’ve been on the board of the Houston Group Psychotherapy Society for many years, and I remember having heated disagreements over the word “codependence.” Q: What do you make of the increasing tendency to “pathologize” men’s violence toward women and address it primarily as a mental health problem? In our record keeping of the men in our program, we included a narrative of the men’s program participation and behavior which was reported to the referral sources. It wasn’t simply, “Did he come and did he pay?” As a result, the District Attorney’s office said that they loved our program the best of all the programs, because we gave them information about what we saw was going on with the men. The down side is that it is labor intensive. For many years I had worked at the research and training arm of our State Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation and had been taught that a record should be sufficient to stand on its own. Q: Is there anything special that you would report regarding psychological problems? A: Not so much psychological problems, because we didn’t think many men had psychological problems. We always thought that it was important to note a statement about the man’s being responsible or to note that a man wasn’t responding to the program. We also reported if a man smelled of alcohol or appeared to be high. For those that we thought had a mental health issue, we reported that suspicion and requested the referral source further evaluate the man.


Chapter Five

Q: Any thoughts on the trend toward risk assessment? A: I use the Danger Assessment from Jacqueline Campbell when evaluating cases for court. When a woman kills a man, for instance, I retrospectively do the assessments and can show how much danger the woman was in and it is usually severe. The men who are killed tend to be far more dangerous than most. With this sort of information, we can help women avoid having to go to those extremes. Sometimes having an assessment instrument is useful, because numbers, quantification, and documentation are desirable and accepted as more scientific in court. Q: I recall you saying that one of the most important things that happens in a men’s programs is a kind of social education. A: Yes, the men are still getting something out of the program by just being there. Men from different racial backgrounds and class backgrounds sit together face-to-face and learn about each other: what they have in common, and what they have to change in their lives. It very much broadens their sense not only of manhood, but also of society. I remember, for instance, a high ranking executive of Exxon in one of our PIVOT groups mentoring a young black man who showed lots of promise. It was wonderful seeing that someone like that recognized the young man’s potential and tried to develop it. I also always thought that, even if they weren’t getting something out of being in the session that night, their partners were probably benefitting from not having them around for those few hours. If a man’s wife had left and wasn’t coming back, the program group gave him some sense of support instead of relying solely on his wife. Q: How might we better respond to the kind of diversity you’ve experienced in your program? A: I think that men’s and women’s programs may be one of the few places that people of different backgrounds can rub elbows with one another and really get to know, understand, and appreciate each other. Many incidental benefits come with being in a program. That goes against the tendency in some programs to try and separate people out into different groups. We’ve tried to have Latino, Asian, as well as African-American facilitators. This has been especially important for the men who don’t speak much English. But more broadly, it lets the men of color know that they are not alone, and they have an example to whom they can relate. Q: What is your response to the evidence-based practice movement that expects research documentation of program effectiveness? A: That word, “evidence-based,” just drives me nutty. It has been sprinkled about and taken over everyone. It has been so misused in ways that have really been disruptive. And somebody gets tenure over the research that makes the “evidence,” and it doesn’t matter what they measure. Sometimes clinical

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intuition—just feeling it in your bones—is better than so-called “evidencebased.” Q: Any thoughts on the claims that batterer programs don’t work? A: Why they don’t work, or work as much as we’d like, is because society isn’t supporting or reinforcing men’s change when they get out of the programs. We have the same problem with men who are released from prison. Nothing works in a vacuum. I also remember having a discussion about program “success” with Kathleen Carlin at Men Stopping Violence many years ago. She said to me, “Our program is 100 percent successful.” And I said, “You have to be kidding! Tell me your definition of success.” And she said, “We’re 100 percent effective because our goal is to help victims make better decisions about their safety and well-being. For instance, if a man drops out of the program, we let his partner know that we can’t do anything with him, and she gets good information upon which to base a decision for herself and her future.” Another thing is that we’re busy out on college campuses and in the public schools trying to let everybody know about domestic violence. This program is not just about the men who got caught; it is really for everybody in this whole society—or should be. Q: Any other thoughts about program outcomes or evidence-based practice issues? A: There are just so many things to look at in evaluating programs. Somebody once asked me outright, “What do you think we ought to do to really stop domestic violence?” I thought we really need to educate our women, and have them be able to take care of themselves. When we first started the battered women’s shelter here, we were all volunteers. My paying job was at the research and training arm of our Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation. I came directly out of the medical model of treatment with group therapy experience and when we first opened a shelter here, I was the one doing the support group for the women. But one woman in a group said boldly, “This gets down to economics. I have to go back to him because there’s nowhere else to go. I’ve had this little interlude at the shelter, and now have to return to him because I can’t make it financially.” I don’t know if it’s all about economics, but it’s certainly a big part of it. It is certainly much more than group therapy. There’s been a lot of work in different areas like transitional housing and income supplements for battered women. I remember one time sharing the podium with an Assembly of God preacher, and I thought he’s likely to be really conservative about a woman’s place in the home: “I’ve got to gird my loins, because I’m fixing to do battle here.” He had the podium before I did, and what he said I’ll never forget: “You know, marriage between a man and


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a woman is a contract. And if he hits her or abuses her, he’s violated the contract, and she has no obligation to stay and continue the marriage.” How refreshing was that! All I had to say was, “Amen, Brother.” Q: There is a vocal contingent that insists we really need to address domestic violence as a couple, and batterers programs will not work unless they deal with the women’s aggression and violence. A: In the early days, there was a piece of research by a woman out of Washington State named Fran Purdy. She and a colleague, Norm Nickles, wrote a paper that included a graph with the incidents of domestic violence on the vertical axis (i.e., the nature or type of the assault) and who initiated the violence on the horizontal axis. About 45 percent of the incidents were initiated by women and 55 percent initiated by men. But as the violence increased in extent and severity, the line for the men’s initiated violence went up to near 97 percent. That meant that the men were mostly responsible for the severe violence, like knocking out a tooth, rupturing an eardrum, or breaking a rib. Women learned when that when those things happen, you don’t slap him back; you sit down and be quiet, hoping it will be over soon. So the violence on her part decreased. As a result, the initiation of the violence was close to start with, but ended up far apart as the severity increased. However, the figures changed when a killing occurred and it wasn’t 97 percent to 3 percent. Women didn’t kill the men nearly so often as the men killed women but it rose considerably. Look at the dynamics of the violence, rather than just incidents in isolation. Michael Johnson’s categorizations of domestic violence types have their limits and controversy, but they have been helpful too in exposing the different dynamics. When we looked at our AVDV data about a year ago, we found that the women who were reported violence could be called what Johnson refers to as acting with “violent resistance.” That is, their aggression was primarily a coping response to the partner’s abuse, mistreatment, and violence over a long period of time. There’s another piece of research that has a good explanation of women’s aggression. A lot of what we call violence is tolerated in relationships. It gets tolerated as a little scuffling, and a lot of times it’s initiated by the woman. But it doesn’t get to be a problem until somebody gets afraid. That’s when people go into counseling, the police are called, divorces are initiated, or a woman goes to a shelter. It is usually the woman taking these actions because she is the one who gets afraid. Fear is the real difference and a motivator to do something. There are those who conflate the issue and want to claim women are just as violent as men. What I have seen when women are the more violent is the power and control has been flipped. The man may be older, sick, or infirmed. She may have more of the money. She may be smarter. Only once

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did I see a young, bright, fit man as the true victim. He was so committed to nonviolence and no-abuse that he tolerated abuse from his partner rather than do anything untoward. Women need more than to hope and dream for a partner who won’t obstruct them. When Bob and I got together long after my being in an abusive relationship with another man, I was thinking all I needed was somebody who didn’t obstruct me. But to have somebody who supports and encourages me is better than anything out of my wildest dreams. I hadn’t imagined that was even a possibility. Beyond the challenge of stopping the violence is helping people realize what the possibilities really are, and what we have a right to expect in our lives. Q: What then needs to be done to improve batterer programs overall? A: People have to value them and respect them, and I don’t see that always happening. Also, program standards and training are always helpful in improving program quality and keeping staff updated. Standards are especially useful in checking a renegade program, but they can also be so limiting that we end up paying more attention to maintaining the standards than to the work we are actually doing. Q: What other recommendations do you have for batterer programs in these times? A: You have to make the most of what you have. For example, there was a big argument at one time over whether men make better group facilitators than women. The fact is that men offer a wonderful perspective. Women group leaders can’t just say, “Hey guys, you can’t do this; shame on you.” But a guy can say, “Look fellas, we can’t be doing this to the women we love.” On the other hand, a woman facilitator can express the women’s experiences that the men don’t fully appreciate or understand. So ultimately, you have to figure out how to maximize your resources and use them better—and garner support and involvement from the community around you. It was such a privilege creating PIVOT and watching it grow and still continue at AVDA, albeit with a name change. ALYCE LAVIOLETTE Alyce LaViolette, MS, MFCC, has worked with battered women since 1978, first as an advocate at the women shelter in Long Beach and then in private practice. In 1979, she founded Alternatives to Violence, one of the first programs in the country for spouse abusers. She has also developed training programs for departments of probation and departments of children and family services in California, and serves as an expert witness for criminal and civil


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court. Along with several articles on domestic violence, Alyce coauthored a parenting curriculum for domestically-violent families, and the bes-selling book, It could Happen to Anyone: Why Battered Women Stay (2000; 2013, 3rd Edition). Q: You’ve been a long-time voice and leader in this work. Would you share how you got started? A: Two women I was very close to were raped by strangers, so I very much wanted to do something to impact violence against women. I was doing graduate work at the time, and had to do twenty hours of field placement. One of my friends had just started volunteering at the battered women’s shelter in Long Beach, which had just opened in 1977. She said that I’d really like working there for my placement. Actually, I didn’t know what “domestic violence” was back then. I didn’t grow up in it, nor had I heard much about it. But I interviewed with the shelter director, Geraldine (Geri) Staley, and decided I wanted to work there. The women’s shelter had a grant to find out what was happening to women who had been in the shelter during the year after they left the program. Over 80 percent of the women they could follow had returned to the person who had abused them. Geri, who was very farsighted, said, “We need to start a program for the men.” I didn’t want to do it, because I enjoyed working with the women and kids, and because I didn’t want to work with violent men. I was also getting divorced and had two small children, and I needed a job. So I wound up saying that I’d like to do program development, but, of course, if you develop a program at a shelter you’re going to end up running it. I had no counseling experience at that time, and was in graduate school to be a radical in the system. I had, therefore, to wing it. I contacted the only four men’s programs that I could find in the country. They sent me information about what they were doing. They were very shortterm programs, with the longest at sixteen weeks. I also talked to the women at the shelter, since I strongly believe it’s crucial to talk with the people most affected by the violence in order to properly inform program development. I found striking consistencies in what they were telling me about the men they were involved with. For instance, they told me their partners had been raised in violent families. That launched me into the work I’ve been doing the last few decades. I felt we should have a male-female team to approximate a family dynamic. I thought the men in the program didn’t know how to behave in a healthy family, so an example of positive relationships through the co-facilitation would be important. I brought in a male co-facilitator who had more experience in counseling than I did, and drew on my experience at the shelter and

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all of my six hours of counselor training. I basically learned the rest by the seat of my pants. Q: How would you characterize or describe your approach overall? A: Very eclectic. I work on gender, power abuse, childhood trauma, empathy, communication, confronting one’s own fear, and “Time Outs.” I also do an intake differently than most programs, because I’ve seen the difference in the stories told by the women and then by their partners. I do an educational piece with the women, while also getting their stories about their relationships. I tell the men from the beginning that our program policy is to have contact with their partners. I’d say that happens with 80 percent of the partners. I get women in touch with a shelter for some help of their own, and then have them contact me about how that works for them. I also get a real sense of the level of fear, and I do a dangerousness assessment in a conversational way. Then I bring the couple together to talk about “Time Outs.” The victim’s fear that she’s going to be abandoned decreases when they both understand Time Out—and that either one of them is able to take it. We talk about it as something that can be learned. Q: It sounds like your approach is based on building a relationship of trust and empathy with the men that allows them to really open up and explore who they are and what’s going on with them. Is that the essence of it? A: It really is about building relationships through modeling that in the group. I tell the men that the facilitators aren’t always right, and you can question them without attacking them. That’s part of what happens in a healthy family: you can question your parents and you can disagree with them. I learned that I was confronting one of the men in a harsh and negative way. Once I realized what I was doing, I backed off. I asked the other men, “What did you see happening here?” and expected to hear, “He was really stubborn and pigheaded.” Instead, one guy blurted out, “I saw two pigheaded people who wouldn’t back down.” I looked at him and said, “It took a lot of courage for you to say that, and I think you’re right.” What they see, for the most part, is how they can solve problems, and how that can happen when they are willing not to win all the time. The having to win comes out of fear, as does their controlling behavior. We’re confronting that behavior, but not by shaming the person; We’re confronting it by way of real life. Q: Has your approach to the work changed in any way over the years? A: I’ve seen more nuanced interventions emerge in my approach, because I understand some things differently now, even about myself. In the past, when something was wrong, I would want to fight it. Now I realize that there are times when you have to sit back and accept it, and times when you move forward. As a result, my timing is better than it used to be.


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I’m just more informed as well. I certainly learn not only from the men each week in the groups, but also from the victims that I work with. One thing that I’ve learned has to do with patriarchy. We started with the idea that patriarchy was the only cause for domestic violence, but I started getting women who actually initiated abuse in lesbian relationships and in heterosexual relationships. Patriarchy didn’t explain those cases. It also doesn’t explain why the many men doing this work have such big hearts. Why aren’t they beating some woman? I understand that we want to get to the issues of patriarch, but what do you do between where you start and getting to that? You have to do something that keeps these guys engaged and allows them to listen; otherwise, you’re not doing anything for the safety of the victims or the survivors of the violence. If you want to teach people to redefine power, you have to model it. I’ve also learned a lot from other people in the field. There are great people out there with great ideas or a different spin on something. I’m seeing people who do creative, wonderful work all around the country. Q: How do you accommodate the diversity of men in your group? A: We have men from a variety of ethnic and socioeconomic groups, including recent immigrants. We didn’t get gay men at the beginning, but we do now. They’re in our men’s groups with the straight men. We even had a transgendered man in our Long Beach program. We have lots of cultural differences as well. I say to the men in the group that everybody needs a safe place. Group members have been very welcoming to different men. We’ve had, at most, three gay men in a group at any time. We have a gay man in group right now who actually came out to the men, so we did an empathy exercise in which the men in the group talked about a time when they felt powerless or afraid during their childhood, an exercise inspired by Susan Schecter. Then the gay man talked about being molested, and he got tremendous support around that. The diversity makes it all very interesting. Because there’s an open forum, the men have a good opportunity to learn about other oppressions. When they understand one oppression, they can more easily understand another. In this way, the men are also getting sensitized to gender issues. For instance, we had a man from Egypt who had had a really hard time since 9/11. Ramadan was starting so I asked him to bring traditional food and describe it to the men in the group. It opened a door for talk about our differences and what we appreciate about them. Another example of this kind of learning is a more personal one. I was an expert witness in the Jodi Arias trial (Arias was charged with brutally murdering her fiancé). I was on the stand for twelve days testifying about the abuse that Arias experienced prior to the murder and its impacts on her psychologically. As a result, I received death threats and several news commentators

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called me a “man-hater.” “Experts,” who knew nothing about domestic violence, were commenting on how little I knew, how “folksy” I was, and that I wasn’t a “real psychologist” (in fact, I’m not a psychologist). It was a nightmare, although I’ve gotten many more cards, letters, faxes, and phone calls from all over the world thanking me. The men in my groups were very upset by the treatment I received. They started talking about attacks on females, and what it must be like. One of the guys said what he heard helped him understand school bullying and women abuse, and he said, “I couldn’t believe the things I was hearing.” It generated all this discussion that was powerful in itself. One of the men even called Dr. Drew (of the Headline News TV Show of the same name) and asked him to make a public apology to me, which of course he didn’t. I hear the men say that they have no place in their lives where they can talk about these issues in the way they do in group. And they are so grateful. I say to them, “I want you guys to be heroes in your own lives, and show that you can generate some talk like this in other places. You can open the door for other men, as well as for yourselves.” They do some of that. Men in the program have changed. It’s always just thrilling to me; not that every case is a success, because it certainly isn’t. But there are many men who feel like they’re making changes in their belief systems. The men learn something more about themselves and deepen their ability to empathize. They are better able to identify areas where they are emotionally abusive or where they misuse power. They also learn to communicate their needs and to face their own fears. That’s what I see. What’s more, about half the men in at least one of our groups have been attending for more than four years. They just keep coming, because they know they need the support, the confrontation, and the mirror on their behavior. Q: How do you account for so many of the men continuing in the group for so long? A: A lot of it has to do with the unstructured format. We don’t have a curriculum per se, or a set topic each week. We might have five topics going on at one time. So the men get to talk about what is important to them and what they most need help on. The men also know that we care about them. I’m a pretty straight shooter and I’ll confront them, but I do have a relationship with them first. They know that I believe it’s more than patriarchy causing domestic violence. Some men’s programs in the past believed that the only reason for the violence is patriarchy, and they sort of force-fed that view to the men in their groups. I don’t think that works very well. One of the two group facilitators conducts an intake interview with each man, so he makes a connection with a person that carries into his first group session. We also try to provide ancillary services for the men, and we charge


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on a sliding scale. I ask them, “What do think you can afford on a regular weekly basis?” Whatever they tell me I up it by five dollars, because I figure they might be undercutting me. I try to make up the rest of the cost through public speaking, expert witness testimony, and private practice. If the men feel that they can talk about things in the group, rather than be on guard, you can turn the “bad” comments into instructive discussions. I remember one such situation with a biker in the group. He got very upset with the way some of the other guys were talking about bikers, and he asked them to stop. The others stopped because they cared about how he felt. All along, he was calling his wife an “old lady.” I grew up when that was a derogatory term, and I didn’t like it. I was able to say to him, “How does your wife feel when you call her an “old lady”? He said, “Oh, she doesn’t care.” I then asked, “Why don’t you ask her how she feels about it.” He came back the next week and reported that it didn’t bother her at all. I said, ‘Okay, but it bothers me. You remember telling the guys a few weeks ago how their talking about bikers bothered you, and they all stopped because they cared about how you felt? I’m asking you to think about the way I feel.” After that he stopped saying “old lady.” We deal with the nuances of abusive behavior, not just the most obvious forms. There’s a genuineness about what happens in group that translates very well into their behavior when they leave group. There’s some understanding of other people, including their cultural differences. Q: How is it as a woman working directly with men like this? A: I noticed that the male co-facilitator tends to get credit for everything. If you have a good male co-facilitator, he just says, “Oh, Alyce said that. Thanks, Alyce.” He doesn’t make a big deal out of it, he just points it out. Also, the men in the group often get angrier at the female co-facilitator because she’s a safer target. When that happens, we talk about it as a group and learn from it. Here’s an example of another kind of challenge. I can say the same thing as the male co-facilitator, but I become “the bad mother” when I do. I’ve actually had men say to me, “If you get upset with me, you’re not Alyce anymore; you’re just my bad mom.” One of the guys recently said, “I gave it to my mother this week, I just let her have it. I told her what a rotten mom she was, and how she didn’t support me.” I looked at him and said, “Was your dad the one who battered you and your mom?” And he said, “Yes.” Then I asked, “Do you think it’s possible that all the anger you gave your mom belongs to your dad? I understand that you’re upset with your mom, and you’re angry with your mom, but what would happen if you got angry at your dad?” He was quick to say, “First of all, my dad wouldn’t listen to me. Besides, I’m still afraid of him.” In both cases, we got to talk about the men’s reactions in terms of their expectations for their mothers and fathers.

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The hardest times for me have been when I didn’t have a co-facilitator at all. One situation that stands out to me was with a junior high school teacher. He had been arrested for trying to pick up a female police officer for sex, as well as for domestic violence. His wife was really mad at him in a lot of ways. He looked at all the guys in the group and said, “Every time I see an attractive woman, I wonder what it’s like to be inside of her.” All I wanted to say was, “You asshole!” One of the other men, who I thought was making progress, jumped in, “Hey man, don’t worry, we all feel that way.” I was flabbergasted and couldn’t speak. At that point one of the men looked at me and said, “Alyce, how do you feel about what we’re saying?” I responded, “It makes me sick that you talk about women like they were nothing but a hole. It’s so painful to me that you talk like that, and that you would think like that. I hear you saying that if somebody said something about your mother or your daughter, you would kick their ass all over the place. Yet, here you are talking about other women in such a degrading way. I want you to think about all women as if they were your mother or your daughter. I want us to think about each other as human beings.” There are a lot of great stories, however, that keep me doing this work. And that spills over to the men. They know that we care about them and are there to help them. Q: What do you think of the detractors and researchers that insist that batterer programs don’t work? A: I think they’re not sophisticated in hands-on work. They’re not looking at where somebody starts and where they get to, which is very problematic. For instance, a National Institute of Justice study was done allegedly on one-year programs here in California. The researchers claimed that the program men were more violent after being in group. But the reason the men reported that is because they were actually more honest. Some actually talked about what they did as opposed to denying it. If the researchers would’ve talked to us about it, they would have gotten a different picture. These researchers actually did work with facilitators and were able to discuss this issue. Also, the researchers really didn’t follow the men over time; they simply took two snapshots—one at the beginning of the program and one at the end. Some of the best programs, including ours, weren’t even included in the study, because we didn’t have intakes in the right time period. Furthermore, there is simply more to the better programs than is considered in these studies. They are more nuanced and far-reaching than the box they are put in for research purposes. In Los Angeles County, we have a strong organization of treatment providers and have worked with the probation officers who monitor us. We’ve been able to be creative. So researchers might


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consider working with a few programs, try some creative things, and see what happens. Q: What should researchers do to more accurately represent the outcome and effectiveness of batterer programs? A: I would look at programs that appear to be successful and have a high retention rate. I would interview the facilitators and also the men in the groups about what works for them. I would make sure the clinicians, the facilitators, and the researchers were working carefully together. They need to consider qualitative measures that assess where someone starts and how they respond over the course of the program. For instance, somebody who is employed and mildly abusive is different than somebody who has a rap sheet a mile long. They can’t be all thrown together in terms of outcome. Researchers need to work closely with the people doing the work, because they directly observe some changes and insights. We actually had a Masters student who asked to interview the men in our group about what works for them and what doesn’t. We got feedback that the men liked the female cofacilitator. At the beginning of the program, they universally appreciated the Time Outs because this tool gave them hope that they could do something other than be violent. There was also something about the bonding in group that was good for the men—and something about the empathy they felt and learned. They liked being able to have discussions. Then of course, interviewing the partners is key: seeing what they think, how long it took for the men to make significant change, how safe they feel around the men. Are the men more empathetic, has communication improved? You have to speak directly with the women—and I don’t mean superficially, but in-depth through a relationship of trust. We get feedback from the victims in a variety of ways. I make contact early on with them so that they’re able to call me and say, “Alyce, can you work on this? We’re having a little problem with this.” For twenty-five years, we also did a potluck picnic as a way to know the men and women more fully. It involves a self-selective process. Men are able to invite their families or choose not to invite them. The women would come up to me and say, “I was wanting to talk with you,” and it opened up room for more contact with them. Most of the program research, so far, has missed that sort of contact and the information that comes with it. Q: What are your thoughts on risk assessment? A: This has been an interesting concept for me especially when serving as an expert witness. There are people who just look very scary. Then I meet with them and start working with them, and find them responsive. I’ve also had people that I think, “Gads, this guy could kill somebody, and he doesn’t.” We don’t sufficiently address the mediating factors. What would keep this

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person from acting out? It is hard to say what is helpful in terms of predicting behavior. I’d like researchers to help us track somebody during the group and after, and identify men who have killed or seriously injured a partner. My contention is that we buy time. If somebody stays in the program, we’re giving him an opportunity; we’re breaking up the emotional dependence he has on their partner. He builds relationships in group that are healthy. As a result, the serious or “high risk” behavior is reduced. But we need to have this checked out. Q: What’s your response to the increasing attention to psychopathology, which could include addiction? A: There are definitely people who are mentally ill, but most of the time, mentally ill people don’t work well in group. Consequently, we don’t see many chronically mentally ill people in group, or very low-functioning individuals. We’ve had people who were bipolar, and had problems if they didn’t take their medication. However, very few people in our groups are taking medications long-term. What I’ve seen most often is what might be called “delayed” Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and attachment problems from childhood. When I started in this work, I didn’t know there were people who weren’t supposed to be treatable. I saw people changing, regardless. I don’t label people; I don’t diagnose people that way. I look for what’s getting in the way of their having a good life, and I say, “Let’s see what we can do about that.” Over the years, I’ve also branched out to work with child abuse victims, incest survivors, gang rape victims, as well as battered women. They are not mentally ill. They’ve just been severely traumatized. There are combinations of factors in play, as a result. I’ve had people like this in group who are doing good work in group. I had, for instance, one man who was a “third-striker” and also in a twelve-step program three days a week. He got his dream job driving a bus, and is doing well all the way around. We have had gang and organized-crime members who have super leadership and interpersonal skills. They’ve gone straight and been very successful. So I guess I’d say that we don’t want to get boxed in by psychological diagnoses, but we also don’t want to ignore obvious problems that people have in responding to group. Q: What are the characteristics and skills you look for in facilitators for your groups? A: This is another concept that research hasn’t explored enough: the personality attributes of facilitators that clients respond to. We need research that asks men in our programs who has made a difference in your life, and what are the qualities of the person that made a difference in your life? This sort of information can give direction to program directors in choosing and training


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staff. It is common sense, nonetheless, that, if somebody cares about you, and takes the time to mentor you, it’s going to make a difference. If research bears that out, then we know that these kinds of programs make a difference. Q: Any thoughts on how we bring better quality and consistency to batterer programs? A: It’s really important for people to have good training and experience working cooperatively. Batterer programs and shelters need to see themselves as one field and therefore support each other. People working in batterer programs need to know about victims. I can’t tell you how often I hear program staff say that the man’s partner is doing this and that. I say, “Do you ever talk to their partners? How do you know that man is telling you the truth?” A lot of people don’t have context for what they see and here, and can easily come to the wrong conclusions. That’s why we require training for batterer program staff from women’s shelter workers. We also need to get more nuanced in our approach, both in the women’s shelters and in the men’s programs. We have to be practical. We have to stop creating laws that are so rigid that they cause backlash to victims in terms of women being arrested, facing dual restraining orders, and losing custody of their children. We’ve drifted from where we started, which was a little more flexible—rigidity has never worked with anything. Q: What role can or should standards play in batterers programming and development? A: Well, we spent three years writing guidelines with people from shelters. They were basic and fluid. They were guidelines rather than “carved in stone” standards. They allowed for creativity. We don’t want to lose our ability to search for answers, and instead be trapped by hard and fast laws and rules. After all these years, the probation department wants us to have a set curriculum. They all want evidence-based practice as well. So we’re pulling together the numbers of men in group who’ve killed or seriously injured their partners. What we’re trying to do is build some evidence. We are looking at where somebody starts and their change over time. It is what we look at every day in a classroom, it’s what we look at every day with our children, it’s the kind of thing we do all the time. We shouldn’t have to come up with all this complicated “evidence.” It’s really very simple: Life is about relationships. It’s about your relationships at home, at work, in the community; it’s about intimate relationships and friendships. People who suffer the most don’t know how to make their relationships work. So, the question is how do we do learn to be in relationships? When I work with women, I ask them to write their own fairy tale in which they are the main character. What would it look like? At least when you have ideas about it, you can move in that direction. It gives you a guideline, in effect.

