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The Future of Batterer Programs

Reassessing Evidence-Based Practice

Edward W. Gondolf

Publication Year: 2012

A critical assessment of the research related to batterer programs with recommendations for heightened engagement of men, ongoing risk management, and better coordination of courts and services Batterer programs are at a critical juncture, with a handful of experimental program evaluations showing little or no effect from the prevailing program approach. This finding has prompted calls to overhaul or replace such programs. Edward W. Gondolf examines batterer research in light of the push for “evidence-based practice” and advocates a progressive evolution of batterer intervention as it currently stands. Cautioning against the call for programs based on a “new psychology,” he argues that current cognitive-behavioral approaches are appropriate for most cases, with the addition of ongoing risk management for severely violent men. Overall, he promotes a broader picture of batterer intervention and advocates better implementation of the basic principles established in the criminal justice field.

Published by: Northeastern University Press

Series: Northeastern Series on Gender, Crime, and Law


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pp. c-i

Series Page

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p. ii-ii

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. iii-vi


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pp. vii-x

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pp. xi-xviii

A woman who had been battered by her former husband recently contacted me about batterer programs. Th e court case against her former husband had been dismissed aft er he had undergone six weeks of individual therapy with a social worker. Th e woman was concerned about what appeared to her to be a shortterm and insufficient treatment for her husband’s previous violence. She also

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pp. 1-10

Batterer intervention programs are at a critical juncture. Despite their central role in addressing domestic violence over the last thirty years, their effectiveness in stopping men’s violence toward and abuse of their female partners is increasingly questioned. A handful of experimental program evaluations show that participation in a batterer program has little or no effect, compared to being only on probation. Th e call for evidence-based practice, therefore, leaves...

Part I | Sorting Out Batterer Programs

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1 | The Uncertain State of Batterer Programs

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pp. 13-45

We tend to talk about batterer programs as a distinct form of intervention. Th e term conjures up the familiar image of men in a group talking about their problems for a few hours each week. A counselor or group leader explores with the men why they do what they do to their partners and teaches the men how to stop their hurtful behavior. The court has usually sent the men to the group— ...

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2 | The Debate about Program Effectiveness

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pp. 46-82

If we look to current evidence-based practice for the state and direction of batterer programs, the answer might seem clear and confused at the same time. “Batterer programs don’t work” has become somewhat of a chant among some researchers in the field. Numerous academic articles declare that batterer programs are ineffective, according to a handful of experimental batterer program evaluations (Babcock, Canady, Graham, & Schart, 2007; Corvo, Dutton, &...

Part II | The New Psychology of Batterers

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3 | The Cognitive-Behavioral and Psychodynamic Divide

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pp. 85-126

The second most frequently asked question about batterer programs—after how effective are they—is what counseling, education, or therapeutic approach works best. Like the first question, the second has a variety of competing answers, but in this case there is even less substantive evidence to draw on. Practitioners have favorite approaches based on a variety of reasons that range from their own training, pet theories, personal agendas, and underlying philosophies...

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4 | The Many Efforts to Categorize Batterers

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pp. 127-166

Men who batter their female partners are not all the same. At least, this has become a truism in the field. At conferences and in articles, the opposition to “one size fits all” approaches is cited to justify diverse and tailored treatments for batterers (for example, Corvo, Dutton, & Chen, 2008; Holtzworth-Munroe & Meehan, 2004; Levesque, Driskell, & Prochaska, 2008; Stith Rosen, McCollum, & Thomsen, 2004). Th is raises a direct challenge to what is referred to as the...

Part III | The System Matters

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5 | Risk Management in the Intervention System

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pp. 169-197

I have implied throughout this book that the key question with regard to batterer programs is how to improve them. Th e previous chapters present at least some evidence supporting the conventional gender-based, cognitive-behavioral approach. There is, however, a subgroup of men who remain unresponsive and resistant to batterer programming, regardless of approach. Th e proposed alternatives,...

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6 | Implementation, Implementation

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pp. 198-234

As my research team asserts in the book that summarizes our multisite study, Batterer Intervention Systems: “The system matters!” (Gondolf, 2002a, p. 199). This is not a novel idea in criminology, nor is it unique to the domestic violence field. But it has been somewhat overshadowed by the biomedical model imposed on batterer programs amid the evidence-based practice movement and...

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pp. 235-242

This book began with a lament about the apparent disarray among batterer programs. On the surface, they seem faced with a variety of budding alternatives and proposed innovations, and undercut by research that brands them as ineffective. In the midst of the rising demand for evidence-based practice, many programs are being pressured to change or being pushed out by alternatives. They are also facing an increasing funding shortage that leaves many of them...


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pp. 243-266


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pp. 267-306


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pp. 307-318

E-ISBN-13: 9781555537715
E-ISBN-10: 1555537715
Print-ISBN-13: 9781555537692
Print-ISBN-10: 1555537693

Page Count: 336
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Northeastern Series on Gender, Crime, and Law