If your partner has entered an intervention program for batterers, you're probably hopeful that he will change. It's important to know that there are no miracle cures for his violence - he is the only one who can make the decision to change. This section will give you information about what is an appropriate program, what signs to watch for in your partner, and what to do if you think you may still be in danger of being abused.
There are no guarantees that any program will work; everything depends on your partner's motivation and willingness to change. Some programs are more appropriate than others. Those programs use the following standards:
Safety is the first priority.
Programs should always assess your safety when communicating with you. A program should never disclose information that you have given them without your permission. A program should not misrepresent its ability to change his behavior. A program's definition of success is the quality of your and your children's lives, starting with safety.
Lasts long enough.
Change takes time. The longer the program, the more opportunities he will have to make the choice to change. A year or more in a program is preferable, although that is not always possible.
Holds him accountable.
The first step of accountability is that he takes responsibility for choosing to use violence to maintain power and control over you. A program should recognize that his behavior is the "problem" and not allow him to use your behavior as an excuse. Programs should hold him accountable for attendance, participation, and complying with the group's rules. (You can get a copy of the rules by calling the program.) The curriculum gets to the root of his belief system.The content of the program is set up to challenge his underlying belief system that he has the right to control, dominate, and abuse you. Programs that address anger, communication skills, and/or stress do not get to the root of his belief system.
Makes no demands on you to participate.
You're not the one making the choice to be violent, so the program should not require that you be involved in any way. Don't let anyone lead you to believe that his progress is dependent upon your participation.
Is open to your input.
If you initiate contact with the program to ask questions or give input you think may be useful, a program should welcome your participation. This is different from requiring you to participate. Sometimes, a program may initiate contact with you to discuss your partner's behavior outside the program. You should not feel obligated to share information, especially if you feel it might create a risk of further violence against you.
Positive signs include:
Changing Attitudes, Beliefs, and BehaviorsAbusers have beliefs and attitudes that support their choice to use violence, such as: men are superior, women are possessions of men, and violence is an acceptable way to get what they want. The program should be reinforcing an egalitarian belief system and that violent behavior is a choice and the batterer's responsibility. Batterers must be confronted about their use of all types of abusive behaviors (i.e., emotional and verbal assaults, abusing pets, destroying property, withholding money or access to money; stalking, and other behaviors) that can terrify or intimidate victims and their families. Batterers need to learn that there is no excuse for any abusive behavior - and that it is never the victim's fault.
Achieving Equality in RelationshipsThe program should help batterers come up with long-term strategies for achieving the mutual respect, trust, and support that is necessary to maintain a relationship free of abuse. It should also help them develop long-term plans for sharing responsibility with their partners in areas such as family finances and parenting.
Community ParticipationIt is important that the program help the batterer understand that he has committed a crime against the community. He can acknowledge his violence by discussing his efforts to change with friends or co-workers, referring other men who are abusive to the program, and making sincere amends for past offenses (such as replacing destroyed or stolen property).
Venting Is Not OK Techniques and therapies like pillow-punching or primal-screaming are NOT appropriate for abusers. They tend to reinforce, rather than discourage, violent behavior. These techniques should not be a part of any intervention program.
A Call from the ProgramA batterer intervention program should alert you if it is clear from your partner's behavior in the program that you are in danger. While most programs have confidentiality policies that prevent them from telling you specifically what he has discussed in group meetings, they are obligated to warn you if they believe any immediate danger exists. If you get a call from them about this, take it seriously.
Couples Counseling Won't Stop His ViolenceYour partner may try to get you to go to couples counseling, telling you that you both have a problem and should work on it together. Couples counseling is never appropriate when one partner is choosing to use violence against the other. You do not have a "relationship" problem that needs to be addressed - he is using violence and coercion to get what he wants. Couples counseling can only work when both partners feel free to express their issues, concerns and desires freely. If one partner exerts power and control over the other, there is no basis for counseling that is free from fear and intimidation.
Your partner's abusive behavior is rooted in a desire to control you, and that pattern isn't going to change overnight. He may no longer be violent, but he may still try to exert control by manipulating you into doing what he wants. Here are some common manipulative behaviors:
You may be so hopeful for change that you want to believe him, even if things don't feel any different. But trust your instincts. If you don't feel safe, then chances are you're not.
If you hear your partner making statements like these while he is in a program, you need to understand that he is lying to you.
These statements have one thing in common: they let him off the hook for his choice to use abusive behavior. Remember, he needs to be willing to accept responsibility for his violence in order to change.
If you feel that you will be safer away from your partner while he is in an intervention program, you have every right to leave. Even if you leave, you must understand that his participation in the program is no guarantee that he will not be a threat to you. The risk that he may be violent toward you may even increase when you leave. For your own safety and the safety of your children, watch for these warning signs in the way he behaves toward you while he is in the program.
Tries to find you if you've left. He may try to get information from your family and friends about your whereabouts, either by threatening them or trying to get their sympathy.
Tries to get you to come back to him. He may do anything to get you to come back - if promising to change and being charming or contrite don't work, his efforts could then escalate to threats and violence.
Tries to take away the children. He may try to kidnap the children as a way of forcing you to stay with him.
Stalks you. If you always seem to run into him when you are on your way to work, running errands, or out with your friends, or if you receive lots of mysterious phone calls, he could be stalking you.
If you have any reason to believe you may be at risk for abuse while your partner is in a program, there are several things you can do to try to increase your safety:
Material used with permission. Adapted from work by the Texas Council on Family Violence, Austin, Texas