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We need program guidelines, but as a movement we need to be able to talk to each other about these sorts of things. There has been reluctance to talk about women who are abusive, for instance. What we see is that many jump on this idea and work to make women’s abuse equivalent to men’s. If we’re afraid to talk about the tough issues, then we’re in battering relationships with each other. You don’t have to have rigid programs if you’re not afraid and not feeling insecure. Ultimately, we need to be talking to each other about issues other than recidivism. As I’ve said, there are a lot of creative things that we are and can be doing. SARA ELINOFF ACKER Sara Elinoff Acker, LICSW, has been an activist in the battered women’s movement since 1985. She worked in shelter programs in Vermont and Massachusetts, and in 1992 developed the partner contact program at Men Overcoming Violence (MOVE) in Amherst. Her program’s successes in engaging partners and integrating their experiences of abuse into interventions with perpetrators became a model for other partner contact programs across Massachusetts and the United States Sara became a certified batterer intervention group leader in 1996 and ran groups for abusive men for more than ten years. Her recent book, Unclenching Our Fists: Abusive Men on the Journey to Nonviolence (2013), draws on case studies of men in programs across the country who made a long term commitment to ending their violence, abuse, and control. She currently works as a psychotherapist in private practice with both men and women dealing with domestic violence. Q: How did you get involved in this work? A: I was a women’s studies major in college and got really involved as an activist in all kinds of feminist causes, including violence against women. I knew this is what I wanted to do with my life—to address the inequities, sexism, and violence that affected women’s lives. I also came to realize that domestic violence was part of my own family’s history—my grandmother was emotionally abused by my grandfather throughout their sixty year marriage. This had a huge impact on my mother growing up. My grandfather was never held accountable for his behavior. Q: How would you characterize your approach to working with abusive men? A: This is long-term work and programs need to be prepared to work with men over the long haul. There are many stages in the process of unlearning violence. Ending physical violence is just the tip of the iceberg. After


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that comes emotional abuse and controlling behaviors. The deepest work is around identity, masculinity, attitudes toward women, and understanding possible trauma. So this work takes time. The reason why I was inspired to write my book was because I was having direct experiences of watching abusive men change, something I never used to believe was possible. Our program at the Men’s Resource Center ran two long-term groups for abusive men. They had all completed the basic fortyweek program and stayed in the program to keep working on themselves. So I was exposed to men who really were addressing their abuse in a comprehensive way. The men were in these groups for two, three, four years; they wanted to be there because the program was changing their lives in profound ways. The message of the program was: Your behavior is unacceptable and you are a good person. The message was always a balance of confrontation and compassion. The confrontational part was: Your behavior is intolerable and causing damage to the people you love. You must stop now and we will teach you how to stop. The compassionate part was: You’ve been given a script about how to “act like a man” and this is damaging to you. If you continue, you will lose everybody that you love. There’s always this dance between understanding the larger way that socialization as a man both brings privileges to men while simultaneously damaging them. I have found that this framework really engages men who are abusive. If we talk with them only about male privilege and their abuse, we’re only addressing part of the story. What they really respond to is a sense of being understood: “I’m not a really bad guy, but here’s what I’ve ended up doing. And here’s why.” It’s similar to consciousness-raising groups for us women; “Here’s why I have internalized all this sexism and feminism.” I feel like feminism has an incredibly powerful liberation potential for men, as well as women. That’s the work as I see it: Perpetrators must understand the damage they are causing to their partners and children. But they must also understand the damage to themselves. This damage is never the same of course. Victims are living in a state of fear and completely under the thumb of the abuser. On a superficial level, abusers benefit because they maintain control in the relationship. But what we were trying to say is that those benefits are superficial. What’s being destroyed is the abuser’s humanity and their ability to give and receive love in a healthy way. When I intervene with an abuser, my first priority is the safety of the victim. But helping him to recover his humanity is also a priority. I realize this is a controversial perspective in the field. The early stage of a program is basically a sales job. You’re trying to sell something different to the men: sell a different idea about masculinity, a dif-

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ferent vision of relationships, a different way of being in the world. If you can get people to say, “I’m interested in that,” then they’re going to want to keep going. An important piece is how do you get men to buy in? That’s the only thing that will get them to change—that they want to change. That’s the bottom line. There is little research on men who’ve been in programs for two or three years, yet that is the leading edge. I know that there is violence reduction in good programs after a shorter period of time. But transforming attitudes towards women, understanding why you became abusive, and learning how to end all forms of controlling behavior is deeper, long-term work. At the same time, programs also have to operate in a context of consistent sanctions, and swift law enforcement response. All of those things have to be in place. Q: How do you get men to “buy in”? A: It’s that dual message. It’s that dual message of accountability, which is you cannot continue to give yourself permission to do this. Because you are giving yourself permission to do this—and that is not acceptable. The deeper message is, “What else is possible for you?” So we explain to the men: “You’ve adopted a script without even realizing it. You’ve swallowed the ‘Masculinity Kool-Aid.’ So we want to show you that there’s something else besides this Kool-Aid as a way to be in this world. You can be a different kind of man. Your abuse may give you control in the short-term, but you get only short-term gains. You’ll get no long-term gains from being abusive because you’re going to end up being alone. Eventually your partner will leave you, and your children will be disconnected from you.” I’m a psychotherapist as well as an activist, so I have an orientation that we’re all here for love; that loving attachment to others is a fundamental human need. We want a safe person who honors us and wants to be with us. Many men who use abuse often have no experience of that kind of safe and loving attachment. That’s where a man’s trauma and background come into play. What they’ve learned to do instead is to dominate or control the people they are with. Of course this eventually backfires because it is so toxic. We want the men to realize that they are actually driving everybody away. They are ruining everything. What they really want is no different than what you or I or anybody else wants—to be loved. So the message is: If you want love, you’re not going to get it this way. I also believe that men need to be exposed to other men who are further along in the process of ending their abuse. This really helps build more success. Men facing their abuse need role models of other men who have dug in and done their work. You need to show them other men who can model what change looks like. In our program we had a couple of group leaders who were formerly abusive and had spent many years working on themselves. As


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facilitators, they can say, “I’ve been there. I’ve done this, so I know what you are going through.” I think people lead by example, not just by curriculum. So there has to be a way to bring the men who’ve done the work back to lead and help others. It’s like the recovering alcoholics who run AA (Alcoholics Anonymous). Mentorship from other men who’ve struggled with this problem is incredibly powerful. Q: Any other thoughts on how to engage men who are often very resistant? A: The atmosphere in the group room is critical. It has to be a place where there is honesty, accountability, support, and respect. Most of the men come into programs thinking, “I’m gonna get blasted in here. I’m gonna be told I’m a bad guy.” But that’s not what happens at all. There’s another message. “You’re more than this (being abusive), you’re better than this. This does not have to be who you are.” When anybody feels like they are going to get “blasted,” they just shut down on a psychological level. They’re not going to open up and share anything. They’re just in protection mode. It’s, “You’re the enemy, this program is my enemy, so I’m just going to hunker down and do the minimal and be done with it.” We have to create an environment that brings people out of that defense mode and into a sharing mode. That’s the only way that they’re going to change. Our program was successful in getting men to open up and go deeper, though of course not all the men in our groups could go there. Some men really resisted everything we offered and made no progress at all. But some of the men ended up having these deep conversations about important issues, often for the first time in their lives. Those were the men who really moved forward. They took risks. At the same time, when they started to slip into minimizing their abuse or blaming their partners, they were really confronted by other men. One more important component in effective work with men who use abuse: a comprehensive outreach and support for women partners. Partner contact is essential. Women partners need information about the program, about what the men will be learning and about the concrete signs of progress (or lack of progress). And batterer intervention programs need to understand the partners experience, whenever possible. I think it’s important to have a partner contact specialist on staff at the batterer program, rather than just subcontract that important work to an outside domestic violence agency. The integration of the victim’s experience into the men’s program can be critical. We always had the partner contact person sitting in all the supervision meetings with group leaders. When the men’s counselors would be talking about what the men were doing, the partner contact person would say, “I just had a conversation with a certain man’s wife, and learned that there was an incident last week. I guess your guy’s not there yet. He’s still minimizing.”

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Of course we were very careful about confidentiality and managing the risk that contact with the partner can create, but at least we got the whole picture, not just his account. We have to integrate the women’s experiences into the intervention work with perpetrators, and that doesn’t happen enough. There are people who don’t agree with that kind of integrated partner contact. We don’t all have to agree, but let’s at least talk about it. We rarely have the place to come together and talk about our strategy, what’s working, what are your concerns, what makes sense. Let’s just talk together. There’s not nearly enough of that. Q: You mention a kind of “compassionate confrontation.” How do we do that? A: When men in the program feel connected to each other and to their leaders, when they understand that we see them as good human beings, that they are more than the sum of their worst behaviors, that they are not monsters, when we affirm that many good men struggle with these behaviors, then it becomes more possible for them to open up and face their abuse. But even with a more compassionate group culture, there are still many layers of denial and minimization. How do we confront that minimization and denial? We zero in on their worst incident of abuse as an example of how much they minimize their abuse. The men have to describe this incident from the point of view of their partner. Then a couple months later, we make the men do it again, and yet again a couple months after that. Every time they do it, you can see that they are opening up more and more. So we talk about it: “Remember the story you told four months ago? Why are you telling us something different now? What does it feel like to finally tell the full story?” Q: Do you use any special curriculum or guide points in your program? A: I really like using the power and control inventory developed by Susan Schechter and Ann Jones. It breaks the control into different categories, like control through overprotection, control through isolation. We’d have the men look at that, and then look at it again and again later. Each man needs to understand his own personal repertoire of abuse and control. It’s not going to be the same for all men across the board. Some use more control, others more verbal abuse, and others more intimidation and violence. The power and control inventory captures them all and is a really good tool to get the men to reflect. As they progress, they will be able to identify more things. It also gives them an important framework for paying attention to their current risk of abuse and what they need to be on the lookout for. Q: Any thoughts about being a woman in the men’s groups? A: I have lots of thoughts about that! I was terrified the first time I went into an all-male group. But I didn’t stay afraid once I started doing the work.


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I did have a lot of anger I had to manage. Remember, I spent years of being a women’s advocate, so I was ready to kill these guys—especially when they were minimizing their abuse! Beyond that, there’s a lot of projection with a woman in the room. Sometimes that’s a good thing, because it brings up issues that wouldn’t otherwise come up. I found it was a whole lot harder for men to talk about sexual violence with a woman facilitator. When it comes to the use of pornography or sexuality, it can become shameful for men to reveal embarrassing personal details with a woman in the room. But these are still important conversations to have, even though they are uncomfortable. Q: Any more thoughts on how we build trust and rapport with the men in groups? A: You have to connect with where the person is before you can move him to the next place. I always wanted to skip over understanding where the men were, because I couldn’t stand where they were! For example, a man was talking about missing his kids, especially because it was the holidays. He was very upset because his girlfriend took out a restraining order against him. I just jumped in and said, “Well why do you think that happened, buddy?” That was it for that conversation; he just closed down. I realized afterward that I needed to first acknowledge where he was, and just say, “That’s really hard that you’re not going to see your kids on the holiday.” After a little bit of empathy, then I could weave in the confrontation—because of course, it’s his behavior that got him in this situation. If I’m not just immediately jumping down his throat, he’s going to be more open to learning from the situation. Now I can follow-up with: “Let’s replay the situation. Knowing now that this is what could happen, what would you do differently?” If a man is a Latino or an African American, he’s experienced oppression. If he’s unemployed or sleeping in his car, you have to connect with his struggles, as well as confront him about his abuse. You have to make the men feel like you get their story—that their story is much bigger than just their abusive behavior. At the same time, the men will always want to go to that story, and you have to bring them back to why they hurt their partners. It’s a balancing act between being able to connect to a man’s larger story, and then steering him back to the choices he’s making about his behavior and his relationship. Balancing confrontation with support is very tricky and you have to be careful that you’re not colluding with the men. That’s why partner contact is so important. You have to stay grounded in the horrible things that the men have done. But connection with them is the key to change, and remember, their abuse is all about not having a clue how to connect. The men don’t know how to do anything in a connecting way, and so they just dominate. Connection is at the root of what we do.

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Q: How have your views or approach changed over time? A: My outlook is less “black and white” and more “shades of gray” today. I keep one foot in my responsibility to confront the abuse, the harm that this man is doing, and the denial, minimizing, and blame that always surrounds abusive behaviors. I have the other foot in a humanistic view that says, “You could be more. You could be different.” Some abusers are coming strictly from a sense of entitlement, believing they have the right to dominate, threaten, and control. But some abusers who use violence are coming from a different place. They live with an incredible amount of pain, anger, and dysfunction inside them and no sense of entitlement at all. Instead, their abuse and violence is a twisted defense against all that pain. It’s a way of expressing a toxic form of power over others, when their inner reality is often of feeling powerless. So somehow I’m trying to remember that, while, at the same time, holding them accountable. I’m a feminist, but sometimes the traditional feminist perspective, which looks at men through a gender lens and consequently sees them as the dominant gender, is not comprehensive enough. Men do exercise power, privilege, and authority just on the basis of their gender. For some families, this is the organizing construct that permits them to be violent. But this isn’t true for all families or all situations where there’s domestic violence. In our program, we recognized that sexism impacted men’s thinking and behavior in different ways. The older men and men from a privileged background operated from a clear sense of entitlement. The other men expressed plenty of sexism, but it was less about entitlement. What we heard from them was that they felt insecure in their relationships, and they sometimes felt their partners were more powerful than they were. They became abusive to gain power. What we know now is that there are a lot of different entry points to becoming abusive. So we need to be willing to think about the use of abuse across the spectrum, rather than just one narrow bandwidth. Q: How do you avoid diffusing the focus on the men’s belief system and sexism underlying their behavior? A: Sexism is both privileging and damaging and you just keep this dual focus in all the group discussions. You talk about sexism, objectification of women, and sexual exploitation; and you also talk about the underside of that—namely, the emotional constriction, the isolation, and the pressures which come with trying to fit into the “man box.” You go back and forth between the privileges they have and the hurt and damage they cause and the ways they themselves are hurt by being this way. Whether you’re talking about society at large, or talking about individual dynamics in a relationship, you’re trying to artfully move back and forth.


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Q: What do you look for when recruiting new staff? A: It’s partly a very practical question. There’s a lot of turnover with staff. It’s very hard work and a lot of us can’t afford to stay in the work, because it is so low paying. How do we fund these programs better so we can pay people a good living wage that will support a family, attract them to the work, and keep them involved? The other thing is that people stay in something that they feel is really making a difference. So we want to give new staff a sense of how the work has made a difference. Sometimes, the work we do really does help abusive men see themselves and change their behaviors. But let’s be realistic—at least half of the men who come through our program doors may change very little or may drop out completely. So, the other way we can make a difference is through our support of the partners. Remember, they are the ones hoping for change. Once their partner is finally in an intervention program, these partners are going to really be able to see if he is capable of change. And if he’s not making changes, we can have conversations with the women saying, “Now that you see that he’s not changing, what do you want to do?” So sometimes the ways we can be successful is by helping partners gain clarity about their relationships and be able to leave their relationships without ambivalence or guilt. I witnessed a lot of women leave their partners after they made little or no changes in our program. When I would work with a guy who really took responsibility and made deep changes—that would just completely energize me. To impact someone’s life in that way is a tremendous privilege. I don’t think I could do the work if I didn’t feel like we were helping some men change. Some people will cynically say, “At least we know that the men are not abusing their partners during the two hours a week when they’re in group.” That wouldn’t work for me. I want to feel like the men are having success and preventing themselves from having incidents. And I have seen that happen!!! Q: What makes a staff person more than just a group facilitator, and more of the kind of “transformational” clinician, you suggest? A: I was mentored by people who had a vision of that balancing act I’ve described. They were thoroughly grounded in both sides and were able to track success in the small changes that kept unfolding. They also had great clinical skills. They were in fact brilliant in terms of how they intervened with clients. So I think that the support and example that a new staff gets is critical. There has to be a mentoring of new people in the field. They are going to have doubts along the way, like I did: “Why the heck am I doing this; these guys are all jerks. I hate these guys! Why do I want to even be here!” It takes a long time and a lot of experience to become a truly skillful facilitator. If you’re in a room with a bunch of guys, and there’s no culture of change, then that is the hardest work ever! Who wants to do that? I think it has a lot

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to do with how you run a program, and how you get people to buy into it. If you’re making guys raise their hands to go to the bathroom, which some programs do, or you’re sounding really punitive with the men, nobody’s going to say anything. Q: What are your thoughts on the increased attention to psychopathology as a root cause of violence in general? A: I think a very small proportion of the men in our programs have deepseated psychopathology that contributes to their abuse. I’m a trained clinician and know when I’m dealing with somebody who is a sociopath or really narcissistic. Those men need much deeper work than what a batterer program can offer. The people who have those kinds of concurrent mental health issues generally benefit from skills-based treatment around managing their intense emotional states. Comprehensive treatment for them has to include some individual therapy. Power and control may be what this man is using to try to deal with his extreme emotional state. It’s the same thing with an abuser who has a trauma history. The same with someone with serious substance abuse issues. All of this has to be addressed. The batterer intervention program is only one piece of a comprehensive approach. So, I think there’s merit to the ways we are paying attention to psychopathology, but I would never want it to replace or be the foundation of our work. The foundation of our work is about people giving themselves permission to behave certain ways; it’s behavior they would not do to their boss; they would not do it with their friends. So clearly they’re choosing it. And we have to confront that. Q: Any thoughts on risk assessment? A: The best person to assess the level of risk is the victim, not the man. The man’s going to minimize the abuse and the risk of repeating it. We have to ask ourselves then, what’s our partner contact like? Because we have to be asking the women the questions related to risk. I like Jackie Campbell’s Danger Assessment protocol. If I really have concerns about risk, I want to refer the woman to our local battered women’s program immediately. Batterer intervention programs are not set up to provide that kind of highly specialized, on-call support to women living in high-risk situations. In western Massachusetts, we have a high-risk assessment team that helps further in this regard. When people have repeated criminal justice system involvement, and a certain level of assault, then they’re automatically put under the umbrella of the “high-risk” team and tracked much more carefully. The system’s ability to track these cases is an especially important part of any community’s commitment to addressing lethality and high-risk abusers. We’ve had system audits to assess the linkages between different players, and bring people together for comprehensive community strategies. We are


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lucky, because in Western Massachusetts, there’s very strong collaboration between the district attorney’s office, law enforcement, and the shelter and batterer programs. Q: What should researchers be doing to better understand this work and support it? A: I want us to study success. For example, there are long-term programs that appear to work for some abusive men; how did that happen? Why don’t we ask the director, staff, and participants some questions about it? Why don’t we listen to them, and find out why some men stayed in their groups for five years? Let those still doing the work talk about it; why are they still doing it? Why don’t we figure out what makes programs successful, and what makes abusers want to stay and do their work? In other words, we need more qualitative research with men who have been in programs for a long time—men who’ve been in a group for at least a year to two years. We need to be asking, “What helped you to take a really honest look at yourself? What were some of the key elements that helped you get past your denial and minimizing? What’s your process of accountability been like?” Then we need to interview the men’s partners about what changes they’ve seen, what’s making a difference, and what they think their partner still needs to learn. I think abusive men who’ve committed to the long-term process of change, and their partners (if they are still together), have a lot of wisdom to offer to our collective work. Their successes are one of the most underreported good news stories coming out of our decades or activism and intervention. Their stories show us that change is a long process, but that it is possible. LISA NITSCH Lisa Nitsch, MSW, serves as director of Clinical Services and Education at House of Ruth Maryland—an umbrella agency of domestic violence services for both women and men. She is currently responsible for oversight of adult therapeutic services, children’s therapy, residential childcare, intervention programs for perpetrators of intimate partner violence, and the agency’s Training Institute. Lisa has worked directly with both women survivors and men abusers, and developed the men’s program at House of Ruth. She’s made a special effort to acknowledge the victimization of the low-income minority men in her programs while still holding them accountable for their violent behavior. Q: How did you get started in this work and what keeps you going? A: I started somewhat by accident. In 1997, I was an undergrad and I had to pay the bills. And so, I answered an ad for a part-time administrative

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assistant, and I started working in what we then called, a batterer program, about six months later because the schedule was flexible. I could do intakes for minimum wage on my own time. It was really nice for an undergraduate whose school schedule changed every six months. Once I started working with the men, I was hooked. I was a psychology undergrad and I loved it. Q: And what did you love about it? A: I had a lot of opportunities because my place of employment was an umbrella service agency. I worked with survivors of domestic violence, including doing hotline shifts. I went on to do my graduate internship here working with survivors, but it didn’t appeal to me the same way as working with the men. There’s something about the “I’m with the individual who needs to create the change.” That’s very solution-focused. I actually understand the incredible value of being present with survivors and validating their experiences, but I’m such as a solution-focused person that it’s not as professionally satisfying as working with the individual who is capable of ending the abuse. That’s really fascinating to me. The other thing that kept me over the years is that it’s a young field and constantly changing. Another thing is the shift in my thinking, in a strange way, that the men are also victims of patriarchy. As some in the field have written, “Men are playing out what they think society expects of them,” and that doesn’t mean that they’re not responsible for hurting other people. It does shift how you think about motivating them to change by saying, “The abusive behavior doesn’t work for you either.” Q: How would you characterize your program overall then? A: I’ve been raised to say that our approach is psycho-educational, but I don’t know what to call it anymore. What’s clear is that we’re not doing therapy, as such. I still hold that we are fighting oppression and working for social justice. Sometimes I use this analogy with new staff: imagine you’re running a group for people who are racist, and that they’re using the power that they have because society tells them that they can. You’d need to do some reeducation with such a group. While I say we’re not using therapy, I do see the benefit of having staff trained in therapeutic and motivation techniques. Engagement strategies, in particular, are really important to getting men involved at the outset of the program. I would say we use therapeutic techniques to help our participants be open about the education. Q: Any other things that stand out in your curriculum or distinguish your program? A: I think using the man’s own experience of being at the bottom of the social pyramid as a way to help him relate to his partner’s experience of abuse. It’s important to have a curriculum to safeguard against those people who think that they’re smarter than the curriculum. We all have those facilitators


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who and say, “Well, I decided we do such-and-such this week because…” It’s nice to be able to say, “No, I want you to stick to the curriculum,” but my senior facilitators and those who are most skilled really don’t need a curriculum. It’s really about who they are and how they act in the group room. The question becomes how do we train people to be a certain way in the group room? One of the biggest assets of the skill of our best facilitators is their openness to the feedback. At state trainings for staff in other programs and services, we too often run into people who are totally closed to learning. You can feel it from them. Q: How would you characterize the major change or evolution in your outlook over the years? A: When I started working here with the batterer program, many of the sessions turned into more of a men’s rap session rather than following a set curriculum. There are a lot of programs saying they use a certain approach but they’re not, and we were certainly one of them. When we had a leadership change in about 2002, we started looking at every single aspect of the program from beginning to end, and thinking about what we were trying to achieve: what were our engaging strategies, what did we know about adult learning. As a result we completely redesigned the program to the point where we created our own curriculum. That curriculum is good for the men in Baltimore City who we’re working with, particularly poor men of color. It speaks to their victimization without letting the session focus primarily on that. It uses the recognition of their victimization to help them create empathy for the people they’re victimizing. They know what it feels like to be at the bottom of society, and so maybe they can realize what it must be like for their partners whom they’ve abused. Also, some policies are more forgiving. Our group session might start at six o’clock, but a lot of our men depend on public transportation, and consequently show up late sometimes. In the past, we were more likely to respond, “You’re late for group; go back home” and discourage them from being in a group. Even though they won’t get credit for attending that session, we now welcome them and recognize their effort in a respectful way. Men are walking through the door, and we’re saying, “I’m really glad you’re here.” Even to the most resistant men, our facilitators are saying, “I’m glad you’re getting this information,” rather than “You’re minimizing your behavior.” We also added clinical supervision over the years. In 2002, we started working with a woman who was serving as a clinical supervisor for our survivor therapists. It was just the idea of processing the work, and we’ve not stopped doing so ever since. That has helped us be more reflective; I think we need to be just as reflective about what we’re bringing into the room as what the men are bringing to the room. And that has made the program richer,

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it has made our staff more sophisticated, and it allows us to work better as a team. There is nothing better to team building than having to say really difficult things to each other, as we do in this supervision. I would highly recommend that for any program. Q: What kind of things come up in the clinical supervision? A: We talk about the general facilitation skills which come up when we are reviewing cases. Then there are the personal issues. For instance, a group member called one of our white facilitators racist. The white facilitator said, “I’m not racist” and brushed off the feedback. Her co-facilitator, who is a good friend of hers, basically said, “Wait a minute; I think you just missed the point. Can you consider that maybe there are some racial tones to what you said?” Clinical supervision let that happen in a safe place. It’s an intentional space where we challenge each other and say, “How did that go, or what’s working for you?” I also constantly challenge our facilitators’ claims that a certain man is “doing well in group.” I’ve learned over the years that we don’t know who’s doing well. The only man who killed his partner while in the program was one of our star participants. We went through every assessment, anything he wrote us, and our group observations, and couldn’t find a red flag that would have alerted us to the danger. So I find myself, even with the most seasoned staff, reminding our staff that they don’t know better than anybody else who is really “doing well.” The only way that we can know is if the victim reports that to us directly. Q: How do you train people to achieve the sensibility and humility you’re talking about? A: I’m still trying to figure that out. What I started doing is reading groups with the staff where they get research articles, program descriptions, or even copied chapters out of recent books about the different approaches just to make sure they know there’s more than one way to do this work. We don’t have a corner on it. Nobody really has the complete or only answer, and that’s sort of a terrifying and fantastic thing. More importantly, it opens people up to possibilities and further development—and frees us from a rigid curriculum. Q: What is it you look for in hiring a staff member? A: I still struggle with the best way to identify the important qualities in an interview process, but one of things that I’m always looking for is whether somebody recognizes that each one of these participants has the capacity to change and be a nonviolent partner. At the same time, they need to recognize that each one of these participants may refuse to make that change and may need to go to jail. I usually find staff that are either at one end of the spectrum or the other; they’re either hyper-vigilant about being disrespected, and they want to close every case saying, “Oh, he’s not progressing.” Or, I have very


