Batterers' Intervention Programs in CEE/FSU Countries
last updated October 17, 2008

Batterer intervention programs are discussed as a necessary measure in overcoming violence against women in Recommendation 2002(5) of the Council of Europe.  Several CEE/FSU countries have included provisions for state-funded batterer treatment programs in their laws against domestic violence.  For example, see the laws of Bulgaria, Albania, and Georgia.  Most CEE/FSU countries are exploring or implementing BIPs.

In its 2007 study, the Council of Europe stated that requiring a batterer to attend a program for at least 6 months can be a “useful alternative” to incarceration. However, it clarifed that:

Court-mandated participation is thus only effective if there is legal follow-up when the man fails to attend, and in the different legal systems this can be difficult to organize.  If the case is dismissed on condition of the perpetrator agreeing to attend a programme, it usually cannot be recalled to the courtroom when he drops out.  Even when a suspended sentence is conditional on attendance, there may in fact be no follow-up…there may be too few referrals to form a training group…courts are unwilling to require more than a brief course, inadequate to bring about change.  If the perpetrator program is seen as an alternative to punishment, the end result may be that neither takes place.  For the future, it is clearly vital to challenge and reduce violent behaviour of men, but the difficulties are considerable and the programmes do not substitute for protecting women.   FromHagemann-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. 

The CoE report was based upon a questionnaire sent in 2005-2006 and included these questions: Are there specifically designed intervention programmes, conducted by professionals, offered to men perpetrators of violence against women?  How many programmes exist?

Of the CEE/FSU countries which are members of the CoE, only Hungary and Romania had such intervention programs at the time of the survey.   Hungary had two programs and Romania had one program.

In the World Health Organization’s 2003 report, "Intervening with Perpetrators of Intimate Partner Violence:  A Global Perspective," fifty-six batterer intervention programs in 38 countries were surveyed, 23 of which were located in developing countries.

The WHO survey revealed problems in BIP implementation.  Although some practitioners emphasized the importance of victim safety, others appeared unaware of the safety implications of some of their practices, such as communicating with the victim through the abuser.  Abusers may use important information to manipulate a victim, or they may not relay information correctly.  Some of the BIPs required the victim to attend a counseling program with the abuser.  Some programs prioritized family unity over victim safety. 38% of the programs provided couples counseling to participants and victims, but 11% were strong in disapproval of this action. BIPs should focus on stopping the abuser’s criminal conduct, not on keeping the family or couple together.

WHO recommendations included the following:

·        International best practices for BIPs should be developed.

·        The participation of battered women’s organizations in BIP development should be ensured.

·        BIPs should be provided with translated syntheses of current research on domestic violence.

·        BIPs in developing nations should address the lack of legal sanctions for domestic violence.

·        BIPs should address cultural barriers to treatment.

·        BIPs should address the well-known link between intimate partner violence and HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.