Georgia's Model Protocol
for Batterers Classes


PREFACE

The following model is the protocol recommended by the Georgia Commission on Family Violence for intervention with batterers in cases of domestic violence. It represents a compilation of principles and procedures which local domestic violence task forces are urged to consider, as a minimum standard, when developing strategies to stop family violence in their communities. Three things should be noted: Shelter and support services for victims must be available within the community. Participation in a batterers program does not insure safety for victims. Not all batterers are appropriate candidates for batterers counseling/education programs.


SUMMARY OF BATTERERS PROTOCOL


1. No mandatory counseling or joint participation in batterers counseling should be required of the victim in any approved batterers program.

2. This intervention program should not be in lieu of criminal consequences, i.e., jail time, community service, fines, etc.

3. After accusation or indictment, diversion programs are not recommended where justice is not served [see Georgia Commission on Family Violence Judicial Protocol page 5(C.6)].

4. Batterers programs must be in compliance with protocol and standards adopted by circuit task forces.

5. Group leaders/instructors must be trained in the specific area of domestic violence. Individuals should meet training/education requirements as set forth on page 5(D.8). This includes a minimum of 40 hours training in domestic violence intervention.

6. Safety of the victim should supersede all consideration of confidentiality.

7. To insure accountability, procedures e.g. written reports should be established to inform courts, probation, etc. of degree to which offender is in compliance with court order.

8. Offenders should be responsible for payment of fees. A sliding fee scale may be considered.

9. Batterers programs should be active members of the local circuit task force.


A MODEL BATTERERS INTERVENTION PROTOCOL
FOR FAMILY VIOLENCE INCIDENTS

INTRODUCTION


The Georgia Commission on Family Violence has defined family violence as follows:

Family violence affects all kinds of families and is criminal and unacceptable behavior. It cuts across all social, economic, cultural, racial, age and religious lines. Acts of family violence are both similar and different from other criminal acts. They are similar in that the culpability of the perpetrator is paramount in administering justice. However, family violence is different from criminal acts which are typically isolated events where the victim is more or less randomly picked. Violence and the persistent threat of it by one member of a family against another less powerful member becomes integrated into relationship patterns. Here, it becomes a primary feature of family relationships where it is used, effectively, to define, determine and enforce the expected behavior of the victims. This control oriented function of violence is specific to family violence and involves the continuous or escalating use of threats, physical harm or sexual assault to ensure the compliance of victims. In some cases, external factors may contribute to and exacerbate family violence, for example, alcohol use, drug use, interpersonal conflict or confrontations, stress, witnessing or being a victim of childhood violence, but these do not cause the violence to happen.

In many cases, these factors are present for people who do not use violence against their loved ones. This understanding then explodes the myth that family violence is caused by precipitating factors and establishes the assumption that the central core of family violence is its function to establish fear in, control of and dominance over another person. Because family violence "..function(s) to establish fear in, control of and dominance over another person" and "..is criminal and unacceptable behavior," the effective means to end it requires the following: A safe place within the community for victims and children, away from the perpetrator's control and domination; and Sanctions by the community appropriate for criminal behavior.

For nearly 20 years, shelters for battered women have existed in Georgia, providing safe space for victims of family violence and their children. Spurred by the recommendations of the Georgia Commission on Family Violence, local task forces on family violence are developing coordinated responses within their communities for imposing sanctions on perpetrators of family violence. Central to this effort is the justice system, both criminal and civil. Civil relief to victims is present through temporary protective orders. Criminal sanctions of a consistent, strong pro-arrest response by law enforcement agencies, combined with rigorous prosecution, appropriate adjudication, closely monitored probation and sentences that reflect the seriousness of the crime reinforce the community's message that battering will not be tolerated.

