Effectiveness of Batterers' Intervention Programs
last updated October 17, 2008

In general, research has shown that Batterers Intervention Programs are most effective when combined with a coordinated community response that includes accountability to judicial systems.  From:  Adams, David, “Treatment Programs for Batterers,” Clinics in Family Practice, Vol. 5 No. 1, March 2003.

Experts have conducted a variety of studies to determine the effectiveness of BIPs.  Most agree that "effectiveness" means the cessation of abuse.  This outcome has been measured in different ways, among them:  no further complaints or arrests; the batterer’s representations during treatment programs; the victim’s reports to program officials. The studies concluded that BIPs have a “modest but positive” effect upon violence prevention. However, across all programs, men of color had a lower rate of program completion than white men, and thus experts agree that cultural competency is very important to program success. From:  Sullivan, Cris M., and Adams, Adrienne E., “A National Review of Outcomes and Indicators Used to Evaluate Domestic Violence Programs,” prepared for United Way of Greater Milwaukee, February 2007. 

In a recent study, the Council of Europe agreed that “…the extent of behavioural change brought about by such programmes is modest.  At best they control and reduce the danger of physical violence, but rarely eliminate the pattern of dominance behind it.”  From:  Hagemann-White, Carol, and Bohn, Sabine, Protecting Women against Violence:  Analytical study on the effective implementation of Recommendation Rec (2002)5 on the protection of women against violence in Council of Europe member states, Directorate General of Human Rights and Legal Affairs, Strasbourg, 2007.

A 2003 report by the World Health Organization, entitled Intervening with Perpetrators of Intimate Partner Violence:  A Global Perspective, confirmed a moderate success rate, stating that reviews of BIPs in the US and UK found that about two-thirds of people who complete BIPs remain non-violent for up to three years.  However, from 22-42% of abusers studied in the US and in Canada failed to complete a program. 

Other research indicates that BIPs have little effect on recidivism or attitudes of violent offenders. However, at least one study found that men who were required to attend longer programs had significantly fewer complaints lodged against them than those who completed an 8-week program.  From:  National Institute of Justice, Special Report:  Batterers Intervention Programs:  Where Do We Go From Here? June 2003 at www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij.

Additionally, shorter programs, with less time to change batterer attitude, may create more sophisticated batterers who learn to control their partner’s behavior through methods of intimidation other than physical violence. For indicators of reliable changes in batterer’s attitudes see Guidelines for Assessing Change in Abusive Men at www.LundyBancroft.com.