Frequently Asked Questions
1. Does it work?
Typically, “Does it work?” questions how many men have stopped being abusive as a result of being in a batterer program. Research on this subject and anecdotal reports have provided dubious, inconclusive and questionable results. Simply put, batterer programs cannot be relied upon to change even the very small percentage of abusive men who will ever be ordered into them. We say this in spite of the fact that reports from batterer programs across the country provide widely varying answers.
NOMAS Model batterer programs aim to redefine the question. With offender accountability being key, we want to know whether courts take orders to batterer programs seriously. Fearing that both parking and speeding tickets get better enforcement, we are questioning what courts do when men ordered to batterer programs don’t go, get dismissed or drop out on their own. When the answer is consistent, that there is a more serious consequence levied, we will say, “Yes, batterer programs work. They are one form of sanction used by the courts to hold offenders accountable and as such, a part of a larger strategy of social change.
2. Why have batterer programs at all?
Batterer programs began long before our movement had developed the analysis that it has today about domestic violence. With the best of intentions, expectations for batterer programs may have been misplaced. “Today we should think about what this means without fearing the possible damage that a realistic appraisal could do to the large apparatus established nationally for mandating and delivering batterer programs.” Dr. Chris O’Sullivan went on to say, “Maybe it is not the programs that need to go, but the expectations of what they can do.”
3. Does the model say men cannot change?
No. Of course men can change. Any man who chooses to address sexism and its effects on him (and all men) – can change. Any man can end his abuse toward women. Personal transformation is possible and occurs all the time. What we challenge is the concept that a batterer program is an effective vehicle for doing so for the majority of men who attend. And this is in spite of our efforts (and others) to provide participants with everything they would need to do so. What happens, however, is that when we expose this truth, we are frequently misinterpreted to be saying the rather silly notion that men cannot change. Once again, our basic belief that we share here with you and in the program to the participants – is that all men are capable of treating women respectfully – if they choose to do so.
4. Is this a “one size fits all” program?
The criticism of “one size fits all” most always seems filled with mockery. How could anyone think that a “one size fits all” program makes any sense? Surely “batterers” are different from each other. All of us are unique. But, the criminal justice system is not supposed to be. We have all heard that justice is blind – or at least is supposed to aspire to that ideal. Domestic violence advocates have historically asked the courts to treat domestic abuse cases in relation to the crimes committed, not in regard to the relationship of the offender to victim, nor his race, class or celebrity status. If that means one size fits all – that is what we want.
And once ordered to a NOMAS Model batterer program, we believe it is incumbent upon us to hold each participant to exactly the same standard of adherence to policies and procedures. With utmost respect and consideration of race, class and other differences, we live up to the movement standard of “holding offenders accountable.” In this instance, one size does fit all.
5. But what about men who want to volunteer to be in your program? Why is the program only for court-ordered men?
The programs that evolved into the NOMAS Model for Batterer Programs all began by accepting both court-ordered and “voluntary” men. As we developed beliefs about domestic violence and batterer programs, it became clear that our batterer program would not be open to voluntary or self referred men. We discovered that those who were not court ordered often seemed motivated by the need to placate their partners and/or the system. As a result, once that seemed accomplished, there was no consequence to erratic attendance or to stopping all together. The program itself had no real authority.
At the same time, we recognize that there ought to be forums where the material presented can be made available to the general public – and we urge communities with batterer programs to participate in the establishment and operation of those forums. Our challenge to those same communities, however, is to NOT call them “batterer programs” and to NOT take attendance. If there is real desire to learn and grow, attendance records would not make a difference.
6. Can the participant join the program if previously terminated from this/another program?
Yes. Referrals are accepted as long as the court or referring agent is prepared to impose a consequence if the referred person fails to comply with the court order. History, other than his being a danger to staff or other persons at our program sites, does not disqualify a person from attending a NOMAS Model batterer program. (We recognize that he is a potential danger to his partner).
7. How long is each session? Does it have to be 90 minutes?
No. It is a tradition for some NOMAS Model batterer programs to do so. Our recommendation is that whatever time is prescribed, programs keep to it. We are aware of NOMAS Model programs that operate 75 and 120-minute sessions.
8. What is the fee for the program? Why are men charged a fee to attend the sessions? And doesn’t charging a fee also mean taking money from “her”?
Fees are consistent with other forms of penalties imposed by courts. They are another element in holding offenders accountable. In our programs, fees are assigned on a sliding scale determined by income. The fees cover a very small portion of program costs. As to “taking money from her,” in some way, of course, it may. So does time taken away from work in going to court, or to jail. His behavior negatively impacts battered women in many ways, including the costs his penalties incur. To date, this has not been a compelling reason for battered women’s advocates to suggest that we charge a fee to attend our program. (All clients/participants in our agency’s family service, counseling and mental health programs pay fees.)
