The question of whether or not domestic violence abusers can be rehabilitated has been a deeply debated topic for some time. Since many of those who fall victim to domestic abuse try to repair the relationship with their abusers, whether or not those who have committed violent acts against their girlfriend or spouse in the past can take steps to handle their anger in a more productive manner in the future is a question that demands an answer.
Having worked with countless defendants charged with committing domestic abuse in California, I have learned first-hand that these cases are rarely the result of a heartless wife beater. More often than not, those who are guilty of committing violent acts of domestic abuse feel genuine remorse over their actions. The abusers themselves are often disturbed by the way in which they handled the situation and wish that they had handled their anger differently.
If the vast majority of those who perpetrate violent acts against their “loved one” will fail to rehabilitate (statistically), the ways in which shelters for the abused assist those who seek their services could benefit. If those who commit violent acts have a statistically significant chance of rehabilitating, the circumstances that helped produce these results could be closely examined to determine if they can be reproduced.
The following statistics were gathered from two different studies. It is important to note that neither of the studies mentioned were performed after the year 2004 and before the year 2000.
Composed of more than 1,300 cases at the Bronx domestic violence court, this study found that 8 percent of domestic violence defendants were arrested again between their case disposition and initial arrest. The study found that repeat offenses became much more common as more time passed: 35 percent of offenders were rearrested during their program mandate period, 31 percent within the year following the end of their program mandate and 44 percent within the two years following the mandate. Between the times that offenders were initially arrested to two years following their release, a staggering 62 percent of all defendants involved were rearrested.
It is important to note that rearrests took into account any new arrest for domestic abuse or any other crime.
Generally, it is accepted that those who commit acts of domestic violence are more likely to commit domestic abuse in the future. Reasons for why repeat domestic violence offenses are so common are still being investigated, as are new ways to help rehabilitate offenders. In the United States, domestic abusers are commonly ordered to attend batterers programs to help decrease the likelihood that they will commit acts of physical violence in the future. Opponents and supporters of abuser rehabilitation have looked to the medical community to determine whether or not these programs are effective in decreasing repeat behaviors.
Edward W. Gondolf recently retired as the director of research at MARTI and professor emeritus of Sociology at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania. During his tenure, Gondolf conducted grant-funded research to investigate several aspects of domestic violence, including the effectiveness of batterer programs. The following is based on his findings and can be researched through the links provided to his book: The Future of Batterer Programs: Reassessing Evidence-Based Practice.
According to Dr. Gondolf, the general consensus amongst researchers focused on determining the effectiveness of batterer’s programs is that “Batterer’s programs don’t work.” “Numerous academic articles declare that batterer’s programs are ineffective.” Having studied the subject of domestic violence treatment in-depth, Dr. Gondolf raises two important questions regarding the effectiveness of batterer program: “Why exactly don’t batterer programs appear to work?” and “Where should the field be headed?.”
Dr. Gondolf provides three alternatives to court-ordered batterer’s programs: leave offenders on probation without batterers programming, modify current programs to increase effectiveness, and to scrap batterer intervention entirely and re-cast it as a gender neutral problem of dysfunctional and pathological couples.
Although there is hope for domestic violence abusers to rehabilitate, there is no concrete evidence produced on a consistent basis to support the effectiveness of batterers programs towards accomplishing this goal. Whether this is a result of improperly designed batterer’s programs has yet to be determined with any degree of certainty.
There are numerous instances where domestic violence abusers do not repeat their offenses, but studies suggest that it is more common for abusers to repeat their abuse.
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