NEW YORK STATE COALITION AGAINST DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
A position paper
1994, by Rose Garrity, NYSCADV Board of Directors
The New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence has historically
had reservations and concerns about the idea of providing services to men
who batter and recognizes the need to be vigilant about the proliferation
of batterer programs across New York State and the country. Concerns in
the battered women's movement about batterer programs include the reality
of potential funding competition with services for battered women, the fear
that services to batterers will not recognize the safety needs of partners,
the inherent inequality of power in battering relationships, or other truths
of extreme importance to battered women. Other fears include the possibility,
based upon repeated e)experience, that, as soon as services to men begin,
the focus on safety and services to women and children will be diluted or
lost. Courts frequently order joint custody, or terminate super\supervised
\visitation once an abuser has begun or completed a program for batterers.
Domestic Violence is a widespread problem that causes dire consequences
for families and for the communities in which families live. NYSCADV recognizes
domestic violence as an extensive range of tactics used by men to control
the lives of women with whom they are/were partnered. These tactics include
patterns of physical, sexual and psychological abuse and result in an atmosphere
of fear and/or terror for the victim.
Domestic violence may result in death, permanent or other significant injury.
It almost always causes serious psychological damage to those who live
with it. Children who witness this abuse and/or who are themselves abused
as part of the abuser's controlling and abusive tactics are always seriously
ANALYSIS OF VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN IN THE HOME
Woman battering is a pattern of behavior that exists in up to fifty
percent of intimate relationships between men and women. Abuse of women
by men is not caused by individual pathologies; it is a natural outgrowth
of patriarchal anthropology. This violence cuts across historical eras,
classes and cultures. As the Dobashes pointed out in 1977, "...what
is being questioned is not just the issue of men who beat their wives but
the rights of husbands to control and dominate their wives."(1) More
than just individual, this power over women is maintained by institutional
and social arrangements that are complex the criminal legal system, for
instance, does little to help battered women, more often forcing them to
endure rather than escape. The batterer knows he can get away with almost
anything he chooses to do to his partner. The idea that she is subordinate
to him is reinforced in countless ways, both subtle and overt, almost everywhere
he turns. Susan Schechter defines domination as "an organization of
society in which certain groups of people are able to both limit and determine
the spheres of act of other people while at the same time they profit materially
or through privileges from that limiting."(2) Schechter goes on to
explain how control exercised by any group in power over others carries
with it the threat or use of force to coerce compliance (defined as legitimate
by those who have the power). Many other scholars, writers and social activists
agree and have written similar analyses. Paulo Friere's - Pedagogy of the
Oppressed - is a classic. Lenore Walker, Ginni NiCarthy, Ellen Pence, Barbara
Hart, Andrea Dworkin, Phyllis Chesler and countless others share the analysis,
as does the NYSCADV.
Economics play a major role in keeping women subjected to batterers. Low
wages, lack of housing and medical care options and reduced or no access
to legal help make it impossible for many women to create a safe place of
their own to live. Societal pressures to be "partnered" at all
costs coerce women to be with men, even if battered. "Protection"
that doesn't protect, racism, classism and other injustices in the system
also reduce options. The alternatives for battered women, even with shelter
and non-residential domestic violence programs, are devastatingly limited.
Abuse is the force men use to maintain domination over women. As Lenore
Walker said, "Rapists are the shock troops in the street, and batterers
are the home guard" to keep women in their place. Women's everyday
lives are filled with violence and fear of violence. When the institutions
of society fail to hold accountable and punish men who batter women they
reinforce the perceived legitimacy of domination.
It is only by understanding the analysis of woman abuse that takes these
and other supports of male violence into account that we can effectively
provide *any* service related to battering, or address the prevention of
family violence without re victimizing and/or blaming the victim while allowing
or participating in collusion with batterers and patriarchy.
BATTERER PROGRAMS: CONCERNS, PROBLEMS, DANGERS
NYSCADV knows that batterer programs can be dangerous to battered women
and their children. Some **"treatment" for batterers is provided
without regard for the position or safety of the battered woman. She may
be seen as equally responsible for the "family problems" being
addressed. He may be given anger management or communications skills training
as though that will solve his 'problem'. Therapists may suggest couples
counseling during or after **"treatment". Mediation may be recommended.
There may even be mandated counseling for *her* concurrent with the batterer's
**"treatment'. These and some other models are ineffective at best,
and put battered women in serious, increased danger at worst, while blaming
her for behavior he has chosen.
We must understand that battering is not an "illness" that can
be "treated"; the use of the word "treat' or "treatment"
in batterer programs implies individual pathology, and implies "cure".
We know that there is never a way to gauge a man's dangerousness or potential
for continued battering, no matter what program he participates in or how
compliant he seems to be in the program.
Many approaches are being tried, often by those who have no knowledge or
understanding of domestic violence. Many are now using approaches developed
by or approved by advocates for battered women, having learned that program
models exist that pay attention to the analysis understood in the battered
women's movement, but are mixing those segments with techniques that pathologize
the problem as an individual dysfunction that can be cured'.
