Much research is devoted to adult victims and children of abuse.  Such research is necessary so we can decide where to focus funding and programs.  However, issues are not resolved simply by looking at one side of an issue.  It is important to consider the toll abuse places on batterers along with what assistance they need to heal.  Ellen Pence (one of the pioneers of the domestic violence movement; see Pioneers and Trailblazers blog post) was one to realize that in order to eradicate domestic abuse, we also needed to take care of the abusers.

Many people wonder if there is a profile of batterers.  One of the foremost researchers in this area is Edward Gondolf.  His research has indicated that “one size” does not fit all…for abusers or batterer intervention programs (White & Gondolf, 2000).¹ The overriding question becomes – do batterer programs work?  The most imperative issue for victims and society is holding abusers accountable for their actions.  At the same time, most victims truly love their abusers, what they want is for the abuse to stop. However, in order for abuse to stop, batterers need programs that not assist them in changing their behavior, holding them accountable but abusers must want to change.

The issue of whether batterer intervention programs are effective has been debated for decades.  However, it’s important to have a history of these programs before discussing their effectiveness.

One of the first programs created was Emerge.  Established in 1977 in Boston, MA, this program came about at the request of women who were working with victims in Boston shelters. The program was created by a group of 10 men, many of whom knew and/or were friends with the shelter workers.

Another program that began around the same time as Emerge was RAVEN.  Established in St. Louis, MO in 1979, RAVEN was also begun by men who knew or were related to shelter workers in the area.

Other programs began popping up shortly thereafter: Amend in Denver, CO, Manalive in Marin County, CA, and Oakland (CA) Men’s Project.  These were groundbreaking programs.  However, one noteworthy program is the Duluth Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs (DAIP).

DAIP was the brainchild of Ellen Pence and Michael Paymar.  Along with their colleagues, they interviewed 200 victims of abuse, and through those interviews began to piece together a pattern of abuse.  This led to the creation of the Power & Control Wheel.  No one who works in the field of domestic abuse can do their work without understanding this valuable tool.

DAIP went one step further and established standards.  All 50 states and 17 countries utilize the Duluth method for batterer programs.²

The standards that most programs utilize are 26-52 weeks, 2 hours a week, with only 3 excused absences. It is estimated that over 95% of abusers are court-mandated. Abusers must keep a log of their actions during the week, watch videos and log what actions in the video they have done, and are taught to pay attention to their reactions when discussions escalate and begin to become altercations.  Study notwithstanding, there still remains the question – are batterer intervention programs (BIPs) effective?

The effectiveness of BIPs has long been controversial.  One of the major issues has been consistent methodology, measurements, and ability to keep track of abusers for more than 1-2 years after the program (to measure recidivism).  Therefore, there is no clear answer.  Some of the criticisms are lack of empirical data (feminist-psychosocial treatment and cognitive behavioral therapy), lack of motivation on the part of the batterers (due to most being court-mandated), and the lack of inclusion to look at the influence of culture and religion on actions of abusers.

With this being said, the profiles on the types of personalities have had interesting results.  White and Gondolf’s work³ has produced the following:

Low Dysfunction:

  • Narcissistic/non-conforming style: 32%
  • Avoidant/depressive style: 21%
  • Atypical: 3%
  • Moderate Dysfunction:
  • Antisocial disorder: 11%
  • Narcissistic disorder: 7%
  • Atypical: 11%
  • Severe Dysfunction:
  • Paranoid disorder: 9%
  • Borderline personality disorder: 4%
  • Atypical: 2%

As with any research, it imperative to read the whole report,  however, this report clearly indicates that most abusers do have a mental health disorder.  It has also been demonstrated that the majority of violence is not an issue of drugs and alcohol.  The majority of recovering abusers (as they call themselves) indicate that they knew what they did every time they did and they chose to be violent.

Batterer intervention programs may not be perfect and need updating, it is all we have at the present time.  And batterers, despite their behavior, are still deserving of respect.  It’s their behavior that society wants to stop.

1. White, R. J. & Gondolf, E. W. (2000). Implications of personality profiles for batterer treatment. Journal of Interpersonal Violence 15(5).
2. Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs. (n.d.). About.
3. White, R. J. & Gondolf, E. W. (2000). Implications of personality profiles for batterer treat. Journal of Interpersonal Aggression 15(5).