The first step in starting a batterers’ treatment group is to carefully evaluate the objectives of the program to ensure that victim safety is central to the work. Michael Paymar, the training coordinator for the Duluth Domestic Abuse Intervention Project, suggests the following principles and guidelines for a batterers’ treatment program. The list is not meant to be exhaustive, but provides a good starting point for those who are considering forming a batterers’ treatment group.

From Michael Paymar, Violent No More: Helping Men End Domestic Abuse (2000).

Program Goals

  • To ensure safety for the partners of group participants in the program.
  • To work to end domestic violence by creating a culture of deterrence.
  • To ensure the program is collaborating with the justice system, human service providers, and battered women’s programs.
  • To teach offenders alternatives to coercive, controlling, and violent behavior in intimate relationships.

Program Philosophy

  • Violence is intentional.
  • Battering is a system of abusive behaviors that are used to maintain control.
  • Most cultures have supported male dominance in families.
  • Individual men can change.
  • Except in cases of self-defense, there are always alternatives to violence.

Program Content

  • Participants need to take full responsibility for their behavior.
  • Facilitators will respectfully challenge sexist beliefs and attitudes.
  • Groups will support men to change controlling and violent behavior.
  • Facilitators will confront minimization, denial, and blame.
  • The group process should be compassionate but not colluding.
  • Facilitators will teach men to develop relationship with women based on equality.

Involvement with Battered Women and Shelters

  • Programs will not compete with shelter programs for funding.
  • Advocates should be involved in the development of program policies related to partner safety.
  • Communication procedures on partner safety will be in place with the shelter.
  • Partners will be notified and offered detailed information about the offender program.
  • Programs should not elicit information from partners of participants until they have had an opportunity to explore safety planning and contact with a shelter.

Contract with Offenders

  • Participants must follow all conditions of probation and orders from the court.
  • Acts of violence and violation of court orders will be reported to the court.
  • Participants must sign release-of-information and program contract agreement.
  • Participants will come to group free of the influence of alcohol and drugs.
  • Participants will not use racist or sexist language.

Consequences for Breach of Contract

  • Noncompliance with terms of the contract will result in suspension, and the participant will be reported to the court.
  • Volunteers will not be treated differently than court-mandated offenders.
  • Program staff may testify at revocation or review hearings regarding violations of a contract.

Assessment of Lethality

  • Program staff will explore all past and present threats.
  • Threats of homicide or suicide will be thoroughly examined.
  • The victim/shelter will be warned if the participant has been obsessed with or has stalked his partner.
  • The victim/shelter will be warned if the offender appears to be reacting to a protection order or divorce in a dangerous way.
  • The victim/shelter/law enforcement will be informed if the offender makes threats regarding the children.
  • Program staff will discuss red-flag cases with facilitators and advocates.

Requirements for Group Facilitators

  • Must be violent free in their own lives.
  • Should be thoroughly trained in an effective model, and work for a period of time with an experienced facilitator.
  • When possible, groups should be co-facilitated with male and female staff.
  • Should not communicate or act in ways that perpetuate sexism or victim blaming.
  • Should be open to self-examination and feedback from monitors and supervisors on facilitation skills, inadvertent collusion, sexism, and control issues.

Evaluation of Programs

  • Battered women’s programs should be involved in designing evaluation tools.
  • Before asking a partner of a participant to assess progress, the program will be certain of her safety.
  • Evaluation should focus on safety to battered women, accountability, and changes the offender is making.
  • All practices and policies should be periodically evaluated.

Accountability to the Community

  • Programs should work in concert with battered women’s programs to reform the practices of the justice system, law enforcement, and other interveners.
  • Policies and procedures should be reviewed by communities of color, neighborhood organizations, gay and lesbian groups, and other stakeholders.
  • Programs should speak out and work with organizations working to reduce violence, bias, and racism.
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