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well-intentioned facilitators say, “Being here is better for him and his family than him being in jail, so we can’t close the case.” I’m seeing more and more of that, particularly now that we have a program for Latino men and people who are working with immigrants. It can be really hard to close the case when you understand that means the man may go to jail and get deported. That’s tough stuff, so finding somebody that can weigh both of those things is not easy. Q: What are your thoughts or experiences about better accommodating and engaging African-American men and these Latino men too? A: I’m not a huge fan of creating a curriculum just for African-American men, but I do think that if you are working with African-American men the curriculum has to make room for their experience. So, I’ve used and read curriculums in the past that say you cannot ever let a man talk about his victimization. Whether the curriculum says that or I was trained to feel that, I now think that that’s not helpful. You have to create space for a man claiming that the arresting officer was racist, or that he accepted a deal from the judge, and consider that it is entirely possible. How are we otherwise going to get him engaged in the change process? Also, we require everybody to write sentences that acknowledge an abusive behavior before they can move from the first stage of our program to the next stage. Each man has to acknowledge five instances when he’s used an abusive behavior. Similarly, I expect each staff to acknowledge five abusive behaviors that they’ve used. When I do training for the judges here in Baltimore, I have them acknowledge at least three such instances. I think there’s a vast middle ground between disrespectful behavior toward a partner and being an abuser or batterer. Most of our clients are falling somewhere in the middle. But then, we also fall in that spectrum and should be able to recognize our mistakes and not put ourselves above our clients. Q: What’s your response to the increasing attention to psychopathology in the field, whether it be trauma, personality disorders, or attachment styles. A: I still very much ascribe to the idea that violence against women is a social justice issue, and that it has little to do with psychopathology. That’s not to say there aren’t people really struggling with impulse control and behavioral issues because of psychopathology, but I think they’re the exception rather than the rule. We have to take responsibility for referring those people to appropriate care—that may be in addition to or instead of an abuse intervention program depending on the case. Otherwise we continue looking for a one-size-fits-all model which just doesn’t exist. Q: Is there anything special you do to assess or identify people with either psychological problems or alcohol issues? A: We do a general bio-psycho-social assessment. From that we do what our resources allow us to do, along with some case management care. We

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have really strong community partners around job training, mental health, and substance abuse, and lots of referrals sources that we work with regularly. As those things are identified in the assessment or are demonstrated in group sessions, our staff are trained to ask questions like, “Are you taking your meds? If you’re not taking your meds, is it because you don’t want to take your meds or because you can’t afford to? What’s the barrier?” As part of his care and then in our case reviews, we talk about whether were going to mandate medication in order to be in the program, or things like that. Job and housing needs are especially huge in our area. Q: How have your referral connections and collaborations come into being? A: Part of it is the benefit of being in a large urban area. Another part is that we’ve been around for a long time and cultivated relationships over the years. Also, when we started doing clinical supervision, we had a huge debate about what to do, so we did this exercise that basically says, “Okay, so what do you believe about the population we work with?” We found that we didn’t know as much as we thought, and the things we thought we knew, we didn’t agree on. The things we agreed on were not necessarily causal factors: We don’t think that unemployment causes domestic violence, but it is a stressor in a relationship that may make violence more likely. We had to find that balance that doesn’t blur who we are as an intervention service for abusive situations and who the employment service is for jobs. So at the end of every intake, the men are given a list of referrals and we follow up with them about it. Q: And how does risk management or risk assessment fit into your work? A: I think it helps me sell the urgency of a case. It helps me prompt especially people in the criminal justice system and other services to take action. Often they don’t care about the men we’re working with. But with risk assessment, we can approach it from a case-management perspective and say, for instance, “If you give us the resources to help a certain man find a job, he’s more likely to complete this program and complete probation successfully.” We do a general assessment but we don’t use a standardized instrument. We’ve borrowed from the Danger Assessment, but don’t use it in the formal structured way that it was designed. We also ask in detail about employment and help the men recognize the program as a broad resource. One of the related things we’re moving toward in the future is returning to the idea that we can at some point all be abusive on some level. We might, then, stop calling our programs “abuse intervention” and start calling them instead “a healthy relationship program for men.” My hope, at least here in Baltimore, is that we don’t ever call the men in our program “abusers.” We dropped the term “abuser” intervention in Maryland, and we just use “abuse” intervention, and I don’t use the abuser phrases with the clients here.


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We just call it abusive behavior. What works with our men is, “Was that respectful, or was it not respectful?” That is, in fact, an ongoing theme of our curriculum, because our men can easily get lost in what’s criminal and what’s not criminal. After all, 99 percent of abusive behavior is not criminal. We keep coming back to, “Was it the most respectful way that you could handle the situation?” In the process, we’ve moved away from shaming the men, or labeling them as terrible abusers. We’re saying, “Look, your relationship ended up in court. That’s a red flag that you’re not in a healthy place.” That sort of talk is essential if we really believe that men are also victimized by the patriarchy—that they are taught to separate their head from their heart and not to express themselves. I think we can really turn a corner that says, “These programs are for men who are struggling in their relationships. Period.” Q: What are your thoughts on the administration of men’s programs? A: It’s a question I’ve been discussing: whether or not being a part of an umbrella service agency for domestic violence, like ours, is good or not for our men’s intervention programs. The down side of this sort of structure is when it comes to the annual budget. When there are budget cuts, my program feels it first. My executive director and board of directors rightfully see survivors and their children as the priority. The men’s program becomes an after thought. At the same time, I think that we have a stronger victim perspective because of being part of the broader agency. As a result, I know a lot of people doing survivor work, some of whom are moving into a trauma-informed practice with a family perspective. Our children’s therapist is meeting with dads in our intervention program if she is seeing their children. It gets the man engaged in a whole new way. The communication that happens among us involves a family perspective in the safest way possible. Q: What’s your response to the claim that batterer programs in general are not effective or very effective? A: There are so many answers. For one, it always comes back to what is success? I worry that some women’s advocates hold these men to a standard that’s higher than we can meet ourselves. If we’re saying that a man can never, ever again, say an abusive word out of his mouth, I can’t meet that standard in my own marriage, let alone expect a client to meet it. We are instead recognizing that we are all working toward becoming better partners. If a man should make an error, that shouldn’t turn into an opportunity to chain him; it needs to become an opportunity to change further. It doesn’t make all the previous efforts to change a failure. And more importantly, does his partner feel like he’s a failure? This view ties into what Jill Davies writes about in terms of “victiminformed advocacy.” She says survivors are often faced with life-generated

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risks or batterer-generated risks, and the abusers are too. They’re both living a life where intimate partner violence may not be the biggest barrier that they’re facing right now. It may not be the biggest stressor in the relationship. Even if the man reassaulted his partner, are other things better for the woman? If so, in what ways? Moreover, I am trying to hold a program together with band-aids and twine, and I know I’m not satisfied with the quality of the product I’m able to offer, and it’s not the quality I would choose. But it’s the best I can do given our resources. In that sense, if somebody came tomorrow to “give me a million-dollar research study,” we wouldn’t be up to par. Also, before researchers study any program, the research question has to be changed from, “Does it work?” I think that is just ridiculous. The first thing is to have the program identify the change process and how it appears differently in different men and circumstances. The outcomes are simply much more complex and varied than “Does it work?” There is one other important point that I heard Aldarondo Etiony discuss at a recent conference. We have been setting programs up for failure by not funding them sufficiently, requiring high administrative responsibilities, overloading them with referrals of resistant clients, and having them work with donated space and less than stellar materials. Many of them face high turnover in staff as a result of the low pay and difficult working conditions. I know it’s not a new idea, but it was his “what else would you expect?!?” tone that I really appreciated. Even the most sensitive program evaluation is likely to show some less-than-ideal outcomes, and the misuse of those findings are in turn used to underfund the programs even further. How do we face up to the fact that this is the real issue—not that the program is a failure, but the support of it is? Q: Any other sort of recommendations or suggestions? A: Part of the context that gets lost when we talk about “does this program work” is our history. The biggest, most well-known programs were created by victim advocates who were listening to survivors who said they want somebody to work with their abusers. So we have to ask, “What’s the alternative that fits the survivors’ needs and want?” Not working with the men is not the alternative, because that’s not victim-informed practice. When we ask if programs work, usually somebody has a stake in this program and wants it to go one way or the other. But if they say a certain program doesn’t work, are there aspects of it that can or do work? Are there things that we can adapt to make them work? The answer is not to defund the programs, and throw our hands up in the air. We don’t work in a system that’s going to be able to ever throw all these men in jail, so what’s the alternative?


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Q: What do we need to develop or emphasize as we’re going forward? A: Case management. We’re doing it by the skin of our teeth right now whenever we can, but if you are not tied to a child you’re most likely ineligible for social services. There’s no place for the men in our program to go that is equipped or able to assist them in a meaningful way. So, even when we are trying to create broader change, there are so many barriers in the way. Q: Any thoughts on program standards and the degree to which they can help bring a greater consistency and quality to programs? A: I have such mixed feelings about program standards. They either have to focus on victim safety and, therefore, address victim contact and service referrals. Or, they have to be proven through research, which means very few programs are acceptable. In Maryland, we have very few standards. They don’t consider the quality of group work as much as they do program structure. On the other hand, I think we’ve done ourselves some harm in some standards being too dogmatic. That can stifle conversation about challenges to the things we’ve been doing, like “Do we need a fifty-two week program?” If we’re not open to that kind of conversation, then we get a reputation for being obtuse and difficult to work with—which is the case in some places. At the same time, we have to have some sort of oversight, and I’m not sure what that looks like. I would rather have somebody make sure that we are consistently doing victim contacts in a quality way than anybody dictate how many weeks my program has to be. In sum, I think that we can be more creative about our guidelines or standards instead of mandating a specific model and structure that we’re not really sure about. I’d rather have the requirement that you continue learning, be connected with others, and working within this community. Q: How do you respond to the backlash that basically says women are violent too—and that our batterer programs have neglected that fact, and consequently they’re not as effective as they could be? A: I think that there’s some truth to it. The larger national field has neglected women’s violence to some degree. But, at the end of the day, I believe the motivation for violence in women is different than for men, and we have considered the damage being done from a public health perspective. Women are disproportionally harassed, raped, and murdered, and violence against women has social support that women’s violence doesn’t have. Women’s violence is much more against the social norms. But when women are living in communities where they’re being victimized and the community is failing to protect them, we shouldn’t be surprised when they fight back. I believe that women’s violence is an outgrowth of our failure to protect them. For many years, we’ve had a therapeutic program for women who have been victimized and responded with violence. We kept it entirely separate

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from our men’s program. The men’s and women’s programs were run by different staff because we didn’t want the women’s program turned into a punitive men’s program. Actually the reverse has happened; our work with the women has informed our work with the men. The way we approached the women is in a more respectful way as “humans.” From this perspective, we began to see the men as not monsters, or unusually cruel people, but rather doing what works in a society that tells them this violence works. When you see them that way, you don’t feel quite as angry toward them. That in turn allowed us to listen to them tell about their own victimization. So many particularly young men here in Baltimore are raised with the concept of “you have to get other people before they get you. And people are out to get you.” That’s the reality they live in. We’re better able to talk to the men about these sorts of things as a result of working with women. Q: Any great lessons you want to put out there for us? A: We are women’s advocates just as much as the person who sits in a therapy session with a survivor, and just as much as the person who works with child witnesses. We are advocates, and we have to keep that in mind.

Chapter Six

Other Approaches

There are a number of programs that acknowledge a gender analysis of domestic violence but have adopted other approaches to working with men who batter. The interviewees in this section came primarily from social work and counseling experience with youth or families in general to develop programs for abusive men. Two of them have also worked in alcohol and drug treatment to help themselves along with others and, as a result, bring aspects of the “recovery” model into their work, as well. Across the approaches represented here—eclectic social work, nonviolent communication, a choice-focused approach, strength-based counseling, and trauma-informed treatment—is the effort to develop relationships with the men. Engaging the men in a fuller way will, according to these program leaders and others, help to meet individual needs as well as challenge the general beliefs of a violent and sexist society. All of these program leaders promote an emotional awareness in the men that helps them identify and regulate feelings and develop a sense of empathy for others. They all use an established curriculum to introduce some education about domestic violence, but the bulk of their sessions are devoted to processing feelings, experiences, and issues. The programs, nonetheless, each offer some unique features in their approach. The first two interviewees talk of the parenting programs that accompany their work on the men’s violence against their female partners. Tim Kelly at the Canadian Changing Ways also maintains a close collaboration with a researcher that has enabled testing and development of pre-program intervention sessions addressing risk and also a project to identify gaps in the community response to domestic violence cases, among other innovations. David Mathews in Minnesota uses risk assessment as a teaching tool and reality check with men, as well as for risk management within the community. 165


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Steven Pepping in Washington State uses “cultural stories” to help the Native men in his program develop a sense of self and pride in who they are as Native men. David Russell of Pittsburgh adds individual counseling with men who are unresponsive in a group or would only attend in private (which is the case with certain professionals, like police officers or pro athletes). There is also mention among these leaders of the need to go beyond the “orthodoxy” in the field, bridge diverse perspectives, and heal the rifts with some women’s advocates. Stronger leadership in asserting the importance of batterer programs and ongoing conferences with different approaches are a couple of ways these interviewees want to advance the field. DAVID MATHEWS David Mathews, PsyD, LICSW, is currently interim director of Clinical Services and Programs at Bridge for Youth, and CEO of One T, an organization devoted to promoting healthy relationships in families and communities. He previously worked with the Domestic Abuse Project (DAP) in Minneapolis, Minnesota as director of therapy and also coordinated collaborations with other community services. He has additionally developed, assisted in creating, or coordinated more than twenty different programs related to violence or violence prevention. David authored several works related to violence, bullying, men who batter, restorative parenting, workplace violence, and violence prevention. David is known especially for creating the Restorative Parenting program for dealing with the aftermath of violence in the home. Q: I’m interested in how you got started in this work. What brought you to it? A: I was actually involved in the work long before I knew I was involved in it. My undergraduate degree in social work revolved around working with adolescent boys who were coming out of correctional facilities here in Minnesota; and for five years, I worked with such boys in a residential treatment group home. The focus of their lives was, unfortunately, around violence, or their experience with violence, and issues of manhood. There were issues of what it meant to be a man, and how to navigate through life. So a lot of the work I was doing with them in the facility was foundational to my later domestic violence work with adult men. I then moved into a position at the Wilder Foundation in Saint Paul. I didn’t really know what the position was about when I applied for it. I thought it was a position for working with children who were involved in alcohol issues. But in the job interview, they started asking me questions about violence

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and violent behavior, and then specifically domestic violence. Apparently, I passed the interview and ended up working for Wilder for fourteen years with men who batter and adolescents, children, and women survivors of domestic violence. It was at Wilder that I fell into working with the men who batter. It was an amazing, amazing kind of experience. Of course, the work with the men who batter was just emerging, so everyone was still in a learning stage. The newness of it all made for an exciting environment. While I was at Wilder DAP (the Domestic Abuse Project of Minneapolis), and the Duluth Abuse Intervention Project were underway. Q: Over the years there has been a high turnover in this field. What sustained you and kept you going for this long? A: When I started working at Wilder, I wasn’t ready for how hearing all the stories from the three and four year olds, and the adult survivors, would affect me. Also, it was upsetting to hear how much damage that we as men do to our partners and to our families. It was very jarring to me and, quite frankly, frightening. There were times when I felt that I really didn’t want to be a man. In fact, I became pretty ashamed of being a man, because of what manhood represented to all these people I was working with. So during those first six to eight months at Wilder, I started to think about how I was different from the rest of the men in my men’s groups. I wanted to show people that I wasn’t like “those other guys.” I did a lot of observing and picked up things that men were reporting in their groups and tried to figure out how was I different. Through a lot of clinical supervision, pondering things on my own, talking with peers, and having a great support group, I began to come to terms with it all. We also had an area “PW” group for “People Who Work With People Who Batter.” The group had been meeting for about three years previous to this, and we still meet today on a monthly basis. It’s open to anybody, whether they work directly with batterers, or they’re probation officers or women’s advocates. That group was a big help to me when I was just starting out with so many questions, as well as a help in sustaining me today. Finally I realized that there is no difference between these men and myself. The difference in our lives is about the choices we make. This was a kind of epiphany for me. It allowed me to let go of the shame of being a man. The damage that so many men do do is a reality. But it’s not a personal thing. Once people understand who I am, and get to know me more, they understand that I’m making different choices than the men who are in my groups. That was a huge turning point that started me really loving this work. I’ve stayed so long in this work because of the people working in this field. Also, having a broad array of work opportunities has really saved me and


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allowed me to keep the passion. I have been able to work only with men who batter, but, throughout my career, I’ve been able also to work with women survivors and with children and adolescents who experienced domestic violence. In addition to focusing on intervention, a big part of my career has been devoted to the multiple levels of violence prevention with men and families. In particular, I have been involved in primary prevention efforts over the past twenty-five years. This work has broadened my experience, for sure, but also offered a different angle in addressing the issues. That’s helped me to continue to think about better ways that I can work with men from my position as a man. I still am raising this question even in my current full-time work as a clinic supervisor for a runaway youth shelter. I’m able to ask my staff to think about what the fathers in these cases are contributing to the runaways. This has developed my interest, as well, for doing restorative parenting, and in helping men to rebuild their relationship with their children in the aftermath of violence. All of those pieces are as fresh to me today as they were at the start, both in terms of the excitement and the possibilities that exist for this work. Q: How would you characterize your approach with the men you work with? A: The first word that jumps to mind for me with this question has to do with building relationships. My approach has never been strongly or directly confrontational. In fact, in working with the boys and the adolescents early on, I was always about building relationships and using relationships as a way to help guide people to make changes for themselves. Even so, when I was first trained at Wilder, I was encouraged to be more confrontational in my approach with the men. This became more balanced with a focus on positive things: the things that the men do right. As a result, the approach evolved from something that was more “in your face” to something that was more supportive, and we tended to move toward a respectful balance of the approaches. This more supportive approach was initially viewed by some battered women’s advocates as a kind of “collusion,” but it is more accepted now. Back then it was like, “Oh, you’re just agreeing with those men, and you’re helping them to be more abusive, because you’re not just confrontational.” Today, there is an appreciation for acting respectful toward an individual in what I call “respect and responsible men’s circles.” When I’m discussing the program with the men, I rarely use the words “violence” or “abuse.” I talk about our hurting someone who we care about. My definition of abuse and violence has become much broader than any of the laws or statutes regarding domestic violence. I find that this approach helps to reduce the time talking about the difference between what the law

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says and what I consider to be abuse or violence. We focus on behaviors that are hurtful or damaging to another person whom you love, rather than in what is lawful and what is unlawful. The Wilder program, where I started, was eventually shut down because of funding cuts. Q: Do you use any particular curriculum or instruction, or rely primarily on group process? A: I worked on our curriculum at Wilder and had it published. On The Level is a workbook for the men that includes activities and exercises from the group sessions, and Foundations for Violence Free Living is a step-bystep guide for facilitating men’s domestic abuse groups. It has the core pieces that still are used in our work today. The manual has also been translated into Spanish by the government of Costa Rica to accompany the trainings that I did down there. The manual is also in Korean, by the way. Q: What are your thoughts about the increasing attention to psychopathology in our field and also regarding violence in general? A: There’s a piece missing in those general discussions about the violence in society. There is little attention to the gender of the perpetrators. The perpetrators are overwhelmingly men. There’s, of course, a balance we need between when gender applies and when it doesn’t. I find myself thinking about a combination of psychological treatment, systems work, and communitycoordinated response. I feel very strongly about the need to take into consideration the men’s previous experience of trauma and violence, and also the gender dimension in the man’s relationship, along with the systematic aspects of his life. For example, men of color have experienced, of course, the element of oppression. So it’s not just about pathologizing the men, but paying attention to those things that bring them to the program. When practitioners over-emphasize one direction or the other, they’re really short-changing the men whom they’re working with and limiting their effectiveness overall. Q: How do you identify these different factors and the various needs of the men? A: Admittedly, not everybody feels equipped to assess the fine points of personality and to collect a personal history for program participants. Some people say they don’t want to know about the men’s feelings, because if we care about the men’s feelings too much, we end up colluding with them. But they’re limiting themselves in terms of the good work they could be doing. I’ve become more accepting that some people view themselves more as educators, and as a result are less interested in the men’s characteristics or feelings. I don’t judge them for that; in fact, I know four or five program leaders with that approach who have helped hundreds of men. However, my style as a therapist includes a much broader consideration. Any activities that I do in the group are always with the purpose of promoting


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accountability and an understanding or acceptance of who the men are. The purpose of the activities goes beyond just teaching a skill. It is also important to help the men experience what it means to relate to others in a respectful way. I remember being told in trainings ten years ago that it is wrong to build a relationship with these men. It is wrong to have any sort of kind, generous, or compassionate feelings toward them. I was told outright that any sort of connection with the men would lead to their continued violence and even worsen it. It’s like with prison guards who are instructed to maintain a distance from the inmates out of fear that the inmates would manipulate or take advantage of them. Co-facilitating groups with a woman is another way to pay attention to my privilege and power as a man. The men listen to me differently than they do to her. It’s important to use that to show empathy and understanding which, for a lot of us guys, isn’t easy. I’m not excusing the men’s behaviors. My empathy is for them as a human being, as another man who has to make different choices. Treating the men with respect and a certain amount of empathy, and even validation, is a way to help better engage them. Q: Any recommendations regarding risk assessment and risk management? A: You have to ask the questions, “What are we assessing for? How will the assessment be helpful with the men, and helpful for their partners? We have found that just doing an assessment without a clear purpose can be harmful to the partners. I’ve come to the point of saying just choose one risk assessment approach and decide whether that’s helpful or not. Most of our counties use the ODARA (Ontario Domestic Assault Risk Assessment), SARA (Spouse Abuse Risk Assessment), or DVSI (Domestic Violence Screening Inventory) in their probation offices. It can be a helpful tool, if the officers fully understand why they are using it and how to apply it. I use the Danger Assessment mainly at the beginning of the program to help men understand why their partners might fear them. It helps them to see the realities that others in their lives face because of them. It also is helpful in identifying the signs associated with potential risk, and then attending to them in the group. An assessment can be a teaching tool and a reality check, as well. When problems come up in the group, I’m able to say, “I’ve done this assessment that puts you in an area of concern. It’s great that that you’re coming to group and talking about your problems. But what are you going to tell a judge when you are done with this program. How do you convince him that you are not just like the guy who later killed his girlfriend?” This, for me, is more than just giving the right answers, or admitting to some future problematic situations. Rather it’s a matter of his commitment to make better

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self-care choices. Also, it is important to me that the men are able to specifically state what tools they are able to use, how they use them, and why they work for them. So, I think risk assessment has many different uses. However, I haven’t talked to many programs that find it useful as a tracking or research tool. One program was trying to work with repeat offenders or highly violent men. I was wanting it to use the ODARA as a criteria for identifying such men, but the program leaders were reluctant to establish a cutscore level. So it really was confusing. The probation officers had a way around it all. They could say, “This man only scored a 3 on the test, but we think he’s really dangerous. We are going to put him in the high-risk group regardless.” That may help a particular man, but it undermines any research on risk assessment and any consistency in its use. Q: How do you respond to the charge that batterer programs are not particularly effective? A: I try to reframe the question: “So, do men’s groups work?” The short answer is: “It depends.” It depends on what you’re measuring; it depends on when you’re measuring it. It depends on what you’re really looking at versus what you’re counting. I’ve seen all kinds of positive change in men’s behavior, and that counts for something. My experience has told me that the program has a positive outcome for the vast majority of men for themselves and their families. There’s a huge amount of change that I see men make—a huge amount of change. There are times when a group session goes a certain way and looks like the men aren’t getting anything out of it. They’re just talking about how great they are, but you can’t look at one group session to see the full changes that may occur over time. We need to look at the programs as a process, not as any one group session as the final end. In some states, someone from outside the program visits a group sessions as part of auditing the program. That’s great, as long as the auditors realize that they’re putting their foot in the river of the whole group process. It isn’t fair to judge the whole program based on the one or two observations of the whole. Overall, I cite the longitudinal research that looks at program outcome as a trend over time and shows improvement for the majority of men who participate in program groups. Many more people need to hear about programs in these terms. Of course, those who have already decided that programs don’t work are going to continue to argue against programs until “the cows come home.” It’s similar to the question, “Are men more violent, or are women more violent?” The question really isn’t relevant to the group of men you’re dealing with. The question is: “What behaviors have they done?” Asking who’s


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the more violent, or which program is better, comes from our lack of sophistication. We’re still looking for a more sophisticated way to research the right questions about the effectiveness of programs. Q: What are the changes in the men that you see? How would you describe them? A: There is a whole range of changes. There are those men who move from being physically violent to swearing off any sort of physical violence in their relationships. They may be continuing to use some sort of verbal abuse. I’m not suggesting that that is sufficient, just that they have made some significant changes in their lives. Without the program, they might not have made those changes, or they might have gotten worse and ended up in jail or prison—or dead for that matter. Then, there are those who gain a fuller understanding that the way they treat their partners and their children is damaging and hurtful to them. They reduce those behaviors by choosing better ways of expressing themselves that are not hurtful to people. I found that talking more about how to better communicate with somebody whom you’ve hurt requires a great amount of empathy and altering internal feelings. I see a lot of men do this, because they’ve had a whole different path set before them, learn to use different tools to respond to conflict, and re-pattern their thinking and cognitions. Q: Do you have any specific recommendations for researchers who are evaluating programs, or men who batterer more broadly? A: I think we need to have more practice-driven research; that is, research that comes from the practitioners and guides the researchers, rather than the other way around in research-focused practice. There needs to be a collaboration with more of a power balance between practitioner and researcher. A lot of practitioners claim that researchers have all the power in what and how the research is to be conducted, and in terms of access to the funding and support to do it. As a result, many practitioners have gotten used to being researched with little say in order to satisfy the demand for information. So we need to find ways to have more of give-and-take in the research that is beneficial to both practitioner and researcher. Also, one of the things among a lot of practitioners is a sense of competition. Pitting one program against another, based on whether it’s evidencebased, outcome-based, or promising-practices-based, is not a helpful thing. There really is no pure model of program approach out there. When we do research that focuses on which program is better, we start to distort the reality of program practice and create stereotypical models. I think that the future of the research should be devoted to identifying the components within programs that are more effective or beneficial. What are the content elements within various approaches that are working? I also am