For batterers to experience meaningful consequences for their crime and to have an opportunity to learn new, non-violent behavior, a useful element of the community's response can be a batterers intervention program. Such a program, in order to be effective, must work from a mission statement that reflects the primacy of promoting safety for victims while holding perpetrators accountable for their abusive behavior; be an active component of the task force's response to the crime of battering; function as an advocate for safety and justice for victims but not as a provider of direct service to victims; organize within the community to raise awareness about the fact that battering is unacceptable; be established in communities where there are already services for victims through shelters licensed by the state of Georgia. conduct behavioral/educational groups for batterers which have as their purpose to hold abusers accountable for and to end members' violent and controlling behaviors.

This document will address the following essential elements of a Batterers Intervention Program: minimum standards for the constituent elements of a program, including intake procedures, contracts and curriculum for a batterers' group/class; qualifications and training of staff; systems of accountability to victims and victim advocates; and the role of the program in a coordinated community response.

A Checklist for Assessing Batterers Intervention Programs will be included as Exhibit A.


I. RECOMMENDED PROCEDURES

A. Program Structure


Batterers intervention programs should be designed to provide the batterer with all the information needed in order to eliminate violent behavior. Batterers are a separate category of violent offenders requiring specialized intervention. Batterers intervention programs should focus on interrupting, avoiding, and ending violence and abuse and on the batterer's capacity to change. Unlike treatment with other couple's problems, they should not focus on saving the relationship. The relationship between the batterer and the victim may or may not work out. But before that can be decided, the violence, threats, and intimidation must stop. Only after there is a period during which there is no threat of violence is there even the possibility for a victim to decide whether to stay in the relationship or whether they can work on it.

Traditional therapy approaches to intervention with batterers, for example, stress management, anger control, insight therapy, and couples therapy are not recommended and are generally inappropriate because they do not address the motivating factors that result in the perpetration of family violence. They have been demonstrated to be ineffective and may jeopardize the safety of the victim/partner. In couples therapy each partner needs to bring up her/his primary concerns. When a person has battered a partner and the partner chooses to raise that and other concerns, the standard response, whether during the session, on the way home, or at home is often to threaten, intimidate and abuse until the concerns are silenced. Until time has demonstrated that the batterer can hear and respect the partner's point of view without abusive retaliation, it is unsafe to engage in couples counseling. In some ways stress and anger management can be quite useful to batterers. But learning to reduce stress and manage anger does not necessarily reduce a batterers belief that domination of a partner is appropriate nor does it challenge the batterers willingness to enforce this belief using whatever tactics necessary. Insight therapy may, in the long run, help a batterer see connections between negative past experiences and choice's to abuse a partner. This sort of personal growth work is, of course, beneficial. However, effective interventions must focus on immediate behavioral change (ending the battering).

While the following characteristics are frequently associated with and may contribute to a person's choice to batter a partner, battering is not caused by personality disorders, mental illness, poor impulse control, generational violence, other family of origin issues, communication deficits, personal or moral deficits, disease, diminished intellect, and/or addiction. Treatment for these problems should neither replace nor interfere with addressing the abusive behavior, accepting responsibility for it, and addressing the abuse of power in that relationship. Batterers intervention programs represent one link in a chain of a comprehensive, community response to end domestic violence and are most effective as a collaboration with the larger intervention system. Information should be readily shared between intervention programs, other agencies working toward ending domestic violence and the local task force. Batterers intervention programs should be initiated only in communities which provide shelter, safe housing, advocacy, and counseling for victims.

Intervention programs for batterers are not to be used as a substitute for arrest, incarceration, or other legal sanctions. To do so would send the message that this is not a serious crime as it would be if a stranger assaulted a stranger. Programs should utilize a group or classroom format because groups can: Provide a greater opportunity for confrontation and accountability than individual work can; Be more successful in decreasing the batterer's isolation and dependence upon the partner; Be more cost effective; Further reinforce the message that battering will not be viewed as a private, "behind closed doors" matter.


B. Intake and Screening Standards


1. Programs shall develop criteria for services and an intake form by which batterers are screened and assessed for eligibility. During the intake process, a batterer must admit perpetration, acknowledge the behavior as criminal and express a desire to change. Those who do not meet these minimal standards should receive other serious, legal consequences that send a clear message of deterrence (i.e. jail time, fines, community service).

