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

Published June 2009

Chapter 8. Intervention Programs

Section 1 — Do batterer intervention programs prevent reabuse?

Commonly, whether diverted, probated or jailed, many domestic violence offenders are required to attend batterer intervention programs. These programs have increased dramatically over the past several decades. [110]

During this time, there have been more than 35 evaluations of batterer intervention programs, but they have yielded inconsistent results. Two meta-analyses of the more rigorous studies find the programs have, at best, a "modest" treatment effect, producing a minimal reduction in rearrests for domestic violence. [8, 62] In one of the meta-analyses, the treatment effect translated to a 5-percent improvement rate in cessation of reassaults due to the treatment. [8] In the other, it ranged from none to 0.26, roughly representing a reduction in recidivism from 13 to 20 percent. [62]

On the other hand, a few studies have found that batterer intervention programs make abusers more likely to reabuse [90, 102] or have found no reduction in abuse at all. [36, 42, 61]

The multistate study of four batterer programs concludes that approximately a quarter of batterers appear unresponsive and resistant to batterer intervention. In this long-term study, based on victim and/or abuser interviews and/or police arrests, approximately half of the batterers reassaulted their initial or new partners sometime during the study's 30-month follow-up. Most of the reassaults occurred within the first six months of program intake. Nearly a quarter of the batterers repeatedly assaulted their partners during the follow-up and accounted for nearly all of the severe assaults and injuries. [84, 85, 88]

Implications for Prosecutors and Judges

Batterer programs, in and of themselves, are not likely to protect most victims or new intimate partners of referred abusers from further harm from higher risk abusers. Consequently, if mandated or utilized, batterer intervention programs should be supplemented by other measures to assure victim safety from these abusers. (Research basis: Multiple single studies as well as two meta-analyses of studies from disparate jurisdictions in different contexts across the country.)

Date Created: June 5, 2009