Influential US Batterers' Intervention Programs
last updated October 17, 2008

The first abuser education program in the United States was Emerge, located in Massachusetts.  Emerge offers a dual-phase program in which offenders who take accountability for the violence in an 8-week session are allowed to progress to a 26-week group session program that combines an educational curriculum, cognitive behavior techniques and group therapy.  Participants must identify how they have harmed others so that they can work to end the behaviors and become respectful and non-abusive.  Emerge requires that its clients follow certain rules for attendance, tardiness, payment of fees and abstinence from drug and alcohol abuse before sessions.  Substance abuse is considered a separate problem from domestic violence, and services for this are not offered at Emerge.

Emerge contacts victims regularly, and offers them a list of indicators of real change in a batterer, with the caveat that an abuser, skilled at manipulation, may exhibit signs of change without actually having changed at all.  Emerge also offers a specific list of indicators showing that a batterer has not changed his attitude about violence.

Another influential program in the US is Amend - Abusive Men Exploring New Directions, located in Colorado.  Its treatment plan focuses on taking responsibility for the abuse, anger management skills, and conflict resolution.  AMEND reports that a recent Center for Disease Control study gave them a 58% success rate.

AMEND begins each individual or group counseling session with a check of current abuse which may be taking place and noting any nonviolent behaviors which have been utilized instead of violence.  AMEND uses victim advocates as liaisons between victims and AMEND counselors, enabling counselors to focus on “specific problematic behavior” during counseling.  Advocates may also relay important safety information to the victim about client behavior observed during the program.  They offer victim support and education groups at one of their locations.

The New York Model for Batterer Programs has similar goals to the programs described above, but victim safety is not included as part of its mission, because the New York Model does not believe that offender programs enhance victim safety, nor does it support any contact with the victim. The New York Model does not focus on treatment, because treatment suggests that domestic violence is an individual problem.  It, like the Duluth model and others, is based on the premise that domestic violence has its root cause in sexism and in a patriarchy that allows men to believe that it is their right to control women by using many strategies.  It states that “…batterer programs don’t reliably work,” and suggest that resources might be better allocated to other parts of a coordinated community response, and to changing normative systems. Aspects of The New York Model include:

  • Voluntary participation in the NY Model is not allowed.  It is one of the sanctions that a judge may offer, depending upon the seriousness of the domestic violence crime. 
  • Court orders must be for at least 26 sessions, and there must be a court-imposed consequence if the offender does not attend. 
  • The NY Model states that it cannot compel men to stop abusing their partners or know if abuse is occurring.
  • The NY Model states that programs should “…urge the court to use the most serious penalty possible at the earliest possible moment, based on the severity of the crime committed by a domestic violence offender.  The seriousness and swiftness of the court’s response is the key to any community’s criminal justice response and signals the court’s zero tolerance for men’s violence against women.”

For links to research and reports on batterers' intervention programs, click here.