2. Programs shall develop a written policy for screening all program participants for substance abuse prior to entry into a batterers group.

3. Programs shall develop a referral mechanism for persons eliminated from program participation during the screening process.

4. Programs should make appropriate referrals for persons with other problems that might interfere with completion of the program (ie. substance abuse, psychiatric disorders and specialized intervention for perpetration of child abuse and/or sexual assault).

5. Programs shall work toward compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. For example programs should accommodate clients in wheelchairs and those with hearing and visual impairments.

6. Programs shall have a written policy for notifying victim if there is a heightened risk for abuse.


C. Program Contracts


1. Standards of Obligation of the Batterer to the Program

a. Batterers intervention programs shall establish a written agreement that clearly delineates the obligations of the batterer to the program and consequences for non-compliance with the agreement. The program shall review the agreement with and furnish a copy to the batterer.

b. The program shall develop guidelines for discharge from the program, ensuring that discharge decisions are uniform and predictable.

2. Standards of Obligation of the Program to the Batterer

a. All programs shall establish a written agreement that clearly delineates the obligations of the program to the batterer. The program shall review the content of the written agreement with the batterer and furnish him a copy.

3. Confidentiality Standards

a. The contract will inform the batterer of the limits of confidentiality.

b. The contract will inform the batterer of the right of the program staff to advise the partner and/or domestic violence program of the participant's application, enrollment, attendance, dismissal, level of participation, program completion and any threats of violence. When the participant is mandated to the batterers intervention program by the court, the contract must include a waiver which specifies that the above information may be revealed to the probation department and the court; and that the appropriate criminal justice agency must be apprised of a mandated batterer's failure to participate, further acts of violence, or dismissal.

c. The contract will inform the batterer of the program's responsibility to take safety initiatives by notifying any person at risk, including but not limited to the victim, any children, significant others, victims's advocates or the police, of any concerns they have about the participants potential for violence and lethality.

d. The contract will include the Georgia mandates of reporting of suspected child abuse to Child Protective Services of the Department of Human Resources.


D. Fees

Payment for one's own participation in a batterers intervention program is one of many indicators of responsibility and should be incorporated into the program. All batterers shall be charged for participation in batterers intervention programs. The batterers intervention program shall establish a fee scale to contribute to the cost of the program. Fees shall be based on a sliding scale or an alternative system that would accommodate inability to pay.


E. Standards for Non-Compliance Dismissal


1. Batterers intervention programs shall develop a written policy outlining the circumstances under which a batterer may be terminated before completing the program.

2. Programs shall develop a written procedure for notifying victim/partners when a batterer is discharged from the program.


F. Standards for Program Completion Criteria


1. Recognizing that learning alternatives to abusive and controlling behaviors is life long work for perpetrators of domestic violence, batterers intervention program providers shall offer classes that last at least six months .

2. The program shall establish written criteria for satisfactory completion of the batterers intervention program. Completion of the program occurs when the participant has consistently attended the program and cooperated with group rules throughout the program. Under no circumstance does completion of the program guarantee further non-violence.

3. The completion report should reflect information that can be verified, such as consistent attendance, and cooperation with group/class expectations throughout the program.


G. Program Curriculum Standards


1. Batterers intervention programs shall provide an orientation session for each new participant. This orientation shall include: a. materials which establish program requirements, procedures, and policies; and b. materials which address the first and second components of the curriculum (the nature of domestic violence and safety planning).

2. The program shall include a written educational curriculum based on interpersonal/re- socialization techniques.

The curriculum shall, at a minimum, cover the following areas:

a. The nature and effects of domestic violence;

b. The development of safety planning which provides participants with the skills and training for handling immediate conflict situations without abusive behavior;

c. The work that is necessary to bring about changes in the attitudes and beliefs that promote family violence;

d. The skills necessary for the maintenance of non-abusive behavior which includes learning non-violent conflict resolution, non-aggressive communication, and maintaining positive, healthy partnerships and parenting.

e. The importance of community service which allows batterers to give something of themselves back to the community and contribute to changing the climate that condones violence against women.

f. Information about State Law and practice regarding domestic violence and legal/social consequences for batterers.