Still others are careful to promise no change in the batterer's behavior,
and to run programs that are accountable to battered women and that put
the safety of the women first.
What we know about batterer programs is that they can increase danger to
battered women in several ways. One of the most obvious is that women are
manipulated into returning or into staying with a dangerous man because
he is in a program. Many batterers deliberately use their alleged participation
in programs to coerce their partners to do as they wish; they may also use
the program to decrease their accountability or to look meritorious if the
courts or police are involved The batterer program becomes one more tool
with which he abuses his partner.
Another danger is that while he may decrease physical abuse he'll increase
psychological control and abuse as a result of being in a batterer intervention
program. Now it appears to his partner and to others that he is stopping
his violence, but according to battered women the emotional terror is even
worse. Unfortunately batterer programs can inadvertently give men new tactics
for emotional abuse by teaching "alternatives" to violence, and
in the tactics men may learn from each other in the batterers group.
Yet another danger in BIPs is that battered women whose partners are in
a program often develop great hope and expectation that he will change,
*in spite of the fact that no program can promise change.* Because of this
new hope women may stay with abusers when the danger is not only as real
as ever, but may even be more lethal.
When a batterer is in a program courts, police and other authorities may
be less likely to hold him accountable for his acts; he may manipulate them
with tales of his alleged change, and how hard he is "working"
on the relationship, while accusing *her* of escalation. She may then be
seen as the cause of the conflict or incident, or at least equally responsible.
This is one more way batterer programs can increase danger to battered
Some batterer programs may directly increase danger to partners by encouraging
or even requiring contact with them to ascertain compliance by the batterer.
No matter how careful the batterer program thinks it is being in assuring
her safety or protecting her, *they cannot.* She can be, and likely will
be "repaid" by her abuser. Contact of battered women by the abuser's
program puts women in the position of holding the abuser accountable rather
than the system/community/state holding him accountable as they do other
Other dangers exist, however the list given here serves to illustrate how
complex the issue is, especially for battered women and their advocates.
The organization seeking to work most safety and responsibly with batterers
will seek out volumes of detailed information and training by those who
have done the work with unfailing accountability to battered women's safety
Batterer programs will continue to spring up across the State, and existing
programs will grow. NYSCADV wishes to suggest that some minimal guidelines
be followed by those seeking to establish or enhance batterer programs.
***Criteria that must be used include:***
These criteria will be best attained by the use of a profeminist educational
curriculum in which batterers are taught that only they are responsible
for their behavior choices, that their partners are never responsible for
their abuse, nor do they ever deserve it, that no one has the right to control
another person, that other humans are never property, and that battering
is a deliberately chosen tactic used to maintain power and control. (See
'Sources for Further Reading' at the end of this paper for resources on
how to develop and run such a program.)
If you choose to offer a batterer
intervention program do it only within the context of a community response
system. You should work with a domestic domestic program to develop such
a system by engaging each part of the criminal/legal system, the mental
health community, health care service providers, social services, addictions
treatment professionals, and others who serve battered women and batterers.
A team approach that consistently holds batterers accountable while maintaining
safety for battered women and their children will help to ensure program
accountability and will monitor those engaged in the process to enhance
safety and effectiveness\. Information on the development of such teams
is available through the New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic
Violence. (See 'Sources...
(1) Russell P. and R. Emerson Dobash, "Love, Honor and Obey: Institutional
Ideologies and the Struggle for Battered Women" in Contemporary Crisis,
Elsevier Scientific Publishing Co., Amsterdam, 1977.
(2) Susan Schechter, "Psychic Battering: The Institutional Response
Battered Women". Address presented to the Midwest Conference: Abuse
Women, St.Louis, May 1978.
SOURCES FOR FURTHER READING
Adams, David, M.Ed., Counseling Men Who Batter: A Profeminist Analysis of
Five Treatment Models, Emerge, 280 Green Street, Cambridge, Ma. 02139, 1986.
Gondolf, Edward, -Man Against Woman: What E\Every Woman Should Know About
Violent Men-, Tab Books, Blue Ridge Summit, Pa., 1989.
Gondoff, Edward and Russell, David, - Man to Man: A Guide for Men in Abusive
Relationship, Human Services Institute, Bradenton, Fla., 1987.
New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, New York
State Standards for Batterer Intervention Programs, Capital View Office
Park, Third Floor, 52 Washington Street, Rensselear, N.Y. 12144.
Pence, Ellen and Paymar, Michael, Power and Control: Tactics of Men Who
Batter -, Minnesota Program Development, 206 West Fourth Street, Duluth,
Yllo, Kersti, and Bograd, Michele, eds, Feminist Perspectives on Wife
Abuse, Sage Publications, Newbury Park, Ca., 1988.
For further information, contact:
NEW YORK STATE COALITION AGAINST DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
The Women's Building
79 Central Avenue
ALBANY, NY 12206
Phone: (518) 432-4864
(Reprinted in LIMITS AND RISKS OF PROGRAMS' FOR WIFE BATTERERS,
Montreal Men Against Sexism)sexism, 1996.)