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somewhat biased toward more program research on restorative parenting practices. Other similar programs work as does Restorative Parenting, so the research really needs to be the parts of the program that seem to be more effective with what sorts of men. Q: What are your thoughts on how to better advance the field? Where then do we go from here? A: I’ll give you a sense of the dynamic here in Minnesota. When I tell somebody I’m from Minnesota, they assume right away I’m using the Duluth model. The Duluth trainings have been very beneficial in a lot of ways, but none of the programs in the Twin Cities would identify their programs as the Duluth model. In fact, some people have experienced Duluth training in a negative way. It clashed with how they wanted to approach their program work. Others started taking pieces of the Duluth Model and adding them to pieces from other places and trainings. Duluth’s focus on the whole Coordinated Community Response was, only in the last six to eight years, combined with the batterer programming itself. The Coordinated Community Response idea was a good beginning, but we really need to look more toward the mission to eliminate family or domestic violence throughout our communities. That has to do with not just the criminal justice system addressing domestic violence cases, but also dealing with faith communities, business associations, workplace environments, schools, state legislators—all parts of the community. So promoting Coordinated Community Response as a kind of end-all falls short of what is truly needed. This sort of dominance of some programs filters into conferences for batterer program providers. There seem to be some conference organizers that come across a bit exclusive. There is a lack of collaborative work among a broader range of batterer program providers. In our past Bridging Perspectives conference, we accepted presentations from nearly everyone who submitted a proposal. I truly believe in the “big tent” concept; we all have something to contribute to and gain from each other. That’s the question for me: “How do we benefit each other in our work?” I may not necessarily agree with people using a particular approach, but there are probably a lot of men that they are really helping. They deserve as much support as they can get, and I also need support and encouragement—as well as new ideas. Q: What role do, you think, conferences play in moving the field forward and better uniting it? A: I’ve participated for twelve years in the annual IVAT family violence conferences in San Diego (Institute on Violence, Abuse and Trauma). I have found that IVAT offers an opportunity to bring together diverging perspectives. It doesn’t have to be “same-old same-old,” or just follow a party line. We can have differences on how we approach things and learn from each


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other. The common purpose is to reduce and ultimately prevent violent behavior in interpersonal relationships. We don’t want to become too isolated in what we do, and not allow for some differences. Admittedly, it’s a struggle sometimes to accept a really controversial speaker into the conference. But I’ve leaned toward, “Everybody deserves to be heard.” Q: Any thoughts about program standards? A: I don’t know that state standards are that helpful in developing confident and competent program staff. Our Minnesota statutes, for example, are about programming—what can and can’t be done in group sessions. They don’t speak to the quality of service; they just outline the bare minimum of what needs to be done in groups. Moreover, implementation is a problem. Most of the probation offices don’t realize that they are charged with enforcing the standards and holding programs accountable. They should know if the program receiving their referrals meets the bare minimum of the state statutes. But the officers are paying attention to a lot of other types of offenders and demands, and the turnover of probation officers is very high. I think a more promising direction is in the kind of certifications that IVAT is developing. An IVAT committee is working on a certification for domestic violence offender treatment providers. I’m actually on that committee and looking not only at having individual certificates in a particular specialty, but also having program certificates. The latter would enable well-established programs to do their own training and grant certificates, and thus further spread some consistent level of competence across the field. I try to help people understand that my work with men who batter is about reducing risk. We’ll never fully be sure whether or not somebody’s going to be abusive or hurtful to somebody again. And with certification standards, hopefully there’s some way of reducing the risk. My desire is that we all have a concept of “do no harm,” but let’s at least be clear about reducing risk. A few final thoughts toward this goal: I think the use of Restorative Parenting with men and women in domestic violence programs is essential in order to strengthen or rebuild relationships. I also believe men of color need to have a more organized and bigger voice in terms of the work with men who have been hurtful toward their intimate partners. This perspective demands a continued reshaping of how we approach the work. Finally, we need a complete approach that includes all levels of prevention work, as well as the intervention of community systems and individual work with men. It is all important. TIM KELLY Tim Kelly, HBSW, RSW, is the executive director of Changing Ways, a program for men who abuse women, in London, Ontario, Canada. He has also

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been instrumental in developing an intervention program for abusive fathers called “Caring Dads: Helping Fathers Value Their Children.” With a collaborating researcher, Tim is implementing and evaluating a standardized dynamic risk strategy for monitoring changing risk posed by men who abuse their partners. He has conducted numerous presentation, workshops, and training seminars examining strategies for working with high-risk fathers, along with coauthoring several research articles on the topic. Tim continues, furthermore, organizing campaigns that challenge men to take responsibility for men’s violence against women and children, and that develop programs for abusive men throughout Ontario. Q: How did you get started in this work? A: In the 1980s, I was sharing a house with two women who were both in women studies courses at the university, while I was doing a fine arts degree. They had the attitude that “if you’re not part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem.” The man who was the director of Changing Ways at the time was a friend of mine. I ran into him on the street one day and pleaded to him, “Bob, you have to help me. What can I do? My women housemates are killing me.” He replied, “We’re having our first volunteer-facilitator training tonight for our men’s domestic violence program. Why don’t you come?” I did just that and never looked back. It struck me from the start as important work. I also have women in my life who have experienced violence from men. That’s left me asking, “If not me, then who should do this work?” And, “Why not me?” Then, “Okay, I can do something. I can make change.” Changing Ways, where I work, was established in 1984 as a relatively small organization. My involvement, starting in 1986, has been as a board member, a volunteer, and group facilitator, before becoming the executive director. What sustained me all these years, to be honest, is being a director and able to do whatever I want, more or less. That’s big in terms of being able to be creative. For instance, I’ve been provincial chair for a public education campaign called “Neighbors, Friends, and Family,” a bystander intervention program for men and women. We developed literature and training for bystanders to talk to men who were abusive. We also developed an “I Know Someone” campaign which targeted university men to intervene when they see their friends sexually assaulting, harassing, or abusing women in their lives. These sorts of things allow me to apply my creative side developed as an art major. Q: How would you characterize your approach or your process in the group? A: It’s a matter of finding that sort of peace in a person where you can join with and create a relationship with. Then he can go on a process of selfreflection with you. It’s a pretty eclectic social work approach: applying that


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social work motto of unconditional positive regard for the other person in order to help them see the possibilities for change in themselves. In terms of the program, we borrow a lot from other programs and therapies. We use a power and control analysis as an entry point: the use of power and force against somebody, and the underlying belief that this is what you should be able to do as a man. We also do some reflection on the broader oppression within our society, and the control and power that flow down from that. We also get the men to tell their separate story and do a relationship diagram that the Emerge program uses. The clinicians then identify behavioral patterns for the men. What are patterns that are repeated over and over again? What is predictable about their behavior? When and what triggers particular responses in them? If these patterns are predictable, then they can become preventable with some self-reflection. Additionally, we do some work with the men on what a good relationship is supposed to look like. Many of the men don’t have good examples of that. Nobody has told them what’s a good, positive, respectful relationship, what’s a good way to interact with somebody, what’s a good way to be involved in an intimate, or what is negotiation and fairness—all those kind of things. Q: Do you do this mostly through discussion, a lot of exercises, or a little of everything? A: We try to capture as many adult learning processes as we can. Sometimes we’ll get the men in small groups. Other times, we show a video and analyze it together. We may work on the men’s narratives in pairs or threes. It’s important that the men start breaking the barriers that keep them isolated and closed, and that they begin to experience some support around the issues they’re facing in their lives. Q: How have your views or your approach changed over time? A: When I first started at Changing Ways, we were using a lot of rational motivation therapy, anger management, conflict resolution, constructive communication, and those kinds of things. In the late 1980s, we started wholesale adapting what was going on in other therapy groups. We wrote our own practice manual with a twenty-week group. It focused on healthy communication and anger management. Then in the late 1990s, the government of Ontario established a domestic violence court process. To reduce the wait to get into the program, we started an “open entry” process group. The first ten weeks were based on the Power and Control Wheel, followed by another six weeks. That’s when the men took the initial learning and applied it to themselves. But as I was developing the Caring Dads program in the 2000s, I learned a lot about engaging fathers and systems. (Caring Dads focuses on fathers who are at risk of abusing their children or

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of exposing those children to the men’s abuse of their mother.) As a result, we became much less rigid in our approach. About five years ago, I started rewriting our curriculum to reflect these changes. I think in terms of our current approach, we are somewhat at odds with the conservative orthodoxy of “how to do this work.” For instance, I’m questioned about using the power and control analysis of men’s violence as if that’s what must happen. Any sort of thinking outside of that becomes the target of some hostile responses. That orthodoxy is steeped in our own comfort, our own belief, and the “rightness” of what we’re doing, rather than practical concerns. Q: For some, getting away from orthodoxy means throwing out years of experience and established fundamentals. A: There is an orthodoxy around the work based on a feminist approach to working with men. I still believe that approach is one of the strongest ways of doing this work and especially in addressing the cultural context of the men. I continue to see that as an entry point for the conversations about this work. We need to go beyond that, however. Katrina Scott, an established researcher in this field, and I have worked together for almost twenty years on the collective response to the men. We have theory and broad practice in place, but what we need to do now is squeeze real people into that practice. That creates some openings for practitioners who see treatment as a system theory issue or an individual psychodynamic issue, as opposed to a collective perspective that includes personal accountability and responsibility within a cultural context. Q: Any thoughts on women’s violence and cultural diversity? A: One of my staff developed a curriculum to work with women from the courts. The curriculum is focused on recognizing that the majority of these women are victims of domestic violence. The men they finally decided to assault have been assaulting them for years. The police respond to a domestic violence call, turn to the men, and say to them, “Did you assault her?” The men tend to deny it. So the police turn to the women who’ll say, “Yes, I hit him” and get arrested because it’s incident-based rather than context-based. So our focus is really on the women’s historical experience with abuse and violence. If they have been living under oppression, violence can seem like a legitimate response. Then we talk to them about other options that amount to healthier choices and that avoid their getting arrested. In terms of multi-culturalism, I had a man from a university in Yemen that worked for us in the past. He started to make connections with the Muslim community, which represents almost 15 percent of our population. Then we developed a manual and a training process to train mainstream service providers to be sensitive to unintended barriers faced by minority populations: immigrants,


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refugees, and newcomers to Canada. For example, the shelter staff realized that they needed to provide a prayer room for the increased number of Muslim women. We also need to address the impact of pre-immigration trauma, as well as domestic violence and family conflict. War experience, terrorism, and fleeing one’s native homes have a psychological and behavioral impact. Once the newcomers are resettled, how do those fathers deal with a younger generation that’s being raised in a Western way? We do use language interpreters for simultaneous translation inside the group process. Q: What about staffing? A: When I started in this work, everyone was my age, and when I look around the room now, they still are my age. We are missing the next generation to come into the work. That’s really quite concerning. There’s this need to continually have higher and higher levels of academic qualifications to become involved, but once you start reaching that level of qualifications, a lot of other doors open to you. We’ve had students, or young people, join our program and get a couple years of work under their belts only to be poached by other agencies like Child Protective Services. Part of it may also be a need to create space for younger staff and give them leadership roles. I’ve been consciously trying to foster and hire younger people into more pivotal positions at the organization. I’m not always sure that they are ready for that. It has taken years to develop the experience and know-how of the work. But we have to take some risks to involve new people into the field—and keep them here. It takes time on the job and supervision, but without dampening the enthusiasm of new, younger staff. Experienced staff are often less willing to say, “Let’s do something different or something new.” That can discourage younger people who come in with fresh ideas and new energy. Q: How do you respond to the assertions that domestic violence is fundamentally an issue of psychopathology, and we need to do more mental health treatment to address it? A: I think that there’s a balance to find with mental health issues. We see men who have significant health issues. However, they’re the outliers of the men in our program. The majority of men have a variety of issues around coping and life in general. On one hand, we have those practitioners who want to psychopathologize these men and provide individual therapy. Then on the other end, we have people who want to do nothing but psycho-educational group treatment. As a result, we end up defending orthodox positions rather than engaging in meaningful dialogue. Our options are otherwise “static” treatments rather than tailored to the population we are working with. When you’re working with men who are abusive, you’re vulnerable from almost every corner—to women’s advocates, to children’s services, to the

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criminal justice system. They all look to us as both a saving Messiah and a complete failure. I do training with child protection workers on engaging men in treatment. The focus of treatment, otherwise, is on the mother, and to get the man out of the house, even if he’s not the offending parent. I’ve given them an assignment to have meaningful dialogue with five male clients. The child protection workers respond by presenting their worst male client: the gang-related, crack-addicted, drug-dealing, murdering guy. My reply is always, “What you’ve done is present an extreme position that dismisses everyone else that you might be able to work with.” That’s what we do presenting our position: we go to the extreme and say, “If we don’t do this work, then someone may die. And if we don’t do it in this way, then we’re colluding with the men.” That’s probably the case with the psychopaths that make it into our programs, but that’s not the majority of the men. I think that good clinical practice can meet most clients where they are going to be able to hear what you have to say, and then open up a journey with them to intervention and change. Q: You’ve talked about dynamic risk. Do you assess that with risk instruments, or more through clinical observation? A: We received some funding to figure out how to do risk intervention at an early point in a domestic violence case. What we’ve done is integrate the B-Safer, a relatively short risk assessment tool developed for police, into every time we meet with the men. Our staff then develop a strategy to reduce those risk factors identified in the assessment. If a man is homeless, then we’ll work with him to try to find some safe, secure housing. If he’s depressed or anxious, we’ll help him find mental health treatment. We’ll meet with him individually and wherever he is. Our initial meetings may be here at the office, but my staff have gone to meet with men for coffee; they’ve gone to the homeless mission if he’s staying there. It’s getting back into social work practice that asks what kind of supports a person needs and then focuses on the risk factors that contribute to the violence. All of this is before the men enter into the group process. That’s usually over a period six to eight months while the men are waiting for a court hearing and referral. Q: This sounds like part of the engagement process, is that right? A: We address the isolation that many of the men face, which is a risk factor in itself. Most of the men identify one support person who is usually their female partner. Without someone else to replace that support, they’re going to go home and lean on their partner. So for us, there is a real effort at engagement, and then staying engaged and supporting them through a process of change. At our initial contact, we therefore give the men a sense of the court process. Many of them hadn’t actually been involved in a court before, or if they had, it was for a different kind of offense.


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Q: Any other tips on engagement? A: When I’m coaching or supervising clinicians, I usually start out asking a really basic question, “Do you like this person?” The issue is whether you are going to carry all the judgments that the entire society has toward these men. The idea is to try to find something to connect with that person. A man’s resistance could be a healthy response to facing intensive interventions in his life. So a man who’s responding with defensiveness and resistance could be a man who’s engaged. You have to ask, “Is it the client resisting you, or is your reaction a resistance to what the client is presenting at the moment?” If you bring the power of your resistance to what a man is saying, then you’re not helping his abused partner and children. So when I work with individuals, the starting place for me has always been a reflection: “Who’s resisting who in this relationship?” And I find that most people who work with men who are abusive resist those men pretty strongly. When I look at these men I say, “This is a human being that is deserving of a modicum amount of respect.” I’m asking them to be transformed in their attitudes, in their behaviors, and in their beliefs. That’s going to be a difficult process for them to go through, so I need to develop their trust in the process ahead. If they get judgment and hostility from me, then they’re going to respond in the same way and any trust is squelched. Q: What stands out to you as far as administrating batterer programs? A: Our agency is basically independent which has its advantages. One of my colleagues runs a men’s program out of a child protection agency, and notes that the program can get swallowed up inside of a larger budget. If you ran a multi-service organization like that, I think the best thing you can do is to develop a strategic plan specific for your own program. We’ve done a broad community consultation on what to expect in providing services for men in the community. The challenge to a batterer program is that you need to be seen doing the work. You have to show leadership on the issues and bring them forward. I need to continually position the work as pivotal within other organizations, agencies, and services in the community. You’re going to be opened up to criticism when you do that, but if you take control of your research agenda, you can respond to that criticism in an intelligent kind of way. Q: How do you respond to what the evidence-based practice seems to be saying about batterer programs—basically, that they don’t work? A: I’ve had the privilege of a long-term collaboration with Dr. Katrina Scott, a noted domestic violence academic and researcher. We have a constant dialogue back and forth, and recognize that practice is a lot more dynamic than research. By the time research findings come out two to three years

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after the fact, the practice being researched has changed. So evidence-based practice, for me and Katrina, has always been a partnership: We do research and evaluate, and then adapt our program based on the outcomes—and start again. There’s a dialogue between practice and research, and I’m fiercely protective of that. I’m really suspicious of other researchers who want to do a program evaluation without a commitment to that kind of back-and-forth dialogue. It’s far too easy for a researcher to come in and say, “Here’s the question we want to ask, and then you guys are doing crap work,” as opposed to getting involved and understanding the work we do, and helping form questions based on that. My direct response to the claims about program effectiveness has always been, “What questions are you asking?” When we ask questions about outcomes, we need to be a lot more informed and a lot more sophisticated in the questioning. It’s not just you’ve received “a dose” of the program, and we’re going to measure the effect of that dose. That’s not as helpful as identifying some of the indictors of change: Do we see lifestyle change, more stable living, more involvement in the community, a change in isolation, or more connections with others? Those are really important questions about preventing something from happening versus “Did your treatment dose work?” Q: You obviously built an exceptional researcher relationship and use it for program development. A: Katrina has five or six graduate students who are doing some work in our agency. That provides a means for refining questions and developing new ones. For instance, we had a question about dropout from the initial referral to program entry, and then from program start to completion. So we began to explore what could be done about it. We began to study the men who drop out. We obtained a little bit of funding to run a six week pre-group for those men. They self-selected into this group based on four questions related to denial and resistance that Katrina developed. We focused on hearing their story, their life experience: What was it like to get arrested; how do you feel about being here? A follow-up was, “Is there anything you could have done differently that would have prevented the bad things from happening?” It’s about prompting some self-reflection. Those men then moved into our mainstream program. We used a health prevention model with the men. We talked to them in terms of heart health, for example. My doctor may say, “You have a one in four chance of getting a heart attack in the next five years if you don’t do ‘A,’ ‘B,’ ‘C,’ and ‘D.’” I change my diet, exercise more, stop smoking, and reduce stress, and then the likelihood of a heart problem is reduced. So we similarly say to the men from the courts, “These are your risk factors for recidivating against your partner. If you make changes in these areas, then the risk of your recidivating will be reduced.”


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Our response was to talk about things that we can do that are going to reduce that risk, like stability, jobs, self-care, and support. That makes perfect sense in terms of our outcomes. Katrina, a couple of other colleagues, and I are working toward answering whether our focus on the risk factors has the outcome that we’re looking for. According to Katrina’s follow-up, 85 percent of the men who went through the pre-program six-week group completed the mainstream program. (There are strong indications that men who complete programs tend to do better than men who dropout.) With additional funding, we’ve been tracking the men from our early pre-program intervention for a couple of years now, and the encouraging preliminary results have held. Also, we learned that everyone had done risk assessment on these men, including police, the courts, and women’s advocates. But we found out from the men that they’d never been told of the risks or even the purpose of the assessment. We also did a study with the men that helped us identified gaps in our community. We pulled a sample of eighty clients for retrospective interviews and asked these men, “Before you were involved in the criminal justice system, did you ever talk or reach out to anyone about what was happening in your family.” About 40 percent of them had talked to somebody at least two years prior to being arrested. A follow-up question asked, “Who did you talk to?” The men reported talking to their doctors, family therapists, and religious leaders. Then we asked, “What is it you wanted from the people you talked with?” The general response: “We wanted them to tell us what was going on and what to do about it. But nobody did.” We ended up writing brochures that we delivered to all of our primary health care providers: one brochure on how to have a conversation with a man about his relationships, and the second one directing men with family conflicts to contact Changing Ways. As a result, we saw a spike in referrals from the medical health care field and other services. That’s the kind of work that Katrina and I try to do: what are things we need to look at, and how do we adopt and change our treatments based on that. It’s respecting both research and then practice. It’s both research-based practice and practice-based research—a back and forth between the two. Q: Any final recommendations or promptings for the field? A: I’ve always contended that what we need as a movement is to show and provide good solid leadership around program outcome: What do you measure in terms of outcomes? It’s not a matter of merely justifying our work, but more helping people understand the processes that take place. In the final reports that we write up for the judges, I always put the goal of the program and “what you should expect from someone who has completed the program.” That’s the only way to educate a judge. Whether it’s women ad-

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vocates, funders, or the general public, if we don’t tell them what they need to know about our work, other people with their own biases will do so—and that scares me. We don’t do a good job of telling people, “Here’s the work we do, and this is why it’s important.” Even in all the discussions on the practitioner listserve on the internet, I never see anyone asserting and defending the importance of the work. We need to hear more of “Here’s what we do, here’s the reason why we do it, here’s the outcomes that we aim to achieve, and here’s how we’re measuring those outcomes.” We need to be better leaders at this. DAVID RUSSELL David Russell, MEd, founded the Second Step program for men who batter in the early 1980s—the first such program in western Pennsylvania. He has worked to integrate a strength-based perspective and disarming humor into his work, along with addressing the socialization that effects men in our society. David has continued to develop workshops aimed at violence cessation and spouse abuse prevention and to meet with men in special circumstances for individual counseling. For the past eight years he has been lecturing on Compassionate Communication and Laughter Yoga in the Pittsburgh area as part of his effort to engage the broader community in discussions about violence. Q: How did you get started in this work? A: A friend of mine and I had been doing some general counseling groups together, and my friend knew two women who had been abused. In the process of trying to help them, he referred them to the women’s shelter and found there was no program for men who were abusive toward their partners. So he called on me to start a group with him for these men. In our early talks, we began to define abuse: it wasn’t just being physically abusive, which neither one of us had been. It was any threat, blowing up, and verbal attacks, which both he and I had done. So when we first approached the work, it was from the perspective of “it’s not us and them.” We are as much helping ourselves and wanting to do self-help as we are trying to help other men who have been abusive. We found that many of the men who showed up for our groups had been very physically abusive as well as verbally so, and therefore they raised a lot of concern about their partner’s safety. Q: Did these men come to you primarily through referral from the shelter? A: These were men who had voluntarily attended our group. For the most part, they were trying to convince their partners to return or drop charges.


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There just wasn’t any specialized counseling available for them, so they came to us. Over the years, I found that men who were not ordered by the court, were “spouse-ordered,” motivated by a real desire to get their partner to come back to them. In other words, their partners had set a condition of getting some counseling in order to consider either dropping charges or coming back to the man. Q: What did you do with these men who showed up for your group? A: My friend and I put together two groups initially. In the first group, eleven men signed up. These were all men whom we had talked to on the phone. Every one of them sounded really committed: “Yes, this is something I want to do: I definitely will be there.” We set a night and we found a place to meet in a little church. The first night, nobody showed up! Not one of the eleven appeared. Over the next two or three months, we put another group together for a different eleven men. These eleven new men were also absolutely going to be there. “This is exactly what I’m looking for,” they would say to us on the phone. Nobody showed up again! So we were very discouraged. We both were in a men’s consciousness-raising group. It wasn’t for men who had been abusive, although, many of us discovered that we had been verbally abusive during the course of that group. We got encouragement from other men to go forward with our efforts to start a group for abusive men. We hung in there, and put another group together in which men eventually joined and attended. My friend got out of the work a few years after we started, but I stuck with it and watched it grow. Q: How did you eventually get men to attend your groups? A: We just did that same enrollment process again and again. We got referrals from the shelter, but very few from the courts. It turns out that the men in our consciousness-raising group knew a lot of women who were in the women’s movement and women who had been abused. They helped spread the word. Q: How did you get into counseling in the first place? A: I was working for Fred Rogers of the TV show, “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.” I wrote a couple of little children’s shows. Fred read them and they were pretty terrible. He encouraged me, however, by saying, “If you’re going to write effectively for kids, you need some basics in child development.” He helped me find and get a nondegree child development course for people who didn’t have high school diplomas. So I went to that program and met people there who encouraged me further. Q: What sustained your interest and involvement in this work over all these years? A: The two things that I do think of is, one, my own personal commitment to do the work as the central way of helping to keep myself from being abu-

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sive. So it’s very personal. The second one was my own philosophy around recovery from alcohol abuse. You need a support system—a group of people going through the same thing. You need people who understand what you’re going through. Q: Can you say a little bit more about how your personal experience helped motivate you professionally? A: I have always thought that my own personal motivation to keep myself nonviolent was supported by my insight into what was going on with others. Also, the reading I did and the training I received helped me to see that we live in a violent society and a violent world. The abuse that these men were doing was another facet or extension of the violent world that we live in. I felt I could make a contribution, however limited, to lessening this violence. I think that helped motivate me as well. I did have some insight, and I believe I still do, into a man who becomes abusive to his partner. That, as I said, helped me face my own past abuse, the verbal abuse that I have done. It also helped with disappointment: when groups would fall apart, people wouldn’t show up, or men didn’t seem motivated to end their abusive behavior. The question I began to ask the men the first time is, “Is there anything about your behavior toward your partner that you are dissatisfied with?” That question put the work in perspective at the very beginning. It’s saying, “Look, this is not something that she’s doing. I understand that society has all these pressures on you. You may be unemployed but what is your own personal motivation?” This was going to be about his behavior towards his partner. Q: How would you characterize your approach in general? A: I have become more and more involved in nonviolent communication based on Marshall Rosenberg’s work. It conveys a clear message that whatever the skill-building or insight, the objective is to help a man end his abusive behavior. It’s not to become more verbally skilled in getting out of the consequences of abusive behavior. The main focus is on the damage that a man is doing to his partner, his children, himself, and society as well. It’s the consequences of his violence, and the effect that it has on his partner and his family. We do refer some people out to intensive therapy, if we see that they are not able to use the communication skills that we were teaching them, or the effects of his violence are not getting through to him. If we recognize that someone is in need of either sobriety and/or some mental health counselling, we would say to him, very directly, that we don’t believe our program is sufficient to help you and your abusive behavior. We believe our program would be useful to you, but you also need some mental health counseling and/or maybe some help with sobriety before our program is going to do you any good.


