It has long been recognized that clients must have the mindset and goals set forth for themselves if they are to succeed in a therapeutic changing process. Whether the goal is to change behavioral or emotional problems, the client must be motivated by their own desires to change. Lee, Uken & Sebold (2007) state that oftentimes in the therapy process, a client will know that he or she needs to change, however, they do not have any indication of when the problem has been successfully dealt with — or when they are successfully changing their behavior. Because there are no indicators for them (without goals), long-term therapy is often what occurs — sometimes with successful results and sometimes not. Goal setting becomes a vital part of successful treatment “because it gauges clients’ progress toward beneficial solutions to their problems” (Maple, 1998; Lee et al., 2007).
There may be reason to believe that because court-ordered batterers may feel resentment, anger, and blame for their sentence, they may not have the ability to recognize that they must change their behavior; therefore, they will not set up goals for themselves as they will not want to actively engage in the therapeutic process. This could result in recidivism for these batterers. The ability to recognize faults and flaws and set out a goal plan for correcting them is vital for recovery.
The opinion on whether court-ordered batterers’ intervention is effective or not has been discussed quite abundantly in the last decade. Rosenberg (2003) found that some of the elements that are helpful when intervening in domestic violence cases are more relational types of assistance. Group support and therapist alliances were the first and foremost elements considered to be the most helpful, according to Rosenberg’s (2003) study of male and female domestic violence perpetrators one year after they had completed a 52-week court-mandated intervention program. However, there is still debate about whether court-mandated programs can force people to change.
Babcock, Green and Robie (2004) found through their meta-analytic review of 22 studies evaluating treatment efficacy for domestically violent males that treatment, overall, tended to have a very small effect on the individuals. “Effects due to treatment were in the small range, meaning that the current interventions have a minimal impact on reducing recidivism beyond the effect of being arrested” (2004).
The court-ordered batterer’s intervention courses are not effective in preventing further domestic violence behavior by offenders as compared to voluntary enrollment in batterer’s intervention courses.
The participants of the study will consist one-half of male inmates who have been convicted of domestic violence assault including assaults that cause homicide or serious injury and have been court-ordered to attend a batterer intervention program, and one-half of male participants of batterer’s intervention courses who have not been court-mandated to attend a batterer intervention program. The demographic they will represent is male participants of batterer’s intervention courses in the state of Maine — both voluntary and involuntary course participants. The males will be of legal age (18 and older) that are presently incarcerated and taking court-mandated batterer’s intervention courses and males taking batterers intervention courses that are not court-mandated.
A minimum of 100 male participants who are presently enrolled and participating in batterer’s intervention courses will be employed — that is, 50 of the males should be court-mandated to take the course and 50 of the males should be voluntarily taking the course.
Recruitment will be done through the WorkReady program at each facility in the state of Maine as well as through batterer’s intervention course institutions. The sample will consist of voluntary and involuntary participants in batterer’s intervention courses that are both court-mandated and non-court-mandated.
The study is utilizing a large group of participants (100) in the hopes of achieving an effective random sample. The participants will be a mix of races, ages and cultural backgrounds.
Design and procedure.
The participants will complete a questionnaire about what crime — or crimes – they have committed in order for them to have been sentenced to incarceration. Specifically, they will be asked questions about all crimes, however, there will be special focus placed on crimes where violence was used. The questionnaire will ask about violence pertaining to family members (children, spouse, etc.) as well as non-family members and strangers. The questionnaire will be approximately 30 to 40 questions that will require rather in-depth answers. The questionnaire will have some multiple choice questions when it comes to asking questions about what one would do in a certain scenario, or how one would feel in a specific scenario. There is no limit on the amount that the participants can write when talking about their violence in the open questions.
They will answer questions concerning why they are taking the batterer’s intervention courses as well as questions regarding pas violent behavior both at the time of taking the course and one year later. The participants who are not court-mandated to take intervention courses will be asked about their decision to participate in the courses (what drove them to it? Did someone else — a spouse or significant other — that the go?). The court-mandated participants will be asked about their feelings associated with the course, whether or not they deem it as important, how they feel about their past behavior, whether or not they think they can stop, among other questions. The questionnaire will also ask questions related to violence that was used against the participants. For example, was their domestic violence occurring in their homes when they were children? Did they ever see their fathers hit their mothers — or vice versa? How did that make them feel as children if they were witness to the violence?
Participants will be directed to complete the questionnaire and identify voluntary or involuntary participation in the course and their reaction to being court-ordered or why they have voluntarily decided to take the courses. This response will be especially important when it comes to the participants who are court-mandated to be taking the program. Because the hypothesis is that court-ordered batterer intervention programs are not as helpful as voluntary participation, there will be special focus on the feelings and emotions associated with taking the courses involuntarily. Specifically, we will be looking for feelings of anger and resentment, rage and blame. Do they blame others for their being ordered to participate in these classes? If so, why? What are some of the other feelings associated with being forced to take part in the classes? Embarrassment, sadness, or guilt?
Violent personal history, criminal background, and repeat domestic violence offenses will be the dependent variables. The study will attempt to measure violent behavior, criminal activity, and repeat domestic violence offenses using a questionnaire with a 1 to 5 scale. We will look at the severity of past violence attacks, whom they were against, where they took place, and what the outcomes of the attacks were. One will be the least severe and 5 the most severe. The secondary hypothesis is that the court-mandated participants will have a higher position on the scale than the non-court-mandated participants.
The questionnaires will also ask questions about psychological states and substance use. For example, were you ever diagnosed with depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or a personality disorder? Have you ever been addicted to a substance such as alcohol or cocaine? When you have engaged in violent behavior, were you under the influence of a substance such as alcohol or cocaine? There is reason to relate the severity of the violence with the use of substances simply based on past studies concerning domestic violence and non-domestic violent acts.
Tollefson and Gross’ (2006) study, Predicting recidivism following participation in a treatment program for batterers,” looked at recidivism rates for 197 batterers who participated in a state-sponsored domestic violence treatment program. The main objective of the study was to find factors that were linked with post-intervention recidivism. There were four factors found that were predictive of recidivism. These were: psychopathology (personality disorders), psychiatric history, substance abuse, and child abuse in family of origin (2006). These factors were able to predict 84% of all outcomes and 97% and 28% of abstainers and re-offenders, respectively (2006).
This study is interesting because it shows that there are more elements that have to do with recidivism that simply whether or not a person was ordered to go to a batterer intervention program. In the case of batterer pathology and substance abuse, these are two very influential determinants of recidivism, and they are issues that would seem to be needed to be dealt with on their own. If substance abuse leads to violence behavior, then which problem does one treat first? The substance abuse issue would have to be dealt with before the violence as substance abuse is a predictive factor when it comes to violence.
The results of the survey will show that that court-mandated batterer intervention programs are not as effective as compared with voluntary participants in batterer intervention programs. This…