Practical Implications of Current Domestic Violence Research: For Law Enforcement, Prosecutors and Judges

Published June 2009

Chapter 8. Intervention Programs

Section 6 — Do those who complete batterer programs do better than those who fail?

Abusers who complete batterer programs are less likely to reabuse than those who fail to attend, are noncompliant, or drop out. [9, 30, 48, 54, 87, 90, 183] The differences can be substantial.

A Chicago study of more than 500 court-referred batterers referred to 30 different programs found that recidivism after an average of 2.4 years was 14.3 percent for those who completed the program, whereas recidivism for those who did not complete the programs was more than twice that (34.6 percent). [12] Those who did not complete their program mandate in the Bronx court study were four times more likely to recidivate than those who completed their program. [183]

The multistate study of four programs found that abusers who completed the programs reduced their risk of reassault in a range of 46 to 66 percent. [86] A Florida study found that the odds that abusers who completed the program would be rearrested were half those of a control group not assigned to the program, whereas the odds of rearrest for those who failed to attend were two and one-half times higher than the control group. [60]

A Massachusetts study found that, over a six-year period, those who completed a certified batterer intervention program were significantly less likely to be rearraigned for any type of offense, a violent offense or a protection order violation. (Massachusetts does not have a domestic violence statute, so researchers could not differentiate domestic from nondomestic violence offenses.) The rate differences for these offenses, between those who completed a program and those who did not, was as follows: 47.7 vs. 83.6 percent for any crime, 33.7 vs. 64.2 percent for a violent crime, and 17.4 vs. 41.8 percent for violation of a protective order. [18] The Dallas study found that twice as many program dropouts as program completers were rearrested within 13 months: 39.7 vs. 17.9 percent for any charge, and 8.1 vs. 2.8 percent for assault arrests. [53] An Alexandria, Va., study of almost 2,000 domestic violence defendants found that noncompliance with court-ordered treatment was associated significantly with being a repeat offender. [172]

While some studies have found reduced reabuse for abusers who completed treatment programs, a few studies have found less dramatic reductions, for example, in Broward County, where the difference was only 4 percent vs. 5 percent [61], and in Brooklyn, where it was 16 percent vs. 26 percent. [205]

Implications for Prosecutors and Judges

Compliance with mandated batterer intervention programs provides prosecutors and judges with a dynamic risk instrument based on a defendant's ongoing current behavior. Reabuse can be prevented if prosecutors and courts respond appropriately and expeditiously to batterers who fail to attend or to comply with court-referred batterer intervention programs. (Research basis: Multiple studies of batterer intervention programs in diverse jurisdictions across the country.)

Date Created: June 5, 2009