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Q: I recall you initially had a great emphasis on a strength-based approach? A: At the outset, I appreciated a strength-based approach from not only my training, but also my own personal experience. I found that there already is a tremendous desire on these men’s part to have intimate and nonviolent relationships. Their education, especially their emotional development, has, however, been so neglected, and/or their upbringing has been so violent, that they never learned how to interact without reverting to violence. Then there is the underlying layer of how we are taught to be men in the society, and what women are taught that they are supposed to tolerate. There’s always been that element to address. We emphasize the importance of using our feelings as messages to alert us of our real needs, rather than acting them out through violence or drugs and alcohol, or whatever. As taught in nonviolent communication, I believe that those universal human needs to be the need for respect, appreciation, tenderness, safety, empathy, compassion, and trust. Q: What’s an example of “acting on our feelings”? A: “Acting on the feelings” means accepting and identifying a feeling as something that’s telling me a need of mine is not being met. My partner has the same needs; it’s just that she uses different strategies to go about meeting her needs. So, when I say “act on my feelings,” I mean acting on the wisdom of them, using them as a signal of my unmet needs. When I act out my feelings, I’m lashing out to rid myself of the feelings instead of really meeting my needs. We punch a wall, hit somebody, scream, or yell as a way to reduce the anxiety or discomfort, because we don’t know any other way to do it. Then when I live in a society that approves of men acting out their anger by lashing out, being violent, it becomes really easy to do that. We see so many models for it, and society gives approval for it. So it’s a combination of our ignorance of how to act on feelings verbally, and learning how to do things nonviolent physically. Society says that we, as men, are not supposed to have feelings anyway. Q: So it’s a matter of becoming more emotionally aware and dealing with those emotions in a responsible and healthy way? A: It’s knowing what our emotions mean, knowing what they’re for, knowing why they’re there. It’s having a theoretical base for understanding them and, then, being able to accept and identify them, and ultimately take steps based on the wisdom of them. It’s doing this, instead of ignoring that wisdom and lashing out because we don’t know what to do. Q: How has your approach or viewpoint changed or evolved over the years? A: I think the most effective thing I’ve brought into my work in the past few years has been Rosenberg’s nonviolent communication, and learning

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and teaching the skill of being able to make observations of my own and other people’s behavior in this regard. I’ve learned a vocabulary to better talk about feelings and needs, and a way to effectively make requests of other people and of myself to meet certain needs. Also, I have evolved toward an even stronger belief that our violence happens in a society that approves of it and promotes it. At the same time, I’ve begun to practice more skill-building while keeping the message in front of us that the damage we do can’t be compared to the minor gains we may get from lashing out and getting violent. I’ve also had Gestalt training that focuses on learning right in the moment, rather than digging into the past so much, or fantasizing and agonizing over the future. It helps folks stay focused in the present. Q: What about women’s violence? This is a topic that no doubt comes up in your men’s groups. A: When that comes up in our groups, there are two threads that we talk about. One is what passes as her being as violent as him is often her effort to protect herself. The second thing is: whatever the behavior that an individual does—whether it’s male, female, child, young, old, black, white—is an attempt to meet a need. And all needs are universal, healthy, and nonviolent, and are really life energy moving through us. The needs are not meant to be violent, and they aren’t violent in themselves. But to separate our strategies or reactions from our needs is really, really tough. Being abusive to another man or a woman is an ineffective strategy aimed at an unidentified need. If the person stopped and got in touch with what the need was, they would see that the strategy of being abusive is still trying to meet a healthy, universal need. When a man realizes what that need is, he will often choose different strategies to get that need met. He will see that frightening her, abusing her, damaging her, hurting his children, and hurting himself in the long run, are not going to help him meet his healthy universal needs. This is really about self-awareness, too—helping men gain some internal insight that goes beyond a mere behavioral change. The men can learn behavioral change in a few sessions. And a lot of programs focus primarily on getting men to stop their abusive behavior. There does have to be some skill-building and some awareness in the moment, as well. There has to be some awareness in the moment of what one is feeling, thinking and needing, and what he wants to see happen. Is lashing out and being abusive going to do anything other than temporarily reduce his anxiety a bit. In the long run, it will have tremendously destructive consequences for him getting his needs met. In a direct and friendly way we keep the emphasis on the behavior and not on him being a bad person. The men are basically standard-issue guys, trying to get very healthy universal needs met, and through sad and tragic ways that they’ve learned from society and their own upbringing.


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Q: What about the increased attention to psychopathology and psychological problems like trauma, attention deficit, and even psychopathy? A: I always thought that these sorts of problems were more effectively addressed through an individual therapist working on psychological issues. However, another thing that is crucially needed is the fellowship, support, and friendship of other men who would confront one’s abusive behavior and support his learning how to get his needs met in a nonviolent way. I know some abuse programs incorporate a therapeutic approach in the men’s groups. I always thought that the psychological work was better done separately from the support group for change. The Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) groups I’ve attended always had a balance of confrontation and support that was more about behavior change than individual counseling. A separate group or individual treatment addressed any psychopathology. That always made more sense to me. Q: What did you look for in other counselors you were trying to recruit or hire? A: I would look for openness to exploring their own experience: Whether they had been abused or had been abusive, and an understanding that they were raised in a violent society and nobody escapes the effects of that. I’d look for somebody who was aware and willing to try, at least, to be open and transparent about their own feelings, needs, and experience, and be able to say how violence had affected them; someone who didn’t have an ax to grind—someone who won’t go in there as a reformer to straighten these guys out. Also, I’d look for someone who was willing to develop their clinical skills, which takes years of practice, practice, and practice. You just have to take some of what you learned in school, and say “yes, this generally might be a good theory, but how does it work?” Your sharp edges need to be worn down, and be replaced by good sharp tools. And your “self” is the main tool. So if I were looking to train or bring some awareness to new staff, I would first look at whether they’re willing to look at their own experience with violence and how it’s affected them. And second, I’d look to see that they’re not reformers with an ax to grind. I would also want to find people who are in counselor education or social work programs with some training in group dynamics. Q: You spoke about the importance of the recovery model in informing your work. How would you describe the recovery model? A: It starts with a group of people who all have the same problem, and everyone identifying that problem and understanding that problem from the perspective of someone who is going through or has gone through that problem. The people then support each other in trying to stop doing that behavior on a day-to-day basis. I never was willing to say that abuse of a spouse was

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an addiction. I never wanted to excuse it that way, but I do see similar attitudes that are very close to what we would call addiction. The recovery model affected my men’s groups by promoting the idea that we were all in this together, and that we were men raised in a violent and sexist society. We have been taught at a certain level that this violence was okay, and we get acclimated to being violent. Q: How is this different from Batterers Anonymous, which is criticized for its lack of group leadership, resulting collusion, and avoidance of the societal awareness you mention as important? A: The objection to Batterers Anonymous would be the excuse that the men didn’t have any control over their behavior. That it was an addiction that they couldn’t control, and therefore we must have sympathy for these poor, sick people. I think that is a misunderstanding of the AA twelve-step model. The twelve-step model, to me, is not only based on using a Higher Power. It is also aimed at making amends and ending our abusive behavior—or overspending, sexually acting out, drug addiction, or whatever it is. It’s about taking responsibility, and using the group as a Higher Power to help us take that responsibility. We all know that AA members say they are powerless. But that’s just the first step; there are eleven more steps that are very much about self-responsibility. Q: What about the spirituality implied in a Higher Power, something greater than ourselves? A: It is more about the group supporting each other in not being abusive. I know that has very strongly influenced my own personal spirituality or belief in a Higher Power. I always looked at the spiritual element of the group as a Higher Power, moving in us and helping each other. Q: There seems to be an unevenness across batterer programs in approaches, competence, and experience. Any thoughts on how to improve these programs overall and the quality of them? A: It does have a great deal to do with standards. Somehow, in the future, there needs to be some kind of a national, professional organization like there is with auctioneers to actors, psychologists to hair dressers. A board at the state level could require a certain level of competency for a program or an individual. A group of experienced people as a board would determine whether or not someone has the skills and knowledge to work with men who had become violent. They would also monitor and train that person to continue to grow and develop. That’s just not being done right now in any systematic way. Q: What’s your response to the research claims that batterers programs don’t work and we need to either overhaul them or replace them entirely? A: The fact that batterer programs exist sends an important message. The programs say to these men, “Look, we’re against violence against women.


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We’re doing these groups to help you stop your abusive behavior.” When I question the women who have been abused and the men who have been abusive, they report that the program has been effective in reducing or ending the abuse. Most of them say the programs are worthwhile. Admittedly, I’ve observed first-hand about 20 percent of the men who came through our program make major changes in their behavior. Also I often talked to the spouses, and they never reported increased abuse as an outcome of the program. I would do a telephone interview with the women at the outset, and I would say to them, “Don’t change your plans based on your partner’s coming to this program, because it’s very likely that he’s only coming to this program to get you to drop charges, or to come back to him. Don’t let your guard down and think that his coming to this program is going to make everything fine now.” There is no doubt that a portion of the men are not going to respond to the program for a variety of reasons and we need to deal better with that fact. But that doesn’t mean that programs don’t work or aren’t making a useful contribution to reducing men’s violence. Q: Any thoughts on program administration or organization? A: Different organizations grow up in different communities as an outgrowth of the need and resources in the community. Whatever the organization, it takes somebody with some administrative skills or training in group dynamics to make things work. One of the simple things that can be done when there’s conflict, or everybody is pulling in a different direction, is to ask individuals what kind of feedback they would like from the group. “Are you aware of what needs you’re trying to meet by using the orange paper instead of green paper?” Another thing I would want to look for is people who are open-minded and willing to learn from their experience and from other people. Q: What are you working toward at this point? A: I’m especially wanting to teach a broader audience and the community at large beyond the narrow niche of so-called batterers. I have publicized nonviolent communication among some of my long-time students and a few of them have joined a group of what we call “compassion and communication ambassadors.” That is a support group that meets every other Sunday. Three of us in that group are going to Nashville for a Nonviolent Communication workshop. It’s a workshop focused on helping communities who are starting boards and support groups to publicize compassion and communication. This should help us reach a wider audience and have more people speaking the language of nonviolence in our own community. Q: You also have done more individual work with men who are abusive or violent. Why is that? A: I think both individual work and groups have their place. Some men need psychotherapy, some need sobriety. Some men fall in the middle, need-

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ing individual counseling and group work. If I see that a man is struggling in the group, I may bring him in for some individual sessions. I, even on occasion, refer people to the library literacy program because they could not read our handouts. They literally could not read. If I saw a man who was extremely inhibited in the group, I put him in some individual work. I might want to do an evaluation individually with some others. Moreover, there are people who can come into a small group and overwhelm the group. They may be head of a church or large corporation, or a professional football or baseball star. Such a person could be disruptive, even though he didn’t mean to be. They would be better in individual sessions. Q: Any special lessons from the work that you want to pass on? A: Just try to be open, transparent, and hang in there. Don’t get too fundamentalist or dogmatic about it—and get people laughing. STEVEN PEPPING Steven Pepping, MA, has supervised and developed numerous domestic violence programs since 1993 (when Washington State started certifying programs), as well as founded and directed the Peaceful Solutions men’s program in the Tacoma-Seattle area. He has worked with victims and their offenders for the past thirty years. He is a certified domestic violence counselor who has also worked as a chemical dependency, mental health, and traditional spiritual counselor in a variety of settings. Steven currently provides supervision of the Puyallup Tribal Domestic Violence Treatment Program, which provides culturally relevant services for the Native community near Tacoma, WA. He also teaches the thirty-hour workshops required for certification to conduct domestic violence treatment in Washington State. Steven has been an active board member of the Northwest Association of Domestic Violence Treatment Professionals (NWADVTP) since 1993, and is its current president. NWADVTP has led the rebuttal to the controversial Washington State study asserting that batterer programs are ineffective. In 2013, he was also appointed to the Washington State Supreme Court Gender and Justice Commission’s Domestic Violence Committee. Q: How did you get started in this work with domestic violence perpetrators? A: I think it was a natural extension of my own growth and development, and my own recovery, actually. I come from a family that was pretty violent and abusive, so this work helped me to understand that people who do violent behavior are not merely “evil people.” They are human beings who had some bad experiences and bad training which they need to overcome. In my own


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life, I’ve been able to work through those sorts of things, but those issues got me stuck for a while. Q: What has sustained you in this work, especially considering your background? A: I’ve actually thought, from time to time, that I’d get out of the field and do something else. And I have done so, for a brief period of time, just to keep my head on straight and reduce some stress and tension. But inevitably, I get pulled back into it, because some help is needed in a certain area. I pick up momentum again and keep moving forward. I do find, though, that you have to take breaks periodically, and you have to have a good support system and be able to talk about your own personal issues around violence and abuse. Q: How did you get your current program started? On your own, or through another agency? A: I started out developing domestic violence treatment within a drug and alcohol program that I was already working with at the time. From there, I developed my own men’s program. After working on my own for a while, I joined with a couple other agencies. Currently, I’m with the Puyallup Tribal program in the Tacoma area. The amount of abuse and the violence inflicted upon the Tribal people is an eye-opener, as is their attempt to survive all of that. Some are doing well at it, some not so well at it. Q: Was your current program set up through local tribal councils? A: Years ago, I started working with battered women advocates from the tribe. I’ve known some of these women for twenty years or so. They had a men’s program for a little while, but it closed primarily because of budget problems. The advocates wanted to start a new program about three years ago, so they asked me to help with that. Our local perpetrator program continues to work closely with our victims’ services at the tribe. We see each other every day, and that is really helpful in keeping us all on track. In the Native community, there is also the Women’s Spirit Coalition which provides us with input from time to time. The Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, which focuses on the victims’ service side of the problem, provides technical assistance for our programs. Q: You mentioned that work with the tribal peoples has opened your eyes to a broader understanding of the problem. A: Not only to a broader understanding, but also to a deeper level of violence that’s been inflicted on tribal people. There is more acting out violently in the tribal community than what I’ve seen in the dominant community. Shootings, stabbings, and assaults are taken to a higher level of violence. There are also huge amounts of drug and alcohol problems. Horrific damage has been done to Native peoples in the process of sending them to boarding schools. More than five hundred boarding schools were spon-

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sored by the U.S. government and run by church groups for about a centuryand-a-half. There’s at least five or six generations of people who were forced to go to these schools, which were like concentration camps. Consequently, the generations from those schools don’t know much about family relations; they don’t know how to raise children. Their style of parenting is institutional parenting which is violent and abusive. Many of them were physically, emotionally, and sexually abused in these boarding schools. Some were killed there. For five generations, young Native people were stolen from their families and put in these schools. Some of them never saw their families again; others were allowed to go home in the summertime, depending on how far they lived away from the school. Overcoming all of that is a challenge. We have a strong population of elders who have never told their children that they loved them. It was simply not part of their upbringing. Q: How would you characterize your approach to addressing these sorts of issues? A: We use a trauma-informed type of therapy and cognitive-behavioral based approach. We do a lot of processing in the group, along with education about domestic violence and historical violence. We show a video, which came out this past year from the White Bison Society, about the impact of historical violence on Native Americans. Everybody ends up crying, including all the troublesome clients in the program. They all wanted a copy of the video to take home and show their parents and grandparents. Some in the community just know they’re angry and upset and are not dealing with life very well, but they’re not sure exactly why. When they see something like the White Bison video, they go, “Now, I know why I feel the way I do. It makes sense to me now.” I’m dealing with those types of issues and trying to get the men in the program to realize the roots of their behavior. Q: Is there anything special in terms of life skills or relationship skills that you work on? A: We do work on how to be a positive role model and a positive parent, and there are some parenting classes that are being implemented in conjunction with domestic violence treatment. Those men with children who have been abused are usually put in a ninety-day nonviolent parenting program that teaches them about the effects of domestic violence on children: How it impacts the developmental processes and growth of children. We have a couple of different programs like that here in Washington: Building Healthy Dads and DV Dads. The Tribal Victims program is doing some work with their women’s groups on similar topics of parenting and responding to problems nonviolently. Q: What else do you do in the course of a group? A: I do have a certain curriculum designed to give the men basic education in domestic violence, family of origin, and that sort of thing. Then we have a


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“process time” in group for things that the men are currently working on, so they have a chance to get some feedback on why things either are working or aren’t working. Some of it’s pretty scary for them, and they have a hard time admitting that they’re afraid, so I try to make it a safe group so that the men can and will share. I think we’ve been pretty successful with that. Occasionally, you get somebody who’s not really telling how he’s feeling, and he’s off in his own little world. He may actually drop out because of that. We try to keep our eyes open for people who are struggling or are on the shaky side, and then prompt them, in a supportive way, to talk about what’s going on with them. We may even talk to them individually. That’s something that we found out in our survey of treatment programs here in Washington. A lot of programs do individual therapy in addition to group work. Some men, especially those with traumatic pasts, have never talked about their issues with anybody. They might need some individual sessions to help them be able to talk in group. Q: And how do you handle the drug and alcohol problems that seem to be so prevalent? A: We try to identify them during the initial assessment with the men and refer those with problems to a drug and alcohol program; we have an outpatient program at the Puyallup Tribe. We try to address the drug and alcohol problems first, and then get addicted men involved in domestic violence treatment. They are allowed to enter domestic violence treatment once they’ve started drug and alcohol treatment, or have been able to present themselves as being clean and sober for at least thirty to ninety days (we prefer ninety days but sometimes the courts push the men into domestic violence treatment before that). Q: Another issue is the relationship of psychopathology to domestic violence. How do you address that? A: We definitely see a need for mental health counseling, and have a clinic on the reservation for additional psychological treatment if that is needed. But we try to address some psychological issues in the course of our domestic violence treatment. Some other programs in the community also attempt to address psychological issues, but they don’t always do it very well. So the tribe overall is trying to get people to heal as many of their issues as they can, and to help them understand that this is a lifelong recovery process that continues after treatment . Those identified with psychopathy will be referred to a psychologist for evaluation and not taken into the domestic violence program. Q: It sounds like you emphasize healing rather than just an interruption of violence. How would you characterize the healing process? A: We try to get to the core of the issue: why are you being violent, where does this come from, how did you learn this? Underneath the violent behavior and control issues is usually an insecure little boy who hasn’t grown up. He

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hasn’t grown up emotionally; and he’s probably been beaten up at a younger age. Then he started drinking and using whatever drugs he could get his hands on. The program’s aim, therefore, is to help the men deal with those familyof-origin issues and catch up to their chronological age. We have a lot of insecure people with attachment problems, too: they were not secured in attaching to their parents, because their parents are either dead, gone, or have problems of their own. There’s no way for the men to attach in a healthy way to their parents because there was nobody to attach to. Many were bounced around in foster care or with other relatives. The men need to know what “healthy” looks like and feels like. So we try to get them to acknowledge any healthy relationships or connections that they may have had. We also have them write their life stories, and do a cultural story. In addition, we have certain identified ceremonies that they can use to help clarify who they are, where they come from, and where they’re going. Q: What exactly is a “cultural story”? A: Some of the men don’t know anything about their culture. They just know that they’re “native.” Most of the people we see are, in fact, a bit lost and don’t really know who they are and where they’re from. They’re not usually very proud of anything. So, we have them do some research to find out about their culture, including what part of the country they come from, what their tribal heritage is, what traditions identify them—in other words, what are their roots. We also have several people of mixed race who are digging into their past history and putting the pieces together. That gives them a stronger sense of self and helps them realize that they have a little bit more to draw from. Q: Is there anything in particular that you look for in terms of risk or danger? A: Our state regulations require that a wide range of information be collected about the client’s history, as well as about current behavior and mindset. This includes suicide ideation or threats, homicide ideation or threats, and past history of violent behavior. We also make contact with the victim to see how she’s feeling about her safety. We like to use the SARA (Spouse Assault Risk Assessment) to put the information into some perspective. When we did our state survey of programs, we found that the most widely used risk assessments were the SARA and the Danger Assessment, with the ODARA (Ontario Domestic Assault Risk Assessment) in third place. Q: What do you do when you identify a “high-risk” case? A: We look at why they are high risk and what we can do to assist them— what they need to do to lower the risk. Do they need some other therapy in addition to the domestic violence treatment, do we need to keep a better eye on them, do we need to have more contact with the victim? Then, of course,


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there are some men who are not amenable to treatment. We try to screen out particularly psychopathic people and send them back to the courts. We would send them first to a psychologist for further evaluation, and then let the court know that they’re not amenable to our treatment. We have found over the years that psychopathic clients tend to be disruptive, lying, and cheating. All that takes away from other people’s ability to get their treatment. The psychopathic men also are unable to access guilt, remorse, and empathy toward their partners. Q: How has your approach changed over time? A: It’s been developing over the years to deal more with trauma and abuse that people bring into treatment. I’ve always known, at some level, that trauma needed to be addressed if we are going to stop violence. You can’t just put trauma on the back shelf and expect it to go away. In general, I’ve found better ways to connect with the people. The connection between the men and the therapist is key. If they don’t know about certain life experiences that I’ve had, they won’t trust me; and they will be hesitant to say or disclose certain things in group, because they’re afraid they’re going to be judged. I found that some gentle confrontations are a good way to go. But occasionally disclosing some minor things (they don’t need to know my whole life story) lends to credibility. Also the men sometimes want to check your credentials to see if you know what you’re talking about: things like whether you’re married and have kids. When they work with a woman therapist, they want to know if she’s a “man-hating lesbian,” if she’s there to put them down or hurt them. Most of the people we work with have a tremendous amount of fear, and lack of self-esteem. That keeps them from making the changes they need to make. A substantial portion of our population is at least amenable to making change. They just don’t know how to go about it. But, if they don’t trust you, they’re not going to do the things that you’re telling them to do, regardless. They are not going to believe the things that you’re saying. So I’ve had to work through the issues with my own disclosure and sharing. Q: What’s your response to the claim that batterer programs don’t work? A: We’re showing them, whomever “they” are, that our programs do in fact work, and that several outcome-type studies do document their effectiveness. Our website for the Northwest Association of Domestic Violence Treatment Professionals (NWADVTP) identifies twenty-six or so different research documents that our judges, prosecutors, and others should consult directly. Most of these doubters are relying on the meta-analysis conducted by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP), which has been sorely criticized by a number of researchers.

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At least some of the powers-that-be, like the state legislature, supreme court, and a few other organizations, understand that the WSIPP meta-analysis is an extremely biased and flawed report. It was designed to support a faction that didn’t want perpetrators going into domestic violence treatment. Some prosecutors didn’t want to hassle with these sort of cases. Other people had had family members in treatment, and thought that they had gotten a raw deal. The NWADVTP has responded in a number of ways, including producing a rebuttal to the WSIPP conclusions. The rebuttal was released as an appendix to the WSIPP report. We also have had meetings with our members and conducted our own survey of programs in the state. The survey reveals that there are some programs that do need more education on the state requirements for domestic violence programs. We are doing a series of educational opportunities to bring those programs up to speed. We’re also having programs keep some outcome-based evaluations on successful treatment completers. Moreover, a few programs have former perpetrators who have been speaking to judges and prosecutors about why treatment was successful for them, and how the intervention system helped with that. Most of the judges don’t get to see that sort of outcome. They usually see the guy who has reoffended and returned to court several times. The same thing with prosecutors; they don’t get to see the success stories. We are also looking for somebody in a graduate program who’d be willing to do a research project on existing programs. We found that most people in the state of Washington don’t know what we actually do in our programs—including the authors of the WSIPP report. We have a state legislator who is working on some legislation in the area of domestic violence that should help support domestic violence programs. Finally, we’ve been talking about a state-wide commission to address domestic violence issues and to provide implementation and oversight of domestic violence programs. Q: Any other directions or recommendations you have for the field in general? A: Obviously, I think we all need to continue to work on cooperation and collaboration among all the intervention components and the community at large. We have to talk with victims’ services, the criminal justice system, and the family courts. If any of these components don’t feel good about what we’re doing, we need to do something to correct that and show the positive side of what we’re attempting to do. For instance, a lot of attorneys, judges, and prosecutors would like to see alternatives to the required one-year program, which we’ve been arguing about since 1993. I could see that shifting to tiered sentencing in which verified first-time offenders may attend for a shorter time period.


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Q: In some states there has been a rift between treatment programs and the state domestic violence coalitions that are led by battered women’s advocates. A: Historically, there has been a bit of a rift here, but the relationship has improved over the years. When we first started domestic violence treatment here in Washington, there was a lot of opposition from victims services. They were concerned that we didn’t know what we were doing. In our state, it varies from place to place as to how intense that view is. We do have a pretty progressive battered women’s shelter program in our county. It started accepting men into the shelter who are victims of domestic violence about two years ago. That would have been totally unheard of ten years ago. They also work to collaborate and consult with us. There is still lack of trust, rigidity, and resistance in some places. That makes treatment providers uneasy, because they don’t know what the women’s advocates are going to say about them. Here in Washington you have to have a shelter program “sign off” on a program every two years in order to get recertified. So we have to make inroads with victims services in order to stay in business. And that’s been challenging depending on what part of the state you’re in. On the other hand, we a have a good opportunity to meet at monthly meetings with our County Commission on Domestic Violence, and we have a Domestic Violence Intervention Counsel meeting with different services, probation officers, and judges. Some of that was forced interaction at first, as the result of a county ordinance that mandated the meetings. Once everyone was at the table, we got to know each other and that brought down a lot of barriers. We have to mature and realize that we’re all on the same side. I think both our YWCA and our shelter program at the tribe understand that they can’t keep victims safe without quality perpetrator treatment. Q: How do you view women’s violence? Are they as violent as men? A: There are, of course, some women who are very violent. I actually grew up with one. There are some who are 100 percent “classic perpetrators.” But the vast majority of the women who get arrested for domestic violence are usually defending themselves, so we look at them as “victim defendants” here in Washington. We assess the women to determine what will help them solve their problems. In many cases, that is a victim support group, counseling, or sometimes parenting classes. If a woman has developed a pattern of behavior, then she’s sent to perpetrator treatment to learn some skill-building, experience some healing, and learn how to not act out violently. The one challenge is that a lot of treatment providers have difficulty assessing the particular category for

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each woman in a quality way. That is something the field in general needs to keep working on. Male perpetrators, on the other hand, tend to make the decision early in life “not to take it anymore.” If somebody threatens them, they’re going to strike back and take out the threat. Women have not made that kind of decision and are still struggling along until they finally act out violently in defense of themselves or their children. Q: Is there anything distinguishing about the tribal women in this regard? A: It depends a lot on how that woman was raised. There are some very strong, powerful women in the Native community who would not put up with bad behavior. Some of them deal with it in appropriate ways, some don’t. I also see a lot of downtrodden, beat-up young women who can’t seem to stand up for themselves, or if they do, it’s in an inappropriate way. As I mentioned at the start, the level of violence in our community, and in most reservations around the country, is much more severe than in the dominant culture. Many of the perpetrators have been shot or stabbed; many have been shot multiple times. Many have been sexually abused and physically abused as a child—almost all of them. The first year I was doing treatment with the tribe, every man in the group had been shot once. It varies from group to group, but the extent of trauma is always way above what I’ve observed in non-native programs. So, a higher level of trauma requires a higher level of healing, using contemporary healing methods as well as Traditional Healing Ceremonies. This is what distinguishes our work with the men, as well as the women.

