In the 1990s, the California legislature started treating domestic violence very seriously. Since 1994, the law in California mandates that defendants who are convicted in a domestic violence case complete a certified Batterers’ Intervention Program as part of their terms of probation. Approximately 100,000 arrests per year are made for misdemeanor and felony domestic violence, according to a report by the Judicial Council of California. This has created a large demand for programs for individuals who need to enroll. A proportionately large industry has developed to meet this need.
What is a Batterers’ Intervention Program?
A Batterers’ Intervention Program consists of a weekly meeting where individuals receive education and counseling and learn what causes abuse and family violence. They also identify what changes they must make in their lifestyles to prevent violent behavior. The programs focus on safety for the victim and children, and healing and empowerment may occur as a result, particularly where the participant is fully committed to success. Individuals who successfully complete these programs are shown to have lower recidivism and fewer domestic violence arrests than those who did not complete the program. These programs do not sit in isolation, of course, and other elements of probation support the program, and individuals are strongly encouraged to take steps on their own behalf to reduce the risk of future episodes of violence and aggression. For example, avoiding situations or people that will trigger aggression and violence.
What is the Difference Between Batterers’ Intervention Programs for Men and Women?
There are differences between male and female batterers and a need for programs to take that into account. According to one study, when men and women are arrested in a mutual combat situation, the men were found to have almost no history of being domestic violence victims, whereas forty percent of women assailants had. In single-arrest situations, men had only a two percent history of victimization and a forty-nine percent history of a prior arrest. One widely adopted theory of batterers and intervention, the Duluth model, was created to treat male actors. It combined feminist and cognitive-behavioral theories of the causes of domestic violence. This model used an approach that was a cognitive psycho-educational approach that challenged male authority in relationships and taught skills to support egalitarian, respectful relationships.
Programs for women take into account that, in many cases, women who resort to violence often do so in the context of a violent relationship. Also, women frequently use violence in self-defense or to try to protect themselves and their children from a predominately abusive partner. There are also Batterers’ Intervention Programs available for same-sex couples.
What are the Elements of the Program?
A qualifying program is anywhere between 12 to 52 weeks depending on the county where you reside. The program may be extended by the court if the defendant is not making suitable progress. The staff at fully certified programs shall have specific knowledge about partner abuse, child abuse, substance abuse, sexual abuse, and dynamics of violence. They shall understand the legal backdrop to domestic violence, including applicable criminal statutes, and policies. The minimum size of the program is generally four people. Where there is a limited number of participants available, owing perhaps to geographic and language restrictions, programs may deviate. A facilitator with at least 3 years of experience may lead a group of up to twelve people. If more than 12 are present, a co-facilitator should be used.
A participant should not miss more than three meetings. He will have to make them up with the same content as the missed program. Failing to complete a program can result in significantly increased custody and fines.
Where Can I Find a Batterers’ Intervention Program Near Me?
Generally, the programs are overseen by the County in which they are located and can provide you with information. For Santa Barbara County, the Probation Department has a list posted here.
Stay in Compliance and Fulfill your Legal Obligation
As indicated, this is a serious matter for the courts and a sticking point for many individuals. If you need assistance or advice, please call Christy Horowitz, Santa Barbara Domestic Violence Defense Attorney, today at (805) 429-2525 to get started on your case. She has significant experience in this area of law and is available to discuss this matter with you.