H. Program Evaluation


1. Monitoring Batterers Intervention Programs Monitoring is a process by which batterers intervention programs are designed, evaluated and restructured. Evaluation is both structural and substantive. Monitoring of programs is a responsibility which domestic violence programs and advocates may undertake if feasible.

a. Each batterers intervention program shall establish a cooperative and accountable working relationship with the local domestic violence programs(s) [task force(s)/shelter(s)] for the purpose of being monitored, networking, information-sharing, and mutual support. The batterers intervention program shall initiate this request. Prior to the advent of monitoring, representatives from the domestic violence program and the batterers intervention program shall meet to establish a cooperative agreement which forms the structure under which they work. Domestic violence programs and batterers intervention programs across the state will most likely have aspects which are unique to their setting and their community. When this occurs, these unique aspects should be taken into consideration.


I. Personnel and Funding Policies


1. Standards for Staff Selection, Recruitment and Training Requirements

a. All persons providing intervention with batterers shall meet the following criteria:

All instructors who work 20 hours or more per week in the batterers intervention program, must have completed 40 hours of orientation and initial training before they work unsupervised with program participants. Staff, including contract employees, who work fewer than 20 hours per week in the batterers intervention program shall complete 20 hours of orientation and initial training before working unsupervised with program participants.

b. The batterers intervention program provides staff with on-going training and supervision by those with the expertise in domestic violence.

2. Staff Confidentiality

a. Standard Re: Class/Group Batterers intervention programs shall develop policies and procedures concerning the confidentiality that will be afforded to program participants in other aspects both within and outside the program, for example, use of audio or video taping of group sessions, contracts with the television or print media and community education activities.

b. Standard for Court Disclosure and Testimony Batterers intervention programs shall develop policies about providing testimony in administrative and judicial proceedings, addressing matters such as the scope of participation of batterers intervention program staff in judicial or administrative proceedings and the parameters of confidentiality in cases involving batterers mandated by the court. The policy should specify that the court is entitled to information about application, enrollment, attendance, potential violence or threats of violence, lethality assessment, dismissal and justification of same, and completion of court mandate.

c. Standard for Victims/Partners and Confidentiality Batterers intervention programs shall not persuade nor coerce victims to waive confidentiality and shall inform victims of the limits to confidentiality. Victims who wish to give information to the batterers program must be informed of the limitations of usefulness of doing so and encouraged to seek further assistance from victim advocates. 3. Funding Guidelines Acknowledging that domestic violence projects are presently under-funded, agencies seeking to fund services for batterers shall not compete with victim services for funding. In addition, batterers intervention programs shall not, in their efforts to identify and secure funding, expect commitment and/or support from victim service providers and/or advocates, other than in those terms which are acceptable to the service provider.


II. BATTERERS INTERVENTION PROGRAMS AND COMMUNITY COLLABORATION


A. Standards for Collaboration with Battered Women's Shelters


Collaboration with the established local battered women's networks and programs includes recognizing and using their knowledge and expertise, as well as actively using their services for partners/victims of the batterer's intervention participants.

1. Batterers intervention programs shall develop a written policy to establish collaborative, accountable relationships with local battered women's shelters, including information for victims about battering intervention services, philosophy, program content, goals and limitations.


B. Standards for Batterers Intervention Programs and the Criminal Justice System


Batterers intervention programs must work in cooperation with all aspects of the criminal justice system that come in contact with victims and with batterers in order to improve and coordinate the criminal justice systems response to domestic violence cases.

1. Batterers intervention programs shall establish or join a pre-existing domestic violence/ criminal justice task force in their community.

2. Batterers intervention programs shall develop agreements and/or memoranda of understanding with the courts concerning court mandated participation in the program.