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Beyond Abusive Men

The last set of interviewees represents efforts, launched by program work with men who batter or their abused female partners, but that go beyond the scope of conventional batterer intervention. These program leaders illustrate the extended programming and organizing that is part of the broader reach of the work against domestic violence: They include a program for women who use force, a family-oriented center for Latinos, and a statewide initiative educating men and boys in general. The first interviewee, Lisa Young Larance, pioneered the RENEW program for women “who use force” in response to what she heard from women in shelter programs and to requests from judges who wanted a program for arrested women. Lisa draws on her extensive experience to describe the differences between men and women’s violence—for one, the women readily take responsibility for their behavior and describe incidents in detail, whereas men initially deny or minimize violence. She also points out the complexity of women’s use of force amidst a sense of their “survivorship history.” This complexity warrants a different kind of group program that emphasizes an “organic discussion” that attends to the women’s feelings of shame, concept of agency, and sense of self. Important to this approach is a focus on the women’s relationship history rather than isolated events, and an avoidance of pathologizing women’s behavior and over-medicating them. Julia Perilla, who founded Atlanta’s Caminar Latino, has dedicated herself to working with Latino families, especially immigrants. She reports learning, in the process, the importance of dealing with the “lived reality” of Latinos in order to stop violence against women and children. In most cases, it is difficult for immigrant women to leave an abusive partner because of economic dependence, fears of deportation, and resulting isolation in the community. The men, as well, have experienced political or gang violence in their native 201


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land, attacks and abuse in traveling to this country, and often exploitation from employers. The staff, therefore, work with the whole family in separate groupings, and, first and foremost, show respect to the individuals and expect them to do the same toward others. They encourage the men to talk about their underlying feelings, explore where those come from, and examine how they influence their behavior toward their family. All of this approach is necessarily done within a social justice and human rights framework, according to Julia, that encompasses the immigrant experience and concerns. The last interviewee is Craig Norberg-Bohm of Jane Doe, Inc., in Massachusetts. The RAVEN program for men who batter that Craig co-founded initially used an all-volunteer staff. It recruited a diversity of men from the community to help other men, as well as themselves. But after more than a decade of coordinating the program and facilitating groups himself, Craig saw the need to broaden his efforts. The program impact was not increasing the way he had hoped. “The community needed to better support what was happening in the program,” according to Craig, in order to sustain the men’s change and also affect men in general. Thus, Craig turned to full-time community organizing to change social norms and enlist men and boys in general to stop violence against women. At Jane Doe, Inc., Craig has advanced the White Ribbon Day Campaign across Massachusetts. Community leaders, men “on the fence,” college students, and men of all stripes pledge to “never commit, condone, or remain silent about violence against women.” Craig also leads a host of other activities promoting a “healthy masculinity” in schools, colleges, and conferences. A lot of this organizing involves “messaging” a positive model of ongoing change—something that batterer programs could do more of themselves, according to Craig. LISA YOUNG LARANCE Lisa Young Larance, MSW, LCSW, founded and continues to coordinate RENEW (Reflectively Embracing Nonviolence through Education for Women), which is affiliated with the Catholic Social Services of Washtenaw County, Michigan (CSSW). RENEW is one of the leading advocacy, support, and intervention programs for women who have used force in their relationships. In February 2012, Lisa also became the supervisor for Alternatives to Domestic Aggression (ADA), based at CSSW, for men arrested for domestic violence. She established the international W-Catch22 Listserv that provides resource and information for professionals working with women who have used force, and chaired the first national conference on women’s use of force in 2010.

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In addition to being a national trainer, Lisa has published several articles on women’s use of force, and edited a special issue on the topic for the Violence Against Women journal (September 2012). Q: How did you get started doing this work? A: In 2000, I began volunteering and then working for Jersey Battered Women Service, Inc. (JBWS) in Morristown, NJ. I co-facilitated support groups for survivors of domestic violence; many of whom were living with their abusive partners. All of the women were living in the community rather than at the emergency shelter. During the group sessions, the women often talked about their desire to use violence―or their shame in having used violence—and often did so by whispering about it to each other. It was clear the topic was taboo and caused them discomfort to discuss openly. It was also a very challenging topic for us as service providers. There was, and often still is, the view in the anti-domestic violence movement that: “Domestic violence survivors don’t use violence because they’re victims. Victims don’t use violence. Perpetrators use violence.” That paradigm is unhelpful and unrealistic because it sets up an “either-or” frame of reference. It also uses the criminal legal system’s language to frame the issue. For example, there has been the perception that the woman is passive and a victim, or she is violent and a perpetrator. She cannot be both. But the reality of many women’s lives is not represented by that paradigm. Instead, many women I’ve worked with have used violence as a way to navigate what was being done to them, or had been done to them, in their intimate relationships. At the same time that we at JBWS were having in-house conversations regarding how we should address women’s use of force within our groups, women were increasingly being arrested for domestic violence. The municipal and superior court judges in metropolitan New Jersey began ordering battered women to participate in “batterers’ intervention” or “anger management” for using force against their intimate partners. One judge clearly stated that he wanted a place to send “female batterers” and if we didn’t have such a program—one just like the program for men who battered their partners― then he would stop court-ordering men arrested on domestic violence charges to the ACT batterers program. This presented a difficult situation for many reasons. I listened to the women each week as they detailed the extensive abuse against them and feelings that they had no option but to use violence to deal with that abuse. Some women were also specifically requesting services to address this use of violence because of the immobilizing shame they felt. They wanted to talk about their use of violence rather than their survivorship histories. I also observed that the women’s violence was different—in terms of the motivation,


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intent, and impact―from the men’s battering tactics. These women were not exercising power and control over the men, or instilling fear through domination. For example, their partners would laugh at them for using violence, whereas the women were typically very fearful of their male partners. We knew, therefore, that creating a program for women that was, according to the judge, “just like the one for the men” would be ill-informed, re-victimizing, and ineffective. Fortunately, those within JBWS’ leadership―mainly Jane Baldwin Shivas—had the foresight and creativity to understand what needed to be done. I was given the opportunity to create a separate program for women who used force. We decided it would be called “Vista” as it would be an extended view of serving the women, one grounded in a “healing place” philosophy that validates domestic violence survivorship and diverse life experiences, while encouraging a focus on violence-free options for their future. I had one year to create the program. During that time I spoke to women individually and in group sessions to gather their ideas and feedback on what would be helpful in a separate program. I also facilitated groups for men in the ACT program in order to more fully inform myself about the gendered dynamics of domestic violence. Vista’s first group took place in August 2002. After six months Jane and I provided an agency and community-wide training on the lessons we learned during that time. This was a very powerful experience as it encouraged feedback and information sharing among a wide-variety of people. The state coalition for battered women’s services invited us to provide training as well. This multi-layered approach to the issue was key to its early success, because it provided space for what can be a difficult conversation. Our training, and subsequent conversations, demonstrated that we were all working for the same things—keeping women and their families safe and violence-free. Q: Are there any other supports that have helped in sustaining this work? A: The women’s trust in me, as well as the relationships I have formed with those in the anti-violence movement, have sustained me over the years. My relationship with Shamita Das Das Dagupta, for example, has been pivotal. Her 2002 article regarding a framework for understanding women’s use of force became a “touch stone” for me. Having her to email or call about how isolating it can be to do this work became an important lifeline. Within the anti-domestic violence movement, it has been a solitary existence at times. Some feminists felt I was a “traitor” to the women for having such services, while members of law enforcement felt I wasn’t hard enough on the women. Writing has been another avenue for me to gain support and to feel like I am making a difference in the women’s lives beyond the group room. After publishing a 2006 article on Vista, I met Donna Gardner, who was doing this

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work in Ohio. Making connections with her and others helped sustain me personally, but also encouraged me to seek new ways to disseminate information, and doing and thinking about all that involves effectively addressing women’s use of force. That is why I established the W-Catch22 listserv in 2007. More recently, I have developed collaborations with researchers in the field, and closer to home I have supervised interns who offered a different kind of sustaining support. Q: What’s kept you going over these years, especially considering the difficult and often contentious role of working with women who use violence? A: What keeps me going on a more personal level is my curiosity and absolute respect for the women’s resilience, no matter where the women are. Women in New Jersey, women in Michigan, women in Hong Kong, they have so many common themes to their experiences with resilience and hope at the forefront. Hearing women week after week share how they feel increasingly empowered and are regaining their sense of self is profound. Not long ago I was out to breakfast with my family. To my surprise one of the servers had been in our RENEW program two years before. She came to my table and, in tears, said, “This is what you helped me accomplish: I am out of the relationship, and I have my daughter back. I even have my own place. Thank you for saving my life.” That is what being alive is about for me: making a difference. Q: You said that there is a striking difference between men’s presentation of the violence and the women’s presentation. What are the primary differences that stand out to you? A: From the very first call for an intake assessment, the women will take complete responsibility for what’s happened, and in so many cases, they take responsibility for what their partner did to them as well. They also want to know how they can get help for their male partner. They also carry an internalized shame and self-hatred for what they have done, and it really seems to mask any identification with being a survivor. For example, one woman denied being a survivor of domestic violence, but she mentioned her boyfriend intentionally pushed her backward down a flight of stairs when she was eight months pregnant—all because she received a college scholarship. From her point of view, she was the perpetrator because she now hits back when a man tries to hurt her. When I ask about what happened, many women will say, “Yes, in this situation I used violence and this is what I did….” They are able to give the finest details: if they used a knife, where it happened, what they were wearing, what the room smelled like. They are so acutely tuned-in to doing something that they never thought they would do. When men first call and through the first few months of programing, they tend to claim, “I didn’t do it, she is a


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manipulative bitch, she’s lying, she just wants my money, she is trying to get the kids.” It is so very, very different from the women’s responses. Many women will come in and say, “I’m not a person who will do well in groups, I can’t do that, I would do better in individual counseling,” and I explain the benefits and strengths of the group process. I also remind women that this is an opportunity to heal from the past and move forward. Many women tell me that they are not going to share, but in the first or second group session, they detail a great deal of their experience. They leave the first group in tears so happy and relieved that there are other people who look very different, but who share a sense of shame and circumstance in their life. Men, however, will come to the group and deny everything—everything. Q: Why is this notable difference so overlooked by those who claim “women are as violent as men”? A: I think it is so overlooked because people are focusing on the actions used, on the “incident,” or on the crime. They are coming at it from an entirely criminal-legal system perspective: “This is what the woman did, and it is against the law. So what is good for him is good for her.” From my perspective, that completely misses the point. We need to know the relationship history, we need to know the trauma history, we need to know the structural factors of economics, access to resources—all of those things—for him and her. We are also asking the wrong questions. Service providers will often ask women “yes and no” questions. For example, “Are you afraid of him?” If a woman says, “no” then she is not considered a survivor. Instead we need to be asking questions that get to the coercive control going on in the relationship. The violence is really not the primary concern; the coercive control is. Questions such as: “Do you dread his presence? Are there things he can do to you that no one else seems to understand? Does he check up on you?” Those are the questions that begin to focus on the essence of domestic violence—the absolute regulation of one’s personhood. Much of what the men are doing to establish and maintain power and control through coercion is not against the law. They are able not only to harness the fear and control, but also to reinforce it in countless ways. Their female partners are trying to explain that, trying to negotiate it, and trying to deal with it. As a result, they get so frustrated that they then try to equalize it by resorting to violence. The man’s use of violence, on the other hand, may or may not be one of many components of control that he is using against her. Q: There is a sense in the gender research that the socialization of women is diversifying and changing with more images of strong, assertive women. The number of women involved in the military, in gangs, and in prison for violent crimes has also increased in recent years. How is that affecting the women that come to your program?

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A: I have definitely noticed an intergenerational difference in the women’s perception of their own sense of agency and what is viable. For instance, we have a fifty-year-old woman in group who has “taken” abuse from her partner over many years; she didn’t feel safe enough to use force to stop him, but now she does. Whereas, the twenty-year-old woman is more likely to use preemptive force because “nobody has time for that.” The twenty-year-old woman talks about the extent of her violence in a way that draws a “wow” from the other women in the group, and explains that she saw her mother beaten and she is “not able to let a man raise a hand against her.” There are these generational differences, but we have to be careful how we define power. What is “power” in the boardroom, the gang circle, or the prison yard? How each woman defines power in her extended circle may be very different from her perception of power in an intimate relationship. There are many women in the group who have high-profile jobs, but their intimate relationships are still modeled on the framework of their parents or their grandparents. In other words, a woman may earn six figures but still does all the cooking and housework because “that is women’s work.” The gender roles are so entrenched that she is living almost a double life—and because of her use of force she is now paying her male abuser alimony and child support. Q: One of the challenges related to the advances in working with women is the sentiment it brings to the men’s work, “I am a victim too. I have trauma. I was abused growing up and by my partner.” What’s your reaction to that? A: Yes, many men have trauma histories. But there is a fine line of what is appropriate for group intervention and what needs to be addressed in individual therapy. We also have to be mindful that trauma does not allow us to pathologize men or women when it comes to intimate partner violence. An awareness of trauma is important but we must maintain a focus on the structural factors that are responsible for men’s violence against women. A desire for power and control in a relationship and using that desire to dismantle another person’s life cannot be blamed on trauma. Q: So how would you characterize your program approach? A: What happens in each RENEW group and how that has evolved is detailed in an article in the journal Violence Against Women. Each group is led by a member of the group and co-facilitated by an experienced staff person. The women choose the session leader at the previous session, and that person uses a binder full of many different poems, readings, and ideas to open the group meeting. Some items have been written by the group members. The group leader then lights a candle for all the people who have been affected by domestic violence. Following this opening, the facilitator takes care of the paper work and payments. The next forty-five minutes or so are devoted to an “accountability circle.” Accountability is defined in terms of the actions toward, or involving others,


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that reflect the integrity of the people we want to be. Each woman shares an example of her accountability from the past week. The idea is to focus on activities of daily life and see them through this lens of how we want to be. There is really very little focus on past “would have, should have, could have.” The sessions are purposefully group-content led, rather than curriculumfocused. By that I mean, we go through topics like skill building, use of language, identifying boundaries, and safety and support planning, but they are brought into the group based on themes from the women’s accountability check-in. It’s much more of an organic discussion, rather than a psychoeducational or classroom format. We utilize a full range of what is in the Vista curriculum, including the difference between aggressive, assertive, and passive-aggressive behavior; a model for making choices; and relationship histories and patterns. We facilitate this information coming from and through the other women, rather than saying “this is the way that it is.” In this process, the women feel like they are truly learning from one another, and the sharing and connection made through the power of the group dynamic. Q: On the surface, it doesn’t sound much different than what might be done in a men’s group. A: It may not sound different but, in terms of content and process, it is very different. Any time a women uses the words such as, “kinda, maybe, sort of, I am sorry”—anything that minimizes her sense of agency—the facilitators and other group members will have the person rephrase the word in terms of taking complete ownership. It is not that she is minimizing what she has done in terms of violence; she will overemphasize that. She will minimize this way, “I just got a personal protection order,” or “I just filed for him to finally pay child support.” Q: What do you look for in recruiting facilitators for your groups? A: What I generally look for is a personal presentation that gives an indication of compassion and the innate ability to truly be present as a human being. To me, that is more important than any professional degree. When I talk to potential staff, I look to see if they are waiting to talk, or are really listening to me. I want to gauge their use of body language and eye contact as well as how comfortable they make others feel. Fundamental interpersonal skills, that can be very difficult to learn, are essential to being an effective facilitator. Q: What about the various characterizations of women acting in selfdefense, as “terroristic,” or as a “violent resister?” Do those categories make sense in sorting out women who use force? A: People in many fields want categories for women’s actions so they can more easily define the women. The labels can be useful in pointing out differences to consider, but we have to understand that the women’s behavior

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is complex and varies with different circumstances. I don’t think that there is enough work done on women with survivorship histories, who then get into a comparatively safe relationship and their past trauma comes to the surface. More needs to be done on all of this. Much more work also needs to be done using women’s own words to define their experiences. Q: Are there any special issues to consider in working with AfricanAmerican women? A: There are multiple issues to consider when working with any diverse population. When it comes to women’s use of force, African-American women are burdened with intersecting oppressions, many securely grounded in racism. The majority of RENEW groups are 50–60 percent African-American women. That is partially due to the demographic of the area we serve and the arrest practices of many police forces in the area. The dominant stereotypes that African-American women are more violent than white women―or somehow naturally violent—are additional layers of oppression that AfricanAmerican women have to deal with when it comes to police intervention. To be very simplistic, there is a perception among members of law enforcement and the public that women who are Caucasian are more likely to be “real” victims of domestic violence, because a “real” victim is passive, quiet, submissive, and white. In contrast, as the stereotype goes, AfricanAmerican women can’t be victims because they are unapologetically strong and invulnerable. Women I work with in group explain that because there is this idea of the “strong Black woman,” the women feel they are more likely to be arrested and often are. As a result, African-American women, in general, state feeling very reluctant to call the police. As one AfricanAmerican woman in a group session recently explained, “I would rather get beat than call the police.” Q: What’s your response to the turn toward psychopathology as a fundamental factor in violence? A: I don’t dismiss the fact that many people involved in altercations of random gun violence may have mental health issues. But mental health and substance abuse issues don’t make someone a batterer. Someone may have a mental health issue, but that’s not an excuse for battering your partner and exerting coercive control. Domestic violence is an issue of power and control supported by long-practiced, socio-cultural belief systems and practices. In cases of domestic violence, focusing on psychopathology typically detracts from what is really going on. If women come to the RENEW program presenting with mental health issues, they may need to engage in individual therapy to address those issues. It is not uncommon that a woman would already have an individual therapist to address those issues and then come to RENEW to explore her use of violence


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and her survivorship history. There are often many different layers to what is happening and how that can be addressed. I see too many women who are using violence and have survivorship histories, diagnosed with a Borderline Personality Disorder or randomly given anti-depressants to make “things better.” Many women report wanting the prescription so they will feel better but then suffer the side effects of the medication or feel frustrated when things don’t get “better” with the medication. It’s an injustice to the women, and it should be embarrassing for the people prescribing the medication. “Fixing” an individual’s use of force or history of suffering domestic violence cannot be done with a pill. That may be a component of the solution, but we must think strategically and long-term. The easily-handed-out prescription gives many women the message that they are sick and everything can be fixed through medication. This couldn’t be further from the truth. It is interesting to note that there are a number of women who have purposely gone off of their medication while they’re in RENEW, saying, “I want to be able to handle this on my own.” In RENEW many women learn that it is okay to feel unhappy, and that being unhappy, disillusioned, confused, is significantly different from being clinically depressed. There are times when it is okay to explore the unhappiness, live in it, and work through it, so you can get to the other side. Of course, there are situations when medication is a critical component of individual therapy, but we need to be thinking more broadly of how we address women’s mental health issues; the focus cannot be on medication alone. Q: How has your view and work changed from your initial impressions? A: I started out wondering if women could really effectively exert coercive control in an intimate heterosexual relationship. At some point, I thought, “Okay, yes, they can.” But after fifteen years of this work, I have yet to work with a woman who was truly able to coercively control her male partner. When serving lesbian women, I have grown to understand more about a horizontal power dynamic, and what battering looks like in a lesbian relationship. Other ideas and skills have also evolved. I came from an agency where the philosophy did not support having observers in group or a close relationship with probation agents. Now I see observers in group as an opportunity for education and empowerment. I have also established informed working relationships with probation agents that enable nuanced advocacy and intervention for the women. Community relationships and trust among community partners is essential to effective micro-intervention. If I can get probation, the judges, and the police on board, then these women’s groups will be less needed. Fewer women will be getting arrested. I see this broader view as contributing to my initial vision, but I didn’t understand the necessity for it early on.

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Q: What do you mean by getting the police, judges, and probation “on board”? A: By “on board” I mean helping them gain a deeper understanding of the complexity of the issue and the gender differences when women use violence versus when men batter. When I first came to Michigan, I had some conversations with police who said, “We were there at the domestic violence calls, and saw the women being violent. They are just like the men.” It was very frustrating. Not long after, I had the good fortune of providing training in which our District Court Judge was in attendance. That led to some wonderful conversations and being invited to provide county-wide trainings for criminal justice personnel. This has been a key component to getting people on board with the dynamics of women’s use of force as well as appropriate consequences. It has inspired trust as well as ongoing conversation. Q: Are there any advantages or disadvantages from having men and women programs under the same umbrella agency? A: That’s a great question that I think about a lot. I’m now the Domestic Violence Intervention Services Coordinator at Catholic Social Services of Washtenaw County. We have a very strong working relationship with our county’s survivor services agency, Safe House Center. As long as we are thoughtful and informed about our work, as well as always self-evaluating how and why we do the work, having our services within the same setting should not be a problem. More of the ethical dilemma for me is having battered women court-ordered to services which may potentially pose a greater risk to their safety. That is something all of us need to be concerned about and need to talk about with each woman’s unique situation. Q: What are your thoughts on the broader claim that batterer’s intervention doesn’t work? A: The people making such claims need to directly observe ADA groups on a long-term basis. If they would do so they would witness the incremental and gradual change many men in the program undergo. There’s no doubt that a weekend batterer intervention program, or a program not focused on accountability, is not effective. In that case, batterers’ intervention doesn’t work. If the skeptics really want to see the benefits, they have to look for those incremental changes, and also be willing to see such changes, and maybe in ways they haven’t seen them before. Researchers especially need to look for the process of change. They have to sit down and listen to a group session more than once to grasp what is happening in the men’s lives and with their thought processes. It takes longer than one visit; it’s intensive work. To really understand what is happening in this anti-violence movement, you must hear the individual stories and witness how lives are changed on a very basic level.


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Q: In terms of the overall field, there seems to be a wide variety of approaches and claims. Any sense of where we go from here? A: We have to keep talking and learning from one another—and get rid of the idea that “I am doing it right, and because you’re doing it differently, you are doing it wrong.” We have a lot to learn from each other. If we come together in a more united way, we can better serve those who are in need. There is such an amazing range of incredibly insightful, energetic, and compassionate people doing this work. We have to do what we can to sustain that energy and learn from each other. As we move in that direction we must remember the voices of those who go unheard when we become distracted and stray from good work. I also hope for more practitioner-researcher collaborations. Does practice inform research or does research inform practice? Often the two seem to not know anything or, at the very least, little of the other. More practitioners need to read the research and more researchers need to speak with practitioners. Q: Any thoughts about program standards for your work and their role in helping to advance it? A: I think we have to absolutely have standards, because we need to have consistent training and monitoring. However, we also need to balance that with other training and supervision, the kind of participants who are in our groups, and the nature of their feedback about the program and their situations. We can’t just focus on whether a person has, for example, a Master’s degree in Social Work or not. Ultimately, he or she has to be able to connect with diverse groups of people in a compassionate manner. That is the heart of the work. JULIA PERILLA Julia Perilla, Ph.D., is a clinical community psychologist and faculty member in the Department of Psychology at Georgia State University. Her work in the areas of domestic violence, diversity, Latino families, and trauma uses a human rights and social justice framework, which she applies to her research and interventions with immigrant communities. Julia is co-founder of Caminar Latino, a comprehensive intervention for Latino families affected by domestic violence in Georgia. She also serves as the director of the National Latina Research Center on Family and Social Change, and was a founding member of Alianza, the National Latino Alliance for the Elimination of Domestic Violence. In addition to serving on numerous national steering committees and advisory boards, Julia has participated in several national meetings of researchers, practitioners, and policy makers where she’s promoted the use of research as a tool for social change.

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Q: Why did you get started in this work? A: I started with abused women in about 1990. At that particular point, the expectation was that we did our job if the women left their partner. I hadn’t ever talked to anybody who had been working with Latinas, so I went with what the field said about working with domestic violence cases in general. For many of the women, we talked about the things they needed to do, and how they could get to know their strengths. We started with a strength perspective more than anything. It was like “okay, let’s see how you can get out of this mess.” The awareness came later that one size doesn’t fit all. We were talking to immigrant Latinas whose family was central. What they were asking for was information, and support from other women like themselves. I was able to draw on direct experience of domestic abuse from my two partners: one a Latino man, and the other an American man. I saw myself in the stories of the women. When they would say that they wanted the violence to stop, but not necessarily leave their partner, we would say if the women become more knowledgeable they are going to change their minds. Then I said, “You know that happened to me too. How are we going to change the men? What is going to happen to them?” The women said, “You will have to work with the men and also the kids who have seen all this.” There wasn’t anything in the books, the university, or research to direct us on this. It was simply listening to the women and realizing what they were asking for. I started talking with the Men Stopping Violence program in Atlanta. They were very honest about their concerns that our working with men might put the women and children at a disadvantage. Their executive director emphasized how dangerous it was. She said, “It’s the same for women everywhere.” And I responded, “No, I think it’s different, especially with the immigrant women who count on their partner as sometimes the only other person they know and can talk to. I will be very, very careful, but I will continue to listen to the women. If that’s what they want us to do (start a men’s program), we will have to give it a try.” So that is how we started. At the same time, there was a very cool man, Felipe, the partner of one of the women in our group. Felipe came to me and asked me, “When are we going to start working with men? We need to work with men. I need to have somebody that I can talk about what I have done.” So, we started to invite some of the partners of the women to come on their own to a men’s group. Judges weren’t sending men to programs yet. The whole issue is the amount of violence that men in our culture witness and do. It’s in the backs of their minds because they have seen it so often. You need to look at the group as a sharing of information, and not just attending to avoid going to jail. It was really a matter of seeing the men as companeros— much more as an equal. We are all capable of violence with our families, with our children, with other people, so what is it that we need to do to stop


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that violence? We started looking at how we dealt with one another, how we approached the men. We knew that if we were doing this from a top-down approach it was not going to work, because the men would go home and take it out on their partner. We tried to be incredibly respectful of the men. At the same time, we talked about control in general. When I have grandkids, I am always controlling them. I do it differently depending on the child and the situation. I bring that into the group and it’s something that the men can really relate to. We tried to show respect and expected the men to do the same with their partner and their children. That has worked for us. I don’t know if it will work with other men who are not Latinos. We are really good at working with low-income, usually not well-educated men from Mexico and Central America. We have become knowledgeable about that. But with middle-class men from South America and the Caribbean Islands, we don’t do so well. Q: Why do you think that is the case? A: I think that when the migrant men go to a group like ours, it is the first time they see themselves as respected. Many don’t have documents, or much education. They also have a history of horrendously difficult situations, including their trip into our country. You hear them say, “Wait a minute. I do that, and no, it’s not working. I lost my family because of what I’ve done. Now I can’t see my children. There is a restraining order against me. What do I need to do so that does not continue to happen?” But the men who are middle-class and more educated, their arrogance is amazing. I have asked Men Stopping Violence about it, because they get a lot of white men and African Americans, but much more educated, and they don’t know what is to be done. Their attitude is a completely different thing. In the seventeen years since we started working with the men, I learned how to do this with people who are from a very specific group. It has to be within the context of their lives, their reality, their everyday experiences. If you get somebody, for example, who is a CEO, there is no way they are going to hear the same thing as what someone who is building homes is hearing. Q: So, when you say “one size doesn’t fit all” are you thinking primarily in terms of culture, ethnicity, and class, or also psychological types, such as depressive men versus more anti-social men? A: I have seen anti-social men come to Camino Latino and I know exactly who they are. I can think of four who are positively antisocial, out of almost a thousand men. Frankly, I’m not sure that we can do much with those particular men. I can remember one man from Colombia who was well educated. One time I questioned him on something that he had said about his partner, and he came back so forcefully and disrespectfully that the other men in the group had to calm him down. The men were trying to protect me from this

