Excellent Victim Services Will Not Stop Domestic Violence

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In 1989, my wife, Dorthy, was serving as the Director for a shelter program for women trying to escape partner abuse. When she realized that her agency had served the 7th victim of the same abusive man, she recognized that something had to change in society’s response to domestic violence. While serving victims effectively is critical for their and their children's well-being, serving victims after they have been abused will never end domestic violence.  Dorthy knew that getting the abuser to change was the only way to stop the violence. Her efforts to start a program for those who batter in those early years formed the foundation of what is now the Family Peace Initiative.

Since the movement to address domestic violence began, the focus has been on victim services. While there is a continuing need for additional money for victim services, battering intervention programming remains almost entirely unfunded. There are beliefs that contribute to this.  Here is a list of some:

1)  The belief that those who batter will not change.

A pilot study done in Kansas examined recidivism rates for those who had completed programs in 6 pilot sites, and while the results don’t tell the whole story, 88% were not charged with another violent crime in the next approximate 3 years; 90% did not have other protection orders enforced against them.  Link to Kansas survey.  While evidence is mounting that quality programs have positive impact, there is still much to learn about the specifics that create lasting change among those who batter.  We will be hampered in our ability to improve this positive impact without funding for research and financial support for programs in general. An environment that encourages creativity, experimentation, and thinking outside the box could be stimulated by funding.  

While serving victims effectively is critical for their and their children's well-being, serving victims after they have been abused will never end domestic violence

2) Funding BIP's would take money away from Victim Services.

We should never take money away from victim services.  Additional funds need to be allocated specific for battering intervention. We also need to keep in mind that many victims want effective battering intervention programming. This is one of the tricky challenges that those in power create—this "either or" mentality is artificial and pits those working to address domestic violence against each other.

3) Those who batter should pay for their own services as a form of accountability.

Paying fees is a logical requirement for those who can afford it.  For those who cannot afford it, this requirement becomes more of a barrier than an effective form of accountability.  There are certainly other ways that accountability can occur. For many who are referred by the courts for service, the lack of personal finances prevents them from getting a very needed service.  Lack of obtaining the service is not only costly to them, it can increase costs for the community through additional court costs, jail time, extended probations, medical assistance for the victim, etc. It can also be argued that asking those who batter to pay for services can create financial hardships for their partners/victims and children. 

4) Funding would open the door to incompetent providers engaging in services.

States have increased the expectations for programs by establishing "minimum" standards.  Most providers pay additional costs to meet these standards, but keep in mind, these are only the minimum standards.  The current system expects providers to meet a "minimum".  We need providers to pursue excellence, not the minimum.  Funding can potentially help to change this.

5) Money for battering programs would be better spent on more "worthy" causes.

This argument comes from the view that those who batter are "monsters" and "evil" and undeserving.  While a few may be appropriately classified in this manner, most are not. We will likely be more successful in ending domestic violence when we find the humanity in even those who do horrible things. Let's not forget that many victims desire to stay with their partner.

let’s keep in mind that we do not stop any crime by focusing primarily on services for victims

As we aspire to “end domestic violence”, let’s keep in mind that we do not stop any crime by focusing primarily on services for victims.  We must address the criminal behavior and the societal conditions that enable the behavior to occur.  Prevention of child abuse, and providing services to those who batter, are both worthy of our time and financial investment. Effective victim services are critical for the here and now; funding for prevention efforts and for batterer intervention are the investments for the future.  

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