C. Standards for Collaboration with Substance Abuse Resources in the Community


Collaboration with the substance abuse community includes recognizing and using their knowledge and expertise in the field of substance abuse, as well as coordinating their services for participants of Batterers Intervention Program. (Please note that it is absolutely inappropriate to require the victim to seek counselling for substance abuse.)

1. Batterers intervention programs shall develop a written policy to establish a formal working relationship with substance abuse community resource providers.


D. Standards for Community Education


The consensus in the field of batterers intervention strongly supports the use of multiple coordinated interventions to respond more effectively to domestic violence. These interventions can include a strong safety network for victims, enforced pro-arrest policies for police, pro- prosecution policies, victim advocates within the criminal justice system and the use of probation and incarceration as well as intervention programs for batterers. According to experts such as Edward W. Gondolf, "A batterer's participation in a batterer's program never occurs in isolation . . . Batterers also are likely to be influenced by such legal interventions as protective orders, court-mandated counselling, arrest or bail conditions" (Gondolf 1987a) and furthermore, "it may be that program effectiveness is related more to the system of interventions present in a particular community than to the activity of one particular program." (Gondolf 1987b).

1. Batterers intervention programs, in consultation and collaboration with domestic violence programs as well as criminal justice and other human services programs, shall carefully develop community education, training and prevention materials and disseminate these broadly. The purpose of these efforts is to change community attitudes and institutional responses toward domestic violence. In this way, communities can effectively hold the batterers accountable for their violence by confronting them with negative consequences should they continue to abuse their intimate partners, and by protecting victims' rights to violence-free lives.



(Exhibit A) Checklist for Assessing Batterers Intervention Programs


Couples counseling, family counseling, and mediation are not appropriate interventions with perpetrators of family violence. No mandatory counseling or joint participation in batterers counseling should be required of the victim. Appropriate referrals to shelters may be offered to the victim. Safety of the victim should supersede all consideration of confidentiality. Batterers intervention programs are obligated to screen individuals for their appropriateness to participate in a batterers intervention class/group. Not all perpetrators are good candidates for batterers programs. (See 7 below).

Is there a program in your judicial circuit which specifically provides services/advocacy to battered women?

Does the batterers intervention program have a letter of recommendation from the local program for victims of family violence? This must be renewed annually.

Is the batterers program a member of the local task force on family violence?

Does the batterers program have a written mission statement that reflects the primacy of victim safety and accountability of the perpetrator?

Does the batters program have agreements regarding how it will work in conjunction with the courts and probation departments?

Does the batterers intervention program require a participant to sign a contract that spells out the perpetrator's obligation to the program and the program's obligation to the perpetrator?

Does the batterers program have a process for notifying the court if participant is inappropriate or problematic?

Does the program last at least six months and are the participants attending weekly meetings? Are meeting days and times varied to allow for work schedules?

Are there meaningful consequences when a participant breaches a contract?

Does the program have content that is outlined in written form?

Have direct services staff been trained in family violence issues?

A minimum of 40 hours of training specific to the field of family violence is recommended.

(Exhibit D)


Bibliography of Curricula Available:


AMEND: Breaking the Cycle, Philosophy and Curriculum for Treating Batterers . Michael Lindsey, Robert McBride, and Constance Platt; Gylantic Publishing Company; Littleton CO, 1993.

The Duluth Model: Education Groups for Men Who Batter . Ellen Pence, Michal Paymar; Springer Publishing Company; New York, 1993.

EMERGE: Program Manual for First Stage Groups . EMERGE Staff. Available from EMERGE 2380 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge MA 02140.

Men Stopping Violence: A Program for Change . Dick Bathrick, Kathleen Carlin, Gus Kaufman, Jr., Rich Vodde. Available from Men Stopping Violence: 1020 DeKalb Ave. #25, Atlanta, GA 30307.


For more information on the Georgia Standards contact:

Richard H. Blum, MSW;
337 S. Milledge Ave., # 206; Athens, Ga. 30605
706/369-0078 (voice & fax)
rblum@athens.net
http://www.athens.net/~rblum
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