9. Do you provide confidentiality for the men in the program?
No. When participants register for the program they are read a statement which states that participation in a NOMAS Model program is not confidential. Participants sign-off that they have heard and understand that the program is not confidential. This is in keeping with the fact that NOMAS Model programs are presentation, discussion, providing information and Q&A, not personal sharing and not treatment.
10. What are your policies on drugs and alcohol?
Included in registration information given to each participant is that if staff suspects drug or alcohol use, they will dismiss the participant from that session and he will be marked absent.
11. Do you give tests and homework?
No. As for tests, it is not required that anyone learn anything that they would be tested on. Our goal is to present information, in a compelling manner, so that it is easily understandable to all. Participants do not have to agree with what is presented. Further, we suggest that they understand it, before they disagree with it. The most important lesson, learned by all, is that he has been held accountable by the court.
If we did test, and someone got 100% on all tests, it would not necessarily say anything at all about his behavior with his partner. If he chooses to learn and integrate the material taught – that is up to him entirely. As for homework, if we gave it, we would have to be prepared to do something about those who did not do it. We do not give homework.
12. What do you do with a man who says that he doesn’t belong in this program?
We suggest he take that up with the court or agent of the court that sent him in the first place. We are not accusing or exonerating. Our role is to clarify what he must do to satisfy his order to attend the program.
13. You say you do not allow disrespectful behavior by the men in the sessions. How do you define disrespectful behavior?
The standards of respectful behavior are routinely a topic in our weekly staff development and training meetings. The right to decide is fully in the hands of the one or two staff members facilitating the session. If they deem a participant to be disrespectful or disruptive, they will say so and give the participant an opportunity to stop the problematic behavior. If he does not, he is dismissed from that session. If a participant feels he was dismissed from a session unfairly, he can call the office the next day and request a hearing. Under most circumstances a hearing is granted. We hold ourselves to a very high standard of fairness and respect toward all participants.
14. How do you address the issue of non-English-speaking participants?
We provide interpretation during registration for all non-English speaking referrals. However, it is not possible to offer sessions in languages other than English or Spanish at this time. When confronted with the question of what to do with non English or Spanish speaking participants, the local battered women’s movement advocates (including a Resource Council, women who have formerly used the services of the women’s domestic violence program) advise us to keep those men in the program. They want the court to have the same accountability mechanism available for those men – as it does for English and Spanish speakers.
15. What is the model based on?
NOMAS Model batterer programs are based on more than four decades years of experience and learning and interacting with battered women’s advocates from our local community, our state and from across the United States. The model is also based on research results about batterer programs. A NOMAS Model is a service to the courts that can be used to extend the court’s accountability and monitoring functions.
16. If we change our batterer program to the NOMAS Model, we are concerned that court referrals may drop significantly. Will they?
They may – for a time. In the communities we serve, court referrals did drop significantly as we clarified that we were not offering rehabilitation nor reporting markers of success. Instead, we were clear and straight forward about the service that we COULD provide. We used phrases such as, service to the court, extension of judicial monitoring, additional sanction and offender accountability. These ideas were new, took a while to take hold and slowly began to be accepted – one court at a time.
NOMAS Model programs cannot operate as businesses . . . by accepting inappropriate referrals due to (understandable) concerns of losing money. Instead, we must be part of the social change movement in this country – to end domestic violence. With determination, commitment and support from the battered women’s movement, courts come to highly value the NOMAS Model and referrals will go up.
17. What happens if a man is re-ordered to a NOMAS Model batterer program after being dismissed?
As with initial orders to a NOMAS Model batterer program, we urge that a re-order be used only if it is the most serious sanction available to the court. It must also be clear that if he again does not comply with the order and/or program policies, he will face an additional court imposed consequence.
When a NOMAS Model batterer program accepts a man back on a re-order, he must re-register and start over at session #1. To allow him to pick up where he left off would be tantamount to no real consequence for his dismissal. Under these terms, NOMAS Model batterer programs do not limit the number of re-orders the court may make.
18. But what about women? Don’t women abuse too? Don’t women also commit violence against men?
Of course. Women can be mean, abusive and violent toward their intimate partners. The perspective we share on this issue, however, is systemic and not individual. History and culture point to the pervasiveness of men’s entitlements, across the globe, to control women’s lives. This is the backdrop in which domestic violence became a social norm. This is fully borne out by statistics, no matter what reporting flaws are conceded. Another point is that typically, male domestic violence offenders control, dominate and terrorize their partners. Also typically, women who abuse are defending, fighting back, retaliating and rarely causing fear or disturbing the flow of their partner’s lives. It is noteworthy that the systemic supports of men’s domestic abuse are exposed by the harsh differential in punishment women get when tried for similar crimes.
