Are Batterer Intervention Programs Killing Women?

Our Batterer Intervention Programs might not be providing the hope women want. Our court systems are not psychologists so consequently are under-educated in the issue of pathology. Most judges have very little knowledge about the permanence of pathology, the effects of pathological parenting on children, which batterer has a personality disorder, which one doesn’t, and why that even matters. Without this knowledge, they continue to court-order batterers to intervention without even knowing which ones can change from the treatment and which ones will never change, and can’t.

This under-education matters so much that it’s killing women. The Central Three Tenets of Pathology — the inability to grow to any emotional or spiritual depth, the inability to sustain positive change, and the inability to develop insight about how one’s behavior negatively effects others is hugely relevant when it comes to batterers and personality disorders.

But judges aren’t the only ones under-educated in pathology. The attorneys who are suggesting Batterer Intervention are likely to not understand pathology and the lack of many batterers ability to sustain positive change OR develop insight about their behavior. Child evaluators are likely to not understand why sending a batterer to treatment has no guarantee that he won’t batter again in front of a child, or to a child, if he has one of the Cluster B personality disorders.

And sadly, Batterer Intervention Programs are just as likely to be conned in their groups by narcissists, ASPDs, socios/psychopaths as are the judges, child evaluators, mediators, and attorneys. In fact, most Batterer Intervention Specialists are not pathologists at all. Many are Marriage & Family Therapists (which isn’t a bad thing, of course) or Mental Health Counselors but have little specialty training in personality disorders and psychopathy. Since they are not specialists in the field, they are less likely to flag the batterer as having one of these disorders. Most therapists feel they would be ‘able to spot’ a personality disordered person even though many of them can’t tell you the full spectrum of symptoms associated with personality disorders. One of the least taught aspects of psychology in graduate school is personality disorders and psychopathy.

Since Cluster B Personality Disorders and psychopathy are the ones MOST likely to stalk, disregard restraining orders, abduct children during custody battles, and violently assault–the therapists who run the groups and have a ‘duty to report’ to victims if they are at-risk of harm by their patient, yet don’t even know they have those most likely to harm the victim in their group.

Equally as disturbing is that psychological testing of batterers as a pre-requisite to entering Batterer Intervention is not required and hardly ever done. That means batterers who have personality disorders are being court-ordered and accepted by the agency (or individual therapist provider) into their programs WITHOUT KNOWING what, if any, diagnosis they have. Wouldn’t an agency WANT TO KNOW if someone has Anti Social Personality Disorder? Or is a Psychopath? Wouldn’t they want to know if they were admitting someone into a program that couldn’t be helped BY the program but would only learn how to be a ‘better covert batterer’ to the courts–slinging recovery jargon at the judge to prove they were treated? Even Dr. Robert Hare, the leading researcher and specialists in Psychopathy advises psychopaths NOT be put into group–any group because of this. And yet, day in and day out, Batterer Intervention Groups have NO idea whether or not they are admitting Cluster B’s and psychopaths to their groups to become better-jargoned batterers.

The irony is that the same therapist in their out patient practice with a non-battering client, would have to give a diagnosis for a client in order for them to be in therapy and bill their insurance. Yet, in an area of lethal behavior like domestic violence (especially with the personality disordered), the same therapist does not have to diagnosis the batterer and (in some programs) are able to bill the State for the batterers treatment NOT knowing what the diagnosis of the batterer is. In the cases in which the batterer privately pays for the Batterer Intervention, they are able to receive up to 52 weeks of treatment and never be ‘diagnosed.’ Yet, again–if a non-batterer went to a weekly treatment program for group therapy for an entire year, they would certainly have to be diagnosed. Is this CRAZY or what?

So, how does this effect the woman? The un-diagnosed personality-disordered batterer has just been put through up to an entire year’s worth of weekly treatment that is not likely to do anything given that pathology is based on the inability to sustain positive change and the inability to have insight about how his negative behavior has effected others. Since Batterer Intervention is largely about (a) recognizing how his battering/negative behavior has hurt others and (b) changing and sustaining different behaviors—his therapeutic outcomes are going to be nearly zip.

But he has ‘learned’ some things–how to discuss the power and control wheel taught in class, how to verbalize unequal power in the relationship—how to use buzz words like ‘abuse’ ‘dominance’ and ‘control.’ And better yet, he brings home his either paper or verbal ‘Certificate of Completion’ to the woman who has barred her door to him until ‘he got help.’ He got plenty of it–according to him–a whole years worth and a paper or verbal certificate to hang on his proverbial wall. And she assumes that if he was court-ordered, certainly he was going to a program that COULD help him, and did help him.

Women are killed every day in this country by batterers who have completed intervention, who are un-diagnosed raging narcissists, anti-socials, and socio/psychopaths–who were graduated from programs who didn’t bother to find out ‘who’ was in their class. The buck is passed from the attorney who doesn’t know personality disorders and suggests batterer intervention, to the judge who doesn’t know personality disorders and court orders a program, to the child evaluator who doesn’t know personality disorders and allows continued vists with the child, to the Batterer Intervention Group that accepts, without testing, batterers into their program, and lastly the biggest buck passed is to the woman who is hurt or killed by the ‘graduate’ of Batterer Intervention.

Batterers represent an unusually high percentage of the personality disordered, which shouldn’t be a surprise. The personality disordered (especially Cluster B) have an unusually high percentage of lethality, recidivism in battering behavior, and treatment resistance. And yet, we have an irresponsible system of not testing batterers prior to admission into a program that will some day label them ‘graduates.’

Our positive psychology oriented world that believes everyone can change or grow wants to know ‘Then what are we suppose to do with them?’ There is a reason Dr. Hare says not to put psychopaths in group. It’s so they don’t learn how to con others with their newly learned lingo and to protect the public from false presentations of ‘cure.’ We need a category, even within Batterer Intervention, of ‘non-admissable’–someone who is rejected from treatment to protect the public from the false presentation of ‘cure’ –to protect her from the illusion of graduation from a theory he’ll never incorporate, understand, or conform to.

The under-education of attorney, judges, child evaluators and therapists about personality pathology has to be addressed so that those who are being killed by our court-ordered batterer intervention programs are given the truth–NOT ADMITTED TO BATTERER INTERVENTION.