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man. He had his partner’s mother and father in Colombia killed. He is in jail now. This is such an outlier, however. Q: How would you characterize your approach overall? A: There are some basic things in our approach overall. The idea of respect is extremely important. We can’t ask the men to respect their partner and children if they feel disrespected by us. There is also the idea that we have to tailor our intervention to the men’s lived reality. One thing for them to understand is that violence is not acceptable. Where did we all learn it, because we use violence a lot? We can be very different growing up in one type of family versus another type of family, for example. Sometimes we have people from Central America and from Mexico, who have seen a lot of civil war and such horrific killings. For them, it’s important to be able to say, “I remember the first time that I saw somebody murdered.” What did it feel like? Was it scary? How old were you? If they don’t tell us where they learned the violence, and what kinds of things they’ve gone through, we can’t help them get beyond it. Q: Any more thoughts or descriptions on how you establish or show respect? A: We don’t use the term “batterers.” It is very difficult to translate the word “batterer” into Spanish. So we say the man’s name. I feel very strongly that unless we see somebody in their entirety, we are going to see only men who batter, or women who are victims, or children who are witnesses. We are not going to be able to see the possibilities for each person. What possibilities are there for the men, what does he need to do for his family to feel safe around him, what does he need to change if his family no longer wants to be around him? What we want to do is not only to explore the beginnings of their violent experience, but what they are feeling. “I feel really bad today, but I don’t feel scared. I feel so sad, I feel anger, I am frustrated.” The men learn when they are getting angry, where they start getting angry, and what to do at that particular point. I know that is very simple, but it works for them. It also makes sense when we talk about the fact that we always have a chance to back down before things turn violent. It’s not just “I am really hot-blooded and that’s the way it happens.” It is what we have been believing all of our lives. I get very energized because I love working with the guys. Q: How would you summarize that approach in a few sentences? A: It is actually about looking at positive things; what are the strengths in this man? Where are the places where he feels the tenderness toward his newborn child, or his sick mother in Mexico? It is also about looking at the entire person and what is happening to him in that particular point. If we don’t hear about his mother’s impending death, he’s not going to address his own violence. Right now he is hurting so much that he is not going to respond in any helpful way in the group. It is a way of giving permission to bring parts


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of their lives into the group—not as an excuse, not ever as an excuse—and helping them understand how they got to where they are. At the same time, we call them on inappropriate behavior and help them do the same thing with each other. For example, if they laugh at violence, we say what just happened here? Somebody is smiling when somebody says that he punched somebody. Comments like that. Q: How do you recruit or find people that can show that range of respect and confrontation at the same time? A: First of all, we have staffers who have been doing this work for a very long time. Felipe, for instance, has been here for seventeen years. Right now, we have two other men: one is still in training, and the other one is a former group member who attended for three years and trained some more after that. We meet with the women advocates and the child advocates to discuss especially the families of men coming to the men’s group. That is the best way for us to get a “reality check” on exactly how people are doing. When we have that information, we are able to say this certain guy is still very controlling. Let’s talk about this as a topic in the next class. But we do it in a way that no one feels like they are being singled out. Rather that this is something that a lot of men are thinking, even if they are not doing it. Another topic that has come up this way is sexual abuse. We didn’t talk about it much in the past. Once we started talking about it, so many of the men said, “Yes, I have done that.” And we say, “Your partner is a human being, so she gets to decide about her body.” Also we might say, “Remember what it felt like when you were little and abused yourself. Then imagine what you are doing to your partner and what it must feel like for her. Also what your children are hearing and feeling.” The children are an amazing help because it doesn’t matter how much a man may be rough and tough, his children are really important to him. We say, “Unless things change, your child is going to be here when he grows up.” They say, “I don’t want that, so what do I need to do?” We work with the whole family in our Latino agency, also the women and children. The women are meeting with advocates in their groups and the children are meeting in groups separately with their group facilitators. Q: Does your academic background contribute to this work in particular ways? Or do you draw more on your community and personal experience? A: More on my community experience. We realize that the women are asking for something, and that the children have talked about something they are concerned about. We hear about sexual abuse among the children, because the dad is very controlling or was beating his partner in front of the children. At the same time, there were other people living at home and the children have been sexually abused by them. We talk about those things to create

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critical consciousness. “It’s not only about the fact that I hit my partner, it’s also the fact that my violence left it wide open for the children to be abused.” That kind of awareness comes definitely from experience. When my students and I go back into the literature on such things, there is little there to help us. Q: There is an increasing emphasis on psychopathology these days. Any thoughts you have on that topic? A: There is a definite need for mental health in general. Without a doubt, some of the families whom we see definitely need individual mental health treatment, including children. For instance, a young girl, thirteen years old, was cutting herself and wanted to kill herself. She said that in her group, so the group leader immediately called me, and I took the mother and the child to the mental health clinic. I was able to bring her to the clinic even though she did not have documents. In that case, I use my clinical degree. It may be a woman who is considering suicide. The staff calls me, and I do an assessment and determine what needs to be done. But the violence is not merely a mental health issue. As a clinical psychologist, I have to put my clinical training aside, and look at this from a human rights perspective. That means that everybody has the right to live without violence, and live where their safety is secure, where safety is something that they can expect. It means that children can grow up without feeling like they have to keep their mother alive, and without fearing their father coming home. It’s becoming even more complex and ever less clinical, because of the social conditions that have been created as a result of the new laws in Georgia about undocumented immigrants. Even for women who would be very happy for their partner to go to jail, they are not calling the police because they are afraid that they are going to be put under protective services or deported. This is not something we have to tell them about. It is the result of human beings interacting in an environment that is not conducive to social justice and basic human rights. Q: You mentioned the horrible violence that many of these people have experienced in their country of origin. Isn’t there a great potential for psychological trauma as a result? A: We have a church-run mental health service that has a Spanish speaker to accept and help with such cases. In the past, if there is a man who seems very sad and doesn’t seem to be able to pull out of it, we don’t use the clinical terms like “depression.” I say, “What’s happening, why are you looking so sad, what kinds of things are you planning to do?” Sometimes he would say that he is trying very hard to be different and actually would like to talk to a mental health professional. In such cases, we do refer men to psychological treatment.


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Q: Has your approach or ideas changed or evolved in any special way over the years? A: At first, I was completely unaware of what the women eventually taught me. If it were not for them, I would still be expecting all abused women to leave the relationship. Fortunately, they respected me enough to say this is not going to work. The other lesson is the importance of inviting men to talk about their own experiences of being victims of violence. The men start talking about something like that, and other men start nodding their head. If you didn’t bully, kick, and really do mean things to anybody, that was a sign of weakness. You were called all kinds of horrible names. In some programs, I know they don’t allow those discussions to happen. For us it has been very necessary to be able to fine-tune our approach as we go. Another thing that we have changed is that at the beginning we did not charge any money, because of the fact that we were at a Catholic Mission. The mission said, “All of the things here are free of charge.” We changed our approach to men by offering a combination of community service and cash, when the State of Georgia mandated that all men sent to a “batterer intervention program” had to pay a fee. Some men had two or three jobs and others would pay outright. But there were others who didn’t have jobs and would pay through service hours. They always bring their money. Or they would say, “I didn’t get paid this week, and can bring it in next week.” We always would say, “Of course.” In those ways, we have changed some of our ways of looking at the men. We look at them much more now in terms of family—how they fit within the family—and try to understand more the kinds of families that they come from. That is making a huge impact on the way that the men are responding to the program. It’s more about incorporating their reality into what we do. Q: How do you view women’s violence and how do you deal with it? A: Women are, of course, capable of using violence. We have a small project for women about their own use of violence. Overwhelmingly, these women have been beaten or raped in the past. We do have some that say, “My partner has never hit me, but I have hit him.” It usually happens because the woman was sexually abused as a child and is taking it out on somebody. Many do come to us and say, from day one, “I have a problem.” The men, however, don’t think they’ve done anything wrong. The women are very honest about their violence because they feel bad about it. There are some women who also need to do the same kind of process as the men: “Where did you learn this, why did you start using violence, do you do this with just your partner or also with your children?” One of the women advocates actually has a one-hour group for women who work on their own violence before they go into the women’s survivor group. They work on

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their own violence, but also talk about the violence that has been committed against them. This is not just Latina immigrants: this is a lot of people. It’s perhaps different in different ethnic groups, but I think women advocates are often hesitant to talk about it. We are allowing our detractors to capitalize on that, instead of saying, “There are women who are violent, and at the same time, these are women who have been abused in horrible ways.” There are some who haven’t been abused, but they are the exception. They need help and have to be held accountable. If anyone is being hit at home, it is not a safe environment for anyone. So it’s not an either-or. Men are more violent, but most of them, if they have a chance, will try to change. Women are capable of violence too, and tend to feel bad about it and are much more willing to talk about it. We need to be wise about how we think about this, however. It’s not gender symmetry, or that women are more violent. That claim doesn’t take into consideration the entire reality of women and what has happened before they were violent. Q: What makes you feel that batterer programs are effective and should receive referrals and funding? A: I feel like we expect miracles, and this is not about miracles. This is about real life. This is about the reality of people who have many things coming at them—not only domestic violence. The idea that programs don’t work is because some of the programs don’t in fact work. You should see the things going on in Georgia. “For profit” programs are on the increase. The men are wise to that and say, “This is just a money-making thing and so that is not going to help anybody.” There are going to be negative consequences as a result of the men seeing it as a money-making thing: The judge sent them so that somebody else can make money, as opposed to the judge sending them because they messed up and need to learn something. I would have to look at who is saying programs don’t work and why. Some of the things that we tell men do not work. We do them sometimes ourselves. We also promise things, and then we don’t go through with them. By and large, we have an opportunity with these programs to do some good. The women and children from Camino Latino say things are not perfect, but they are better. We invite men to continue coming, and some of them do without having to pay. For some others, they are expecting perfect men? We’re never going to have that in six months or even a year. But most men become more aware of what they are doing and the effect, not just on them and their partner, but also on their children. All of this hard work of changing is done by many men because they don’t want their children to end up like them. It’s what parts of it have worked, and how can we learn from the mistakes we have made, what issues don’t really need to be brought up, or what needs to be brought up in groups. It is very


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easy to point fingers, but if we do the work, share what we know and what we have learned, that would be helpful for all of us and new people coming into the field. I do think that it would be an incredible mistake to stop the work with men or dramatically cut it back: it is so needed. Q: What would you recommend to researchers to better document the contribution of batterer programs? What kind of research is needed? A: I think that mixed methods are needed because the numbers of quantitative studies are not going to do it. We have to be very careful with the instruments being used. How are they being asked? Do the people really understand them? Are we looking at this so clinically that we forget the community in which the men live and the social conditions in it? We have not taken into consideration that domestic violence for many families may not be the most urgent thing in their lives. For instance, if my husband is taken by the police, it means that he is going to be gone. “I don’t have papers, so I’m going to have to start dancing at a bar, and that’s very dangerous. I’m going to leave my children alone.” But we come asking about domestic violence alone, without asking about all of the other things that are happening. My partner Kim works with African-American women here in Georgia, at the Women’s Resources Center. Overwhelmingly, more people are coming who have been beaten or raped. At the same time, they are homeless and living in the streets with their children. They are moving from shelter to shelter. They are having to use their bodies as a means of getting food for their children. If we ask questions about domestic violence to these women, the meaning of the question is going to be very different to them. It’s also disrespectful to think that we know what is most important or front-and-center for a lot of people whom we work with. So, the idea of having researchers say our efforts don’t work doesn’t consider for whom and in what way. We are simply not asking the right questions. Researchers have to be a lot more flexible on the way they interpret findings. Then they need to take that information back to the community. There is going to be somebody who will ask what kind of questions did you ask? That’s what my students do in their projects: They go back to the community and say, “Look this is what we found when we did the analysis; what do you all think?” They may not have considered how many people lived in the house? Are they family members? I think that we look at numbers, but we don’t sufficiently look at the lives of people who gave us the numbers and what that means to them. Q: What are your thoughts on the role of the program connections and linkages with other services and the courts? A: One program alone can’t do this. We have to be very good at reaching out to different people in the community who can help us with things that we

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can’t do ourselves. When we see a need with children, for instance, we call on our bilingual children’s psychologist who works with children who have been sexually abused. We do alcohol awareness within the groups for men in the first forty-five minutes, since we have them three-and-a-half hours every week. The men talk about substance abuse, which is a huge part of our community. We are able to send people who need substance abuse help to a bilingual treatment center. We have a very active connection with the women’s shelters. We have outside assistance for women’s health issues like HIV/AIDS. A nurse does testing and makes referrals. We are constantly looking for other organizations who want to refer to our services and we reciprocate. They send families to us, including schools, and we refer people to them. It’s very much a network. Q: What needs to be done to bring more consistency to the field? Is it a matter of standards or training? A: First of all, we have to get rid of the regulating commission in our state, because the commissioners are not trained to oversee this work from a community perspective. In the community, domestic violence is one of seventeen or twenty-seven things hurting people, so we need to be a little bit more humble. The fact that the men are acting out, or that they are not doing exactly what they should, may be some of our own doing. If the men are not being respected, programs may not work. That needs to be taken into consideration when we do program evaluations: Whether men feel that they are understood, listened to, and respected. Q: A lot of efforts have been put into program standards in your state. Can you say more about that? A: There is still a disconnect among providers here. I know that the commission has tried very hard to address that. We have county-wide task forces to bring people together, but they vary depending where they are. The same people end up saying the same things over and over, and others get tired of hearing it. It’s always better if somebody comes from the outside and tries to get people to talk about the issues. Otherwise, there is a lot of stepping on people’s toes. Part of the problem is that we already know a lot, the “dos and don’ts.” But being able to share that with each other is another matter. We have to be able to say, “We fell on our faces with this or that,” and be honest. And then ask, “Does anybody have better ideas about this?” This is the kind of thing that would be so helpful. There are so many kinds of people doing this work. There are already different factions of providers who say, “My way or no other thing.” In reality, there needs to be many ways because of the diversity of the people that need help. Imagine what happens for a woman who is abused, has no papers, and doesn’t speak English. She is not going to


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mental health services. We have to look at what resources are there, and what is available and open: What we need to do to collaborate. Q: What has sustained you over all of these years? What’s kept you at it? A: The families! We do this as a family thing—we know the children, the children know me, we celebrate their birthdays, we know when their fathers are taken away. It becomes more of a community thing, it’s my community. It’s something that seems to help. We have women who are still coming to our groups, and have become leaders doing workshops in the community and letting other women know their rights. It’s such a blessing for me to be able to do this work; it so energizes me. CRAIG NORBERG-BOHM Craig Norberg-Bohm is one of the founding members of RAVEN (Rape and Violence End Now) in St. Louis, one of the first programs in the country for men who batter. After ten years as staff coordinator at RAVEN, Craig moved toward community organizing and change first through Community Works, Inc., which represents a coalition of organizations working on social justice issues. Since 2002, he’s worked for Jane Doe, Inc., of the Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence. He is the coordinator of the Men’s Initiative for Jane Doe, Inc., devoted to recruiting men and boys to unite against violence against women. Massachusetts White Ribbon Day Campaign is one of its main ongoing activities. Craig sees this sort of community work as an essential support to batterer programs, as well as a crucial part of much needed violence primary prevention. Q: How did you get started in this work and come to establish the RAVEN program in St. Louis? A: I’m a founder of RAVEN; I was there before it had a name, and ran its very first meetings. The program was spun out of the 4th National Conference of Men and Masculinity that was held in St. Louis in 1977. The conference embraced art and music, gay and straight life, and gender and sexual issues, all with the aim of helping men think about their emotional side. A lot of excitement and enthusiasm led to a cohort of men wanting to carry on that work locally after that conference. From that, a group of us started thinking that we have to do something about ending men’s violence against women as a part of all of this. So, there were coffee houses, concerts, regular rap groups, and Sunday brunches over the next few years talking about how to do this. In 1978, we formalized a project around working on violence against women that was to eventually become RAVEN.

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I have a personal story about how I found the Masculinity conference to begin with. I was an engineering graduate student without a strong direction, avoiding going into the army and the Vietnam War by keeping a student deferment. Then one day, I was walking down the street and saw a poster announcing the Third National Conference on Men and Masculinity with the title, “Straight, White Males Wrestling with the Master Culture.” It had a pen-and-ink drawing of a young man shivering in a cold wind. The man was clearly outdoors and in some sense of isolation. I thoroughly identified with that feeling and the call to action with it. So, I had to go to that conference and, as a result, found a community and a sense of belonging that propelled me forward. There was a workshop at the conference by a group from Springfield, Illinois, doing work against rape culture. They called themselves the “Men’s Task Force Against Rape and Sexism.” And they had a feminist analysis about rape culture that was very interesting to me. Then that summer, a group of women who were starting the first rape crisis hotline in St. Louis, Missouri, offered a training for community volunteers. They were also interested in finding someone to refer the men who called the hotline about their being violent toward their partners. We had a brainstorming session about providing such a service, and were literally looking through a dictionary, when someone came up with “Raven,” and someone else said, “Quoth the raven, ‘Nevermore’” (the line from Edgar Allen Poe’s famous poem of the same name). For us, RAVEN stood for Rape And Violence End Now. Q: How did the RAVEN program take shape from there? A: We had a group of passionate people who wanted to volunteer—ready to roll up their sleeves and figure out something they could do. We just started taking referrals from the shelter hotline. I and Harvey Levitt started a selfhelp type group based on active listening. Harvey was a clinical social worker in the field of drug addiction where he used this sort of approach and drew on it with our domestic violence referrals. We started with an open circle asking the men to tell us about their week and their challenges during that time, and then began to dissect people’s experiences. We’d focus on one person and talk about how he could be more safe. We didn’t have a formal structure yet. We were exploring what would be the ongoing content. How much selfhelp or reeducation was necessary, what was the commitment men would make to something like this, and so on and so forth. We didn’t come in with a firm curriculum. We didn’t have anyone telling us we had to do it one way or the other. We sort of came in with a purpose, and expected the group to support individuals, to be successful, and to make a commitment to nonviolence.


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We eventually moved to a startup educational module that was a number of weeks long, followed by a weekly discussion group that went on for a number of weeks. Completers for each of those phases were invited into ongoing support groups. And we evolved into having four or five groups meeting a week. We had a staff meeting once a week that ran in a very similar way to the intervention groups. We would talk about our own lives and think about our own issues with safety, control, disrespect, and self-care. We would encourage and help each other to get and be better. To become a counselor at RAVEN, you had to either take the training or have been through the program a certain amount of time. Our business model was volunteer group leaders with income from group fees that we spent on rent, for the most part. Q: I recall one thing distinguishing that program from others at the time: the self-care part of the curriculum. Why that topic? A: We discovered early on that men as a whole don’t take care of themselves; women do that for us. We men tend to neglect the basics like a doctor’s appointment, exercise, or special diet, and we would suffer for it. So our self-care module was to attend to those sorts of things. We men need to be on our own two feet and be independent along these lines. In this way, we serve as a role model for our children, and bother our partners less. We are less likely to feel “nagged” by someone telling us to take care of ourselves. Q: What did you look for in new group leaders, and how did you find them? A: We ran volunteer outreach and training at least twice a year. We’d advertise it and ask people we know or met to come participate. Those at the training were eligible to become group leaders if they could commit to three hours a week for at least six months. Volunteers would find a vibrant healthy community of men thinking about manhood and doing an important service. The women’s center seemed to appreciate our approach and our accountability. We held that the ultimate judgment as to safety belongs with the survivor and not with us. And that was the main message we constantly gave out—in as formal, loud, and frequent a way as we could. The program participation for some men could be a last-ditch effort to keep his partner involved with him when she should not be. That’s a problem every program has to address in their own way. We also thought of ourselves as doing community organizing and community engaging as much as providing a direct service to individuals in trouble. Q: The idea of volunteers working as a community of men has largely lapsed these days. Why do you think that is? A: Yes, there aren’t many such volunteer-based programs left. When I was working part-time at RAVEN, I made sufficient income as a technician

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to take care of myself. When I moved after more than ten years at RAVEN, they had to find a full-time volunteer to coordinate the program or operate differently. After several years, they managed to arrange an income stream and hired a coordinator, and also ended up hiring others to fill in the gaps of departing volunteers. Several of the original volunteers had become discouraged with the new more professional organization and structure. The whole field has moved to one in which staff can earn a living. That of course is in part because of increasing economic pressure and the nature of the social work field. Programs are now more of a clinical endeavor that survive as a business model. The community organizing side of the work doesn’t use a business model, other than asking for donations and launching fundraisers. There are some grants available today as well to support the work, but often that is earmarked for highly specialized projects like violence prevention with at-risk kids. Q: There is much more attention as well to psychopathology and high risk these days. Any thoughts on that? A: Psychological assessment has its place, but it has become a darling approach of the courts wanting to determine an appropriate sentence. You can divide clientele up in different ways. One of them is around psychological profiles. The other way is by experience with violence, and how it resonates with your character. That’s basically how our program divided men up. We’d do entry interviews and look for: “Is this a person who’s never done this before; has some life crisis been a precipitating factor; and does he clearly remember how not to be violent and abusive?” This happens to be the most treatable category, in my estimation. The second category, that is another extreme, is the individual who wears violence on his sleeve as a badge of honor and primary character. These men intend to be intimidating in their mannerisms and how they carry themselves. (I found only a few men in the RAVEN program who were psychotic and not in touch with reality.) The broadest category of men was between those two extremes of the first-timers and many-timers. They were the so-called “every man” type who goes around on a cycle of violence. Our program was designed around that guy. The extremely violent men didn’t belong in our group because they scare or intimidate the others, and we didn’t have much of an impact on them anyway. They really need criminal justice supervision and containment. The single-issue men can often be helped through individual therapy sessions and support. Everybody else needs the group experience to authorize a change of life. They need an “aha” moment that gets endorsed by the group: “Oh, manhood and masculinity is more than what I’ve been living; it’s something more.”


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Q: How and why did you get from there to where you are now with the Jane Doe organization? A: After ten years at RAVEN, I could see that we were repeating ourselves. Change wasn’t happening to the degree that we wanted, even with the program completers. We weren’t increasing our retention rate very well, and saw that the community needed to better support what was happening in the program. It’s similar to what the drug and alcohol community learned about addiction: you need a community that embraces a changed person, if a person is to remain changed. If they live in an environment where they’re only encouraged to drink and do drugs, or to be controlling and abusive, then that’s what they’re going to do. So you need an after-care community that shares the new version of manhood promoted by the program. Therefore, I decided to start working on social norms in the community to embrace men in transition, and celebrate the goal of a different man with them. There a lot of men who already “get it” and who can be easily asked to “wave the flag,” so to speak. It is a matter of drawing together these sorts of men and those on the fence to better support a sense of wholeness among men. Q: What kind of activities or events does that involve? A: For one, we have what we call “the election day,” or Massachusetts White Ribbon Day. We draw as many men as we can from the community to meet in a public place, like in front of the State House. Everyone there raises their right hand and repeats, “I promise to be part of the solution, and I will promote healthy masculinity in my life. And the white ribbon I’m wearing represents that. I will tell everyone I know; I’ll tell all the kids I know. I’ll brag about it.” That’s it essentially, along with speakers, music, and exhibits. The day usually draws some local media coverage and spills over from there. This White Ribbon Day Campaign has its origins quite naturally in the communities across Massachusetts. I was noticing various community actions and messaging events saying, “We are men against violence, and violence should end.” Somebody was doing a walk across the state to bring attention to violence against women; somebody else entered a float on Men Stopping Violence in the town parade; another person did a Mother’s Day greeting about violence and abuse; and others did signature drives and newspaper ads for high schools on the anti-violence message. At the same time, the state coalition of battered women’s services was being constantly harassed by right-wing men and men’s rights proponents. The women’s staff said, “Where are the men who care about what we’re doing? This is ridiculous that we have to fend off these attacks by ourselves.” They each knew a handful of men who supported them, but those men didn’t know each other and weren’t working together. They women decided then to call

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a meeting of all the men they could think of, and asked the question, “What could you all do together that would create a voice in support of our work?” That was the launch of what I am doing at the coalition now. We call it the Men’s Initiative For Jane Doe, Inc. In that same year, 2002, we started exploring avenues to raise some money for staff salary. In 2006, I noticed the Canadian White Ribbon Campaign that started in response to a mass murder of young college women in 1989 in Montreal. A men’s group in Canada established a country-wide call for every man to take a pledge to be part of the solution. Their pledge remains the same today as it was then: “I promise to never commit, condone, or remain silent about violence against women.” Then I came across the White Ribbon Day of Australia, and it looked perfect to me. It had mechanisms to engage leaders, politicians, executives, community activists, celebrities, sports figures, and kids, all at once. So, we said let’s do it! We established two membership categories: one was for the individual man, we call that “the Ambassador,” and a category for the small local organization, we call that “the Affiliate.” A local organization’s job was to sponsor the campaign in its town and to recruit Ambassadors. And the Ambassador’s job was to recruit friends and colleagues to take the pledge with him on White Ribbon Day. We also added a level called “the Partner” for larger organizations whose job was to reach out to their own membership about participation in the Day. Q: Is there any kind of curriculum or teaching that goes with this work? A: I’m actually working on formalizing a teaching outline for the college level. Some high schools are doing an assembly that brings the pledge message to the school. And some social studies and health teachers raise a discussion about it in their classes. It’s a kind of event that usually works best with a “social problems” week. College classes are picking up on this idea as well. They’re doing masculinity studies, for instance. There’s also a new convening around the state to promote healthy men and boys with a community health approach. A hundred social workers and practitioners recently met to discuss an agenda for promoting healthy men and boys. So all of that is interesting and encouraging. Q: At the same time, many would look at the social landscape with discouragement. A: Admittedly, community change is slow and hasn’t fully embraced batterer programs. Most programs remain “diamonds in the rough” with few people really aware of them. Most batterer programs are very quiet; they don’t advertise; they just take court referrals. So they don’t do much in terms of impacting the community at large. I think we really have yet to address the community as well as the men from the courts. I don’t think these programs will be any more successful than they currently are—which is comparable to


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a drug detox program—until communities embrace them and change in and of themselves. The model of masculinity that has held up as ideal has to be challenged. We are working really hard to build those sorts of communities here in Massachusetts, but so far only certain active communities have made some substantial changes. Q: Is the ideal, then, for this community consciousness-raising, and increased commitment from people, to bring more acceptance of batterer’s programs and bring forth more men for change? A: Yes, our community work will make going to a batterer program a very acceptable and proud thing to do. It won’t be something you have to sneak over to attend. You’ll go proudly, “Oh, of course, I need to do that! No wonder my life’s a wreck! I should go to the program. It’ll help.” There really are different ways people get the message. Some need to hear that their violence is a crime. But that takes us just so far: Calling rape a felony, for instance, never stopped rape. It just gives us another way to consider it serious. We’re addressing rape at the cultural level in a very focused way these days on college campuses. The nature of the age group there has upper classmen ready to pounce, inviting freshmen coeds to parties. In fact, my project this summer is forming a new fraternity engagement strategy. We’re recruiting White Ribbon fraternities to help us take a stand against this sort of thing. Thirty or forty years of work on these issues is two generations, so we can say that this is what we can accomplish in two generations. We’ve come quite a distance—although not far enough, for sure. It’s a very hopeful perspective to think of what we can accomplish in three more generations. At least, that’s how I look at it. Q: What other recommendations would you make specifically for the batterer program effort in these forthcoming generations? A: I would recommend that they partner with schools and with ad agencies to do messaging for their local populations. They need to better communicate what they know has happened to the men they’ve counseled. The programs have such a rich resource of information that they can utilize to send a message to young people, as well as to other adults who don’t know what’s going on. In the process, the batterer intervention folks might avoid naming their clientele “batterers.” If their clientele are “batterers” then how does that clientele ever not be batterers? It’s a simple public relations question. Q: Some of what has been learned is being smothered or countered with the claim that, according to current research, batterer programs don’t work. How should we respond to that? A: Anyone who wants to change will find support for that change in a batterer intervention program. Programs are, admittedly, not doing that great a job with someone who doesn’t want to make that sort of commitment. How-

