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Why Batterer Intervention Programs Fail Abusers

Batterer Intervention Programs (BIPs) were introduced to give domestic violence abusers a second chance. The programs were meant to teach these abusers how to deal with their need for control and power. While many within the domestic violence industry were at one time hopeful, unfortunately not much has been accomplished through these programs.

A primary reason why the programs have failed is because those in the judicial system seem to continually mistaken rage for abuse. In many scenarios, there are judges who mandate abusers to anger management classes, which do nothing to help these abusers deal with underlying issues. These issues range from the need to financially, emotionally, and physically dominate their victims, to the desire to continue to taunt, manipulate, and terrorize their victims, many times way after the relationship is over. Anger management may be one solution to the problem, but it doesn’t do enough to help abusers understand why they behave as they do.

Another reason why the programs fail stems from their short duration. Many require an eight-week commitment, although the rate of failure is very high during this time. BIPs work only when abusers are made to commit to longer programs. Other times, abusers may need to repeat the program several times before they start to recover, yet there is no court mandate ensuring that the abusers continue to follow up.

What can potentially work is to make sure courts follow up on an abuser’s progress. If at any time it is found that the program was unhelpful, then the abuser must be made to continue until some progress is made. How to measure that progress is something that would need to be evaluated. But if an abuser fails to continue with treatment, then other measures should be reconsidered, such as jail time.

The reason why so many victims end up returning to an abusive relationship is because they believe their abusers have changed. This stems from false promises made by the abusers, or by taking small steps such as finding work, completing an anger management class, or even considering a BIP. Yet the abusers are not held accountable to these promises, and the victim returns thinking that some progress has been made and the abuser has been recovered from his abusive tendencies. In many cases, these empty promises to change are merely an attempt to trap victims in a cycle of power and control, and with each return, to have the victim become more dependent on the abuser.

While courts may enroll abusers into either program – anger management or batterer intervention – there is no requirement in place to measure how successful each alternative was and whether the abuser has in fact moved on from his abusive ways. More needs to be done to ensure that they are making a real attempt to face whatever demons they have, and to stop abusing their victims. Until then, we are enabling victims to return to abusers who may eventually harm them in unimaginable ways.


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