What Helps Abusive Men Change?
Dawn Bradley Berry
groups seek to prevent the recurrence of violence in the relationships of the
men who have come to the group as batterers, and many also work to stop new
violence before it starts through education and changing community attitudes.
can be difficult work in a society in which many men are taught over and over
that violence is an acceptable, manly response to anger. Most children receive
little or no training in how to have successful relationships or deal with anger
in healthy ways. Boys are taught they must "act like a man," which
means being tough, dominating, and in control. They are expected to fight to
solve problems. Many men's groups discuss these roles and expectations, and the
effect they have on
The group setting allows the participants to see that they are not alone,
that other men have suffered from similar fear, confusion, and lack of comfort
in intimate relationships. While the men are always required to take
responsibility for their actions, they are also recognized as human beings who
have the potential to change if they are committed to doing so. They are helped
to heal and learn how to have healthy relationships based on equality and
respect. Some of the leading men's programs in the country are listed in the
who admit that they are responsible for abusing their partners, who realize that
they did something wrong and want to change, have the best chance of
successfully turning their lives around. Most batterer's programs are open to
any man who wants to enroll. Most are either free
charge on a sliding fee scale, according to income. Private therapy is also
available in most communities. Many
churches, community mental health organizations, and other sources offer free or
low-cost counseling. State domestic violence coalitions and local organizations
earlier a man gets treatment, the better chance he has of changing his behavior.
Sometimes an older brother, trusted friend, or other male the abuser
looks up to can convince him he has a problem. If someone you know or care about
is abusive to his wife, try to talk to him and urge him to get help, or discuss
the problem with someone else you think might be able to get through to him.
who aren't willing to seek help on their own must suffer the consequences. If
they get treatment, it is often by court order. Abusers are manipulative by
nature, and quickly learn whether or not they can get by with their behavior
without suffering any real punishment. The most successful programs combine at
least a taste of jail, some individual therapy, and group counseling that covers
education about the abusive relationship, behavior modification training, anger
management, and separate treatment for substance abuse, if necessary. Above all,
the abuser must be held responsible and admit that the abuse is his fault, not
his partner's, if he is to make any meaningful changes. Sometimes, helping to
see that an abuser is arrested can be the kindest act you can do for him, as
well as for his victims.
Dawn Bradley, 1995. Domestic
Violence Sourcebook, p.196-202.
Lowell House, Los Angeles, CA.
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