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ever, the fact that a program doesn’t get an offender to make that commitment is usually related to the community not bringing sufficient pressure to bear on the offender to commit to change. So the success of programs is measurable, but certainly not like a cure to the common cold. It’s more likely that a guy is sitting back in his neighborhood, and the boys there think he’s a jackass for going to a program. As long as that’s the case, no program’s going to do any better than they currently are with the portion of noncommittal men that come their way. I’m kind of a fan of multiple approaches that present choices for the individual to go where they themselves best fit—and with this public messaging component, added with a vengeance if necessary. I’d say couples counseling and psychotherapy have their place in some cases. But those approaches do not normally do much to address power and control. If they say the problem is in the relationship, or your behavior is due to the other person, then you really haven’t changed any social norms. You’ve just adapted. Q: How do we promote these batterer programs without a core “success” record that counters the skepticism or positivist mindset? A: I’m not sure that I’ve seen a program do a successful job of marketing their successful stories. They’re willing to have spokespeople who have been through the program talk about their change directly to other offenders but that’s pretty much it. I think that we’re still putting men and women who are offenders in the shadows, because they’re worried about becoming targets in their community for admitting this kind of behavior. Successful marketing is almost like, “you have to make it so.” Research, on the other hand, is not easy to conduct, and it’s difficult to come up with a measure you trust. Every study also has a caveat. So there continues to be a problem in interpreting and applying research to begin with. Q: It seems that you’re saying we don’t have a sufficient sense of accomplishment, and instead feel some caution about promoting our programs. Why is that, do you think? A: From the victim or female perspective, all men may be suspect. It’s like, “you’re a batterer, and you’re not. I can’t tell the difference. And you’re a batterer (and always will be, by the way), and I hope you never become one.” That’s what I hear. I don’t hear, “Good for you, you’re not a batterer anymore. I’m proud of you.” That’s not there. But in some parts of the country, people are starting to look at battering more in terms of recovery: “I’m a batterer and I’m recovering. Here’s what’s going on with me.” That outlook is opening the door on a more hopeful or positive view. Q: What would you recommend to researchers in order to help support the directions you outline? A: I’d like to see research on the penetration and resonance of the healthy masculinity message. For instance, the word “patriarchy” only lands on


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certain ears as meaning anything. The word “masculinity” may do the same thing for others. I’d be interested in some of the intersectional framework around how various forms of that message are heard, and what is the resonant framing for men who “get it” and are ready to help others? What’s it take for someone to say, “That’s who I am. That’s very important to me. I want to do something more about it”? And how does that vary across cultural background and educational levels? I’m also interested in knowing the success of after-care programming, and how to improve that. I would like to be able to invite clientele from batterer programs into my White Ribbon campaigns. The answers to some of these questions would help with that. Right now, I can’t have an offender speak at one of our rallies, because we don’t want to give him credit for really changing when he still may have a ways to go. I’m looking to moving to where those things are possible. Q: You have an amazingly long tenure and commitment to this work, as well as a growing vision of it. Much of your work has been on a voluntary basis—about the heart instead of the pocketbook. What has sustained you over so many years? A: First of all, the work feels like a solid, strong contribution, and I always meant to make a contribution. There’s another piece regarding my history: I’m a rape survivor. My sister is also a rape survivor, and a bunch of girlfriends are rape survivors. That survivorship fuels my passion to continue doing things about the problem. It’s not a story that I often write or speak about, but it’s a story that’s meaningful in my life. I’m further sustained by the appreciation that I do receive. I make sure that I have a good community of male friends where I can go when I’m confused about relationships or work. I find that having student interns is helpful, too; I have three this summer. It’s fulfilling to have a hand in motivating a young person’s choice to do this work Q: How do we get this next generation involved and hooked in the way that you’ve been—with heart rather than just profession? A: Our enthusiasm is an important part of it, and the “call to action” invitations need to be out there. We make sure everyone knows about our internship program, so we get in front of as many audiences as possible to promote it. As a result, we have a steady stream of interns passing through our organization. We want to be known for operating a great internship; we’re not a place for just folding letters, doing mailings, and getting coffee. When a student is looking for a way to contribute, he’ll find something substantial to do. We have to make this sort of recruiting and involvement a priority in order to build for the future.

A Final Thought

PRACTITIONER EVIDENCE This collection of interviews, as mentioned at the outset, grew out of the debate over batterer program effectiveness and the research that attempts to address it. One of the concerns in that debate has been the contradiction between the practitioner perspective that endorses and promotes batterer programs and the negative findings of a handful of experimental program evaluations. This apparent conflict has admittedly been compounded by the evidence-based practice movement that places “great weight” on experimental program evaluations—at least the prevailing interpretations of “evidence-based practice.” The more nuanced experiential “evidence” of program leaders has, therefore, been largely neglected and even outright dismissed as anecdotal, biased, or ideological. Yet many have argued, in a variety of fields, that the practitioner perspective is needed to critique, modify, and ground research results, as well as inform research designs and questions. The interviews in this volume illustrate and represent that perspective with regard to batterer programs and broaden the “evidence” base. Some of the research-practitioner gap suggested in the interviews has been a proverbial clash of domains, so to speak. Most of the interviewees are understandably preoccupied with maintaining their programs and developing them through trial-and-error observation, along with input from colleagues and women’s advocates. There has also been an underlying suspicion of the much of the current research because it seems detached and irrelevant to practice. The interviews expose, moreover, variation, evolution, and complexity in programs. The long-standing batterer programs represented here are far from bounded or static. They don’t fit into a neat package, nor do they produce tidy outcomes, according to the interviewees’ descriptions. 231


A Final Thought

In fact, the interviewees overall have deeper motivations and broader vision that appear to supersede the conventional conceptions of treatment and service delivery, although these are certainly an essential part of their work. They talk in terms of their personal experience with domestic violence and social justice movements. None of this means to suggest that batterer programs should be exempt from the scrutiny and accountability of program evaluations. And program leaders would be wise to better define themselves, articulate their “objectives” and “success,” and address the issues of program quality and competence. They ultimately need, as well, to document their work in a way that speaks to funders, the courts, and the public. Much in this book seems to do that, or at least is a further step in that direction. LEADERSHIP QUALITIES The current conception and evaluation of programs also misses another more fundamental aspect. The interviews give a glimpse of the lives beyond program design and approach; they suggest how program formation, operation, and development are shaped by the motivations, experience, training, and ideals of their leaders. The programs are more of a dynamic personal enterprise than their outward shell reveals. Much like a building reflects the architect’s ideals, vision, esthetic, and purpose, the batterer programs appear forged by their leader’s commitment, contemplation, and experience. The interviews present, in fact, a kind of leader-program biography of a personal calling, vision, dedication, sacrifice, learning, and adaptations. As one interviewee said, “It is kinda like being a monk.” There is a paradoxical mix of self-examination and listening, and yet ardent faith that what the program leaders are doing is important. Most of the program leaders see themselves as part of something much bigger than themselves—a movement of change toward a better society, however beleaguered that effort may be. They have impressive professional credentials, but see their work as something more than the skills and training those credentials suggest. And for the most part, they remain underpaid and underappreciated. This picture appears to contrast with the more professionalized model of service delivery that tends to follow a more structured, routinized, and proscribed approach to treatment—one also easier to capture in conventional program evaluation designs. Of course, that model, too, is often influenced by its personnel and reflects its administrative head, as a CEO influences his or her corporative culture. Additionally, it is hard to expect newer programs and those with administrative and staff turnover to have a similar leader biography and program development as the programs featured in this collection

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of interviewees. In fact, the leaders here may be more the exception as highly motivated individuals compelled by their values, perspective, and vision, as opposed to those more focused on career goals and sustaining tasks. The interviewees do, nonetheless, serve as an example of a special kind of leadership that has had a wide influence and impact. Another distinguishing aspect is the program leaders’ persistence over the years despite resistance and backlash. The leaders talk of suspicions from battered women’s advocates, uncooperative judges and courts, and competition from other programs. They have not only endured those challenges, but also have worked to build alliances and support in their communities. It is clear, too, that they bring a certain flexibility to their work. The program leaders, as mentioned, hold some established principles forged in social justice efforts, but they also have listened hard to battered women and abusive men to learn what is needed and effective. They also manage a “balancing” act in the course of the group work: they strive to challenge yet respect the men. No cookie-cutter curriculum or lock-step skills appear—although most all of the programs have some guiding manual, topical curriculum, or activity repertoire. Some recommend more staff supervision and training in the field in general, but it’s what we might call heart, character, or sensitivity that seems central to these particular interviewees. The persistence or endurance may be related to the social justice concern that runs through most of the interviewees lives, albeit to varying degrees; their work has some meaning and purpose beyond fixing often-times resistant, abusive men. They see themselves very much involved with safety for women, changing men, reforming institutions, and educating their communities. However daunting and slow-moving that may be, it is worth working on and ultimately satisfying. The interviewees also draw on supportive teams of co-workers and allies in the community that enrich and sustain them. I see similar commitments and team support in many human service circles, and also have observed many social services fraught with internal strife and staff burnout. Low pay, ongoing funding issues, and difficult odds, no doubt, add to this. Our interviewees, however, seem to have an extra dose of commitment and staying power that has enabled long-range experience and, as a result, a grounded and chiseled perspective. These leadership qualities are of particular interest in the quest to identify “competent” programs and certification prerequisites, or, for that matter, staff qualifications and training. Most such efforts focus on certain mechanics of group work and program operation, and slight the qualities that typify the interviewed program leaders. Perhaps this is because such qualities are so subjective and become more apparent through experience. Perhaps they are too


A Final Thought

hard to live up to and impractical for many. The turnover of program staff and directors, and short life of some programs themselves, suggest this possibility. It all raises the question of whether we have here more outliers to ignore or models to pursue. In either case, the field would benefit from weighing the examples portrayed in the interviews and drawing some lessons from them. COMING TOGETHER Despite this sense of leadership, there remain deep divides and contentions within the field more broadly, as discussed specifically in my previous book, The Future of Batterer Programs. A few batterer programs have even “blown up” as a result of staff disputes and disagreements. Differences persist across programs, highlighted in the introductory chapter of this book. I have seen various “emphases” take precedence at conferences, symposia, and policy discussions, at the expense of others. Some of that is likely part of program promotion and the confidence that is necessarily associated with one’s work. Some of it is rooted in orientations that fundamentally conflict with those of other program leaders, such as those that surface in the course of these interviews. For instance, the interviewees with a more activist orientation question the more clinical attention of the problem-solving oriented interviewees, or they have reservations about the close linkages with the courts in the Duluth model. For the most part, however, the differences appear more a matter of degree than outright conflict, and the convergence on fundamental assumptions seems to outweigh the differences. The grounds for a more unified or allied voice, therefore, would appear to be in place. Such a voice is needed given the debate over batterer programs and the frequent misrepresentation of them, as well as a public want to know what batterer programs are really about. Throughout the interviews is, moreover, reference to social justice movements as an impetus for the founding of batterer programs—the civil rights, antiwar, feminist, environmental, and battered women’s movements (“movement” appears over seventy-five times over the course of the twenty-four interviews). The implication is that the work to stop domestic violence has a larger aim of social change, and that batterer programs can contribute to that larger goal. The programs are a means to not only change individual men, but also to learn how to help change men in general. They are an avenue to help educate the community and its institutions about why and how the social support and reinforcement of violence needs to be addressed. The program leaders, admittedly, share a realistic lament that the sense of “movement” has waned and faced “backlash” amidst a more conserva-

A Final Thought 235

tive mood, medicalization of social problems, and cutbacks in funding and commitment. The sense of “movement” has also been undercut by practical concerns of staffing, administration, budget, and outcome, along with factionalism and disagreement among movement leaders. But the “movement” ideal continues to be an initial motivation and sustaining vision for these group leaders. One of the issues amidst the current challenges to batterer programs, therefore, maybe how to make that “movement” move again. One response to this issue, repeated by several of the group leaders, is for the leaders to talk more to each other through networks, meetings, and conferences—and in a manner that is not defensive or imposing, that is, “without stepping on each other’s toes,” as one interviewee put it. Ultimately, some “organizing” among themselves appears warranted, as many of them have worked to organize within their communities. If the spirit, experience, and wisdom expressed in the separate interviews were to coalesce, it would be sure to have an impact that in itself would enliven and move the field.


accountability, xi, xvi, xviii, 2, 12, 16–17, 20, 30, 34, 39, 41, 44, 50–51, 66, 85–86, 91, 95, 98, 105, 108, 112, 116, 120, 126, 147–148, 154, 170, 177, 207–208, 211, 224, 232 addiction, xxiii-xxiv, 85, 88, 98, 143, 189, 223, 226; alcohol abuse, 4, 62, 85, 185; sobriety, 83, 185, 190. See also Alcoholics Anonymous administration, xviii, 2, 4, 17, 63, 128, 160, 190, 235; business model, xviii, 23, 92, 224–225; organizational structure, xviii–xix, 63, 81, 104 advocates, xvi–xvii, xx, 2–3, 10, 13, 17, 25, 40, 50–51, 61, 79, 87, 97, 107, 118, 125, 160–161, 163, 166–168, 178, 182, 192, 198, 216, 218–219, 231, 233 Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), 85, 148, 189; class, 16, 20, 25–26, 32, 47–48, 53, 56, 80–82, 89–90, 95–98, 103– 105, 107–108, 118, 120, 122–123, 126, 131–132, 193, 198, 214, 216, 227. See also poverty clinicians, 16, 62, 106, 142, 176, 180; model, 43; observation, 179

co-facilitator, 101, 136, 140–141, 157; co-facilitate, 45, 120 conferences, xxv–xxvi, 30, 39, 46, 88, 110, 128, 166, 173, 202, 234–235; networking, 88 confrontation, xvii, xxvii, 6, 14, 31, 66, 90, 126, 139, 146, 149–150, 188, 196, 216; confront, 6, 30–31, 54, 139, 149–151, 153, 188; supportive confrontation, xvii, 31, 66 coordinated community response (CCR), xii, xvi, xviii, xx, xxiii, xxvii, 1–5, 9, 11–12, 17–18, 20–21, 24, 45, 48, 79, 88, 173 criminal justice system, 1, 3, 21, 36, 38, 92, 98, 100, 105, 107, 110, 153, 159, 173, 179, 182, 197; judges, 4, 17, 19, 26, 45, 55, 122, 158, 169–171, 182, 196–198, 201, 203, 210–211, 213, 219, 233; probation, xii, xvi, xviii, xx, 1, 22, 25, 36, 43, 45, 71, 79, 88, 112, 120, 122–123, 135, 141, 144, 159, 167, 170–171, 174, 198, 210–211 diagnose, 16, 86, 92, 143; diagnosis, 85–86, 96–97, 102; DSM (Diagnostic Statistical Manual), 42, 53, 86. See also psychopathology 237



Duluth Model, 1–28, 128, 173, 234; Duluth curriculum, 5–6, 9, 21, 83. See also program approaches: power and control wheel Emerge program, 4, 21, 29–58, 61, 93, 118, 137, 176 empathy. See engagement engagement, xvi, 17, 34, 66, 72, 155, 179–180, 228; empathy, xvi, xx, 29, 33–35, 53, 64, 72, 86, 94, 97, 105, 121, 126, 137–138, 142, 150, 156, 165, 170, 172, 186, 196; rapport, xvii, 90, 125, 150. See also respect evidence-based practice, xii-xiv, xxi, xxvi-xxvii, 77, 99, 132–133, 144, 180–181, 231 feminist, xv–xvi, xxv–xxvi, 7, 20, 34, 41–42, 44, 47, 54, 60, 75–76, 80, 82–83, 108–110, 118, 122, 126, 145, 146,151, 177, 204, 223, 234. See also gender-based gay men, xx, 31, 34, 47, 62–63, 92, 123, 138, 222 gender: gender analysis, 82, 91–92; gender roles, 18, 82; gender symmetry, 83, 219; masculinity, xv, 24, 47, 52, 57, 83–84, 95, 104, 146–147, 202, 222– 223, 225–230; gender-based, xii, xivxvi, xxi, xxv-xxvi, 3, 14, 47–48, 118, 120, 123, 125. See also feminist Hart, Barbara, 4, 12, 61, 68, 127 leadership, 42, 104, 117, 121, 123, 143, 156, 166, 178, 180, 182, 189, 204, 232–234 messaging, 202, 226, 228–229 oppression, xx, 10, 19, 30, 45, 48, 92, 100–101, 104, 108, 114–116, 118,

125–126, 138, 150, 155, 169, 176– 177, 209. See also social justice organization, xiv, xviii, xxii, xxiv, 3, 10–11, 13, 17, 39–40, 46, 50, 56, 70, 80–81, 92–93, 100–102, 141, 166, 175, 178, 180, 189–190, 197, 221–222, 225–227, 230 organizing, xvi, xix, xxiv–xxv, 11–12, 23, 39, 92, 103, 105, 108–109, 117– 118, 122, 151, 175, 201–202, 222, 224–225, 235 outcomes. See program evaluation patriarchy, 64, 94, 107, 110–111, 114, 138–139, 155, 160, 229; patriarchal, 12, 51, 96, 104, 125 Pence, Ellen, 1–3, 10, 12, 14, 20–21, 127–128, 130 poverty, xxi, 103; poor, 4, 22, 24, 38, 51, 54–56, 63, 85, 121, 131, 156, 189 power and control, xv, 1, 5–6, 18, 34, 52, 80, 83, 86, 96, 134, 149, 153, 176–177, 204, 206–207, 209, 229 program approaches: advanced groups, 63, 65, 89; anger management, xvii, xxv, 4–5, 21, 45, 80, 176, 203; couples counseling, xiii, 4, 81, 99, 115, 229; individual counseling, xx, xxv, 166, 183, 188, 191, 206; longterm programs, xv-xvi, xix, 38, 70, 143, 145–147, 154, 180, 210–211; power and control wheel, 1, 5–6, 52, 176; psychodrama, 130; psychoeducational, xv, xxv, 29, 32, 61, 80, 89; 94, 155, 178; recovery model, 74, 85, 165, 185, 188–189, 191, 194, 229; self-awareness, xv–xvi, xix, 60, 83, 84, 104, 187; self-care, xvi, 30, 34, 102, 171, 182, 224; skills, xix, xxiii, 4, 8, 13, 17, 55, 60, 71–72, 96, 98–99, 101, 104, 112, 119–120, 130, 143, 152–153, 157, 185, 188–190, 193, 208, 210, 232–233; skillbuilding, xxv, 85, 122, 185, 187, 198, 208. See also co-facilitators

Index 239

program effectiveness, xi-xiii, xviii, 55, 78, 87, 122–123, 132, 142, 169, 172, 181, 196, 231; “don’t work”, xv, xxii, 9, 16, 37, 45–46, 65, 77, 87, 99, 107, 115, 122, 133, 141, 143, 161, 171, 180, 189–190, 196, 219–220, 228; effective, xvii, 5, 8–9, 24–26, 31, 37, 48, 57, 67, 89, 98–99, 104, 115, 131, 133, 148, 160, 162, 171–173, 186, 190, 208, 210–211, 219, 233. See also evidence-based practice program evaluation, xxiii, 161, 181, 232; action research, xxii, 108; case studies, xxii, 145; experimental designs, xii, xxii, xxvii, 9, 65, 77, 124, 23; outcomes, xiii, xviii, xxii, xxvii, 2, 16, 37, 42, 45, 55, 65, 68–69, 77, 91, 107, 115, 123–124, 133, 142, 161, 171–172, 181–183, 190, 196–197, 231, 235; qualitative, xxii, 56, 78, 124, 142, 154; recidivism, xxii, 9, 68, 107, 124, 145; success measure, 16, 45, 55, 67, 77, 87, 104, 106–107, 127, 133, 139, 145, 147, 152, 154, 160, 197, 204, 229–230, 232; program start, xvii, 3, 5–7, 10–11, 19–21, 29–31, 34, 37, 39–42, 48, 60–63, 69–70, 80–81, 86, 93, 101, 104, 108, 117, 123, 127–128, 133, 136, 138–139, 143–144, 148–149, 154–157, 159, 166–167, 169, 173, 175–178, 183–184, 191–192, 194–195, 198, 203, 210, 213–214, 216, 222–223, 227; sustained effort, 10, 12–13, 20, 32, 40, 48–49, 63, 80, 88, 94, 102, 119, 127, 167, 175, 184, 192, 204, 222, 230 psycho-educational. See program approaches psychopathology, xiv, xix-xx, xxvi, 7–8, 15, 23, 35, 42, 43, 53–54, 66, 74, 76, 85, 94–96, 106–107, 114, 143, 153, 158, 169, 178, 188,

194, 209, 217, 225; antisocial, 72; brain dysfunction, 24, 62, 64, 82; depression, xx–xxi, 36, 55, 73, 77, 79–80, 96, 217; narcissism, 74, 53, 96, 153; medication, 54, 61–62, 88, 143, 159, 210; neuroscience, 82; personality, xx, xxv, 8, 15, 23, 35, 53, 64, 66, 74–75, 104, 143, 158, 169, 210; psychopath, 86, 179; psychopathy, 86, 188, 194; sociopathic, xx, 15, 153. See also diagnose race, 25, 32, 47–48, 56, 67–68, 89–90, 97, 105, 107, 126, 195; AfricanAmerican, 37, 67–68, 100, 105, 132, 150, 158, 209, 220, 237; diversity, xii–xiv, 19, 32, 36, 126, 132, 138, 177, 202, 212, 221; men of color, 123, 132, 156, 169, 174; Latino, xx– xxi, xxv, 31, 34, 68, 100, 132, 150, 158, 201, 212–214, 216, 219; people of color, 26, 56, 68, 115; racial, xxi, 56, 101, 104, 108, 114, 132, 157 researchers, xii–xiii, xxi–xxiii, 2, 8–9, 15, 46, 55, 69, 77, 108, 115, 122–123, 141–143, 154, 161, 172, 177, 180–181, 196, 205, 211–212, 220, 229 resistance, xvii, 17, 26, 29, 33, 42, 94–95, 134, 180–181, 198, 233 respect, xi, xvi, 6, 14–15, 29, 33–34, 51, 56, 71–72, 87, 91, 102, 112, 116, 121, 125–126, 135, 148, 168, 170, 180, 186, 202, 205, 214–216, 233. See also engagement risk assessment, xiv, xx, xxvi–xxvii, 25, 30, 35, 55–56, 59, 68, 76, 78, 86, 98, 132, 142, 153, 159, 165, 170–171, 179, 182, 195 sexual abuse, 64, 101, 216; sexual assault, xii, 222; sexual violence, 3, 6, 44, 95, 103, 107, 127, 150; rape,



xv, 3, 7, 11–12, 47, 95, 125, 143, 222–223, 228, 230 sexuality, 31, 47, 62, 150 social change, xvi, xviii, 2, 10, 12, 17–18, 31–32, 38, 49, 56, 93, 97, 106, 111, 115–117, 212, 234; community change, 2, 91–92, 227 social justice, xi, xvi, xix, xxvi, 2, 11, 18–19, 21, 60, 91–93, 97, 100–102, 104, 108, 111, 114, 116, 155, 158, 202, 212, 217, 222, 232–234; equality, 1, 5–7, 13–15, 18, 22, 67, 92, 108, 117, 124. See also oppression social movements, 2, 11, 30, 48, 56, 92; battered women’s movement, xvii, xxviii–1, 7, 9–10, 18, 40, 55, 108–109, 111, 126, 128, 145; civil rights, 2, 5, 10–11, 18, 93, 234; men’s movement, 31; women’s movement, xvii, xxviii–1, 7, 9–10, 13, 18, 40, 55, 67, 108–109, 111, 121, 126, 128, 145, 184 socio-political, 64, 66, 120, 122, 125 staff: development, xix; hiring, 17, 33, 37, 40, 66, 69, 75, 89, 93, 157, 178, 188, 225; new group leaders, 97, 104, 224; new staff, 44, 54, 75, 96, 104, 152, 155, 188; recruit, xix, 19, 26, 75, 77, 97, 118, 120, 188, 216, 227; recruiting, 68, 75, 89, 104, 118, 152, 208, 222, 228, 230; staffing, xix, 19, 178, 235; supervision, xii, xviii, xx, xxiii-xxiv, 45, 54, 60, 114–115, 122, 126, 148, 156–157, 159, 167, 178, 191, 212, 225, 233

terroristic batterers, 51, 67, 208 therapy, xxv–xxvi, 23, 54, 72, 84, 97, 122, 133, 153–155, 163, 166, 176, 178, 185, 193–195, 207, 209–210, 225; confidentiality, 17, 95–96, 149; psychotherapy, xvi, 17, 61, 93, 115, 131, 190, 229; therapeutic alliance, xvi, 62, 66; therapeutic techniques, xxv, 59–60, 155; therapists, 4, 17, 55, 64, 70, 72–73, 97, 112, 156, 182 training, xiv, xvi–xvii, xix, xxiv–xxv, 1, 6–7, 10, 14–15, 17, 20, 24, 26, 30–31, 33, 39, 41, 45–48, 52, 54, 56, 60–61, 67, 71, 75–76, 78–79, 81, 87–88, 93, 95, 97, 100–102, 104, 106, 108, 114, 117–122, 124, 131, 133, 135, 137, 143–144, 154, 156, 158–159, 169–170, 173–175, 177, 179, 185–188, 190–191, 204, 211–212, 216–217, 221, 223–224, 232–233 trauma, xx–xxi, xxiv–xxv, xxvii, 4, 7, 23–24, 35, 43–44, 53, 59, 61, 68, 73–74, 76, 78, 87, 89, 102, 106–107, 110, 121, 137, 146–147, 153, 158, 165, 169, 173, 178, 188, 193, 196, 199, 206–207, 209, 212, 217; PTSD, 123 women’s violence, xiv, xxi, xxvi, 26, 39, 43, 83, 162, 177, 187, 198, 201, 203, 218; use of force, 201–205, 207, 209–21; violent resistance, 134, 208

About the Author

Edward W. Gondolf, EdD, MPH, is currently a research associate and former research director for the Mid-Atlantic Addiction Research and Training Institute (MARTI), based at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. His most noted book Batterer Intervention Systems (2001) summarizes a seven-year evaluation of batterer intervention systems in four cities funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, and a related National Institute of Justice (NIJ) study using the longitudinal data to identify risk factors for re-assault. Under grants from the NIJ, he more recently evaluated the effectiveness of specialized counseling for African-American men, a study of case management for domestic violence offenders, and a four-year evaluation of supplemental mental health treatment for batterer program participants. Dr. Gondolf’s previous book, The Future of Batterer Programs: Reassessing Evidence-Based Practice (2012), addresses the debate over the effectiveness of batterer programs and the means to improving that effectiveness. He has also authored approximately 150 academic journal articles and eleven books on domestic violence intervention and related topics.