This paper reports on the design and findings of an evaluation of the Victim Services' Alternatives to Violence (ATV) batterer treatment program in Brooklyn, NY.
The treatment program was based on the Duluth model, which mandated 26 weeks of attendance at a weekly 1-hour group meeting. The course reflected a feminist perspective that assumes domestic violence is an outgrowth of conventional male and female sex roles. The curriculum included defining domestic violence, understanding the historical and cultural aspects of domestic abuse, and reviewing criminal/legal issues. Through a combination of instruction and discussion, participants were encouraged to take responsibility for their anger, actions, and reactions. Sessions were conducted by two leaders, one male and one female. An alternative sanction for the control group that was irrelevant to the battering problem was required. Community service was selected as such a sanction, because it required only that offenders work at such tasks as renovating housing units, clearing vacant lots, etc. Criminal justice officials agreed to use this sanction as an alternative to ATV for men assigned to the control group. All participants in the experiment were assigned either to receive 40 hours of group batterers' treatment or to complete 40 hours of community service. To measure recidivism, data from several sources were collected to develop multiple indicators of new violence by the batterer against the victim. These included arrest reports, crime incident complaints, victim reports of violence by the batterer, and batterer reports of assaulting the victim. Researchers examined the combined frequency of all 11 violent acts reported by the victim at the 6-month and 12-month intervals. The study sample contained 376 adult males, which was approximately 3.4 percent of the estimated 11,000 domestic violence defendants adjudicated in the Brooklyn Criminal Courts within the study's intake period (February 19, 1995, to March 1, 1996). Regardless of the source of outcome data, the study found consistent reductions in the rate of violence by the batterers against their victims for those assigned to the ATV treatment program. The researchers are cautious, however, about claiming unequivocally that treatment worked better than community service at reducing violence or that longer treatment is better than shorter treatment. More research is needed to replicate the positive findings and to explore whether treatment or supervision was the mechanism underlying the apparent additional positive effect from the longer treatment. Implications of the findings are drawn for researchers and for practitioners. 1 table and 14 references
Date Published: January 1, 2004