19. Doesn’t it take “two to tango”?
Does this question suggest that a man cannot be abusive unless his intimate partner “dances” too? If so, the answer is no, it does not take two. Men’s violence against women can start and stop with him alone. Further, no matter what provocation is used to justify why a man abuses his intimate partner, there is no situation that he cannot handle civilly. From the mundane dinner being overcooked to the controversial affair with another man, there is no provocation that justifies abuse. If women were to make no behavior changes whatsoever, men’s abuse of women could be ended.
20. What about when women “push men’s buttons?”
There are some expressions that are so deeply entrenched that we accept them without question. “Pushing buttons” is one. It most often refers to moments when a partner defies an abuser’s limit or crosses a line that he has set. When examined, “pushing buttons” ends up as nothing other than a justification for abuse. And while we surely understand the deep frustrations and annoyances in intimate partner relationships, we are unshakable around issues of responsibility for one’s actions.
21. But what about women who stay with abusive men? Isn’t it their fault too? Why do they stay?
Perhaps this is the most common question asked about the issue of domestic violence throughout the history of the battered women’s movement. There are many, many thoughtful answers. One that we like begins by exposing that the question itself assumes that women are stupid. (i.e. “Why does she stay?” gets said. “She must be stupid.” doesn’t.) Our belief is that women are intelligent and make life saving decisions every day for themselves and their children. As such, the question should be changed to “What is wrong with our communities – with our society in general – that makes the decision to stay with an abuser the choice for so many women?”
22. What about victim safety?
Batterer programs have a long history with victim safety being part of their mission, purpose, program, etc. The NOMAS Model for Batterer Programs no longer does. As we evolved over years, we recognized that the program plays a role solely between offenders and courts. We no longer believe that batterer programs can or do enhance victim safety. Our greatest concern is that we do not compromise women’s safety – especially by representing false hope. If we play any role in victim safety, it is not particularly related to the individual women partnered with men in the program. Safety is enhanced significantly in light of the overall social change impact that the NOMAS Model might have. By shifting both expectations about batterer programs and the appropriateness of effective court responses for those cases that end up there, women as a group would be better protected from domestic abuse.
23. But what about anger management?
Some of the earliest batterer programs in the United States included anger management strategies. Many still do. We follow the lead of battered women’s movement foremother Susan Schechter and thank her for exposing the unsuitability of this approach. Many will remember her question, “If it is about anger, how come he only takes it out on the woman who is his partner? When his boss, or a police officer or the judge on his case infuriates him, how come he holds off on being abusive until he gets home to his partner?” As a result, we talk about men who are abusive as expert anger managers – already skilled with the tools and techniques to control themselves – when they want to.
[Click to download reference article: Policy Statement Against Couples Counseling & Anger Management in DV Cases]
24. But what about mental health treatment?
From the outset, batterer programs were seen as a form of treatment where the desired result would be cure, i.e. no more abuse. The NOMAS Model acknowledges that as a misguided beginning. Today, the purpose of the NOMAS Model for Batterer Programs is serving civil and criminal courts with accountability and monitoring functions. It is critical that batterer programs be clearly differentiated from mental health treatment. Our analysis is based on domestic violence as historically rooted in our country – not as individual pathology.
25. But what about partner contact or couples counseling?
Partner contact is another staple for many batterer programs – and part of the history of our programs as well. After years of thoughtful discussion with advocates, the NOMAS Model policy is that we will make no contact with partners of men in our programs. The domestic violence movement’s advocates are in place to deliver those services and we ought never to be in competition. At the same time, it is NOMAS Model program’s responsibility to provide no cost, on-going training to local battered women’s programs on the NOMAS Model.. A title used for that training explains its goal: “What Every Battered Women’s Advocate Needs to Know about Batterer Programs: In Order to Best Support Battered Women and to Educate Others in the Community.”
26. What about batterers in the GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender) community?
NOMAS Model program providers are involved in and working closely with the GLBT anti-violence and domestic violence community. Given the current state of the discourse on batterer programs, we believe that if batterer programs have not yet been started in the GLBT community, they should not be started. It would better serve the community to enhance victim services, focus energy and resources toward organizing a coordinated community response and explore ways to change the social norms that allow intimate partner abuse to continue unabated.
27. Do NOMAS Model programs work in collaboration with other agencies and community groups?
It is imperative that NOMAS Model programs work closely with community groups, especially battered women’s programs, groups representing the needs and interests of people of color and domestic violence coordinating councils. At the request of the battered women’s program, NOMAS Model programs attend many other community forums as well.
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