Questions Frequently Asked About Abusers & Treament
Taken from "What You Should Know About Your Abusive
Partner", a pamphlet from the Washington State Department of Social and
Health Services reprinted from EMERGE, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
WHAT MOTIVATES MEN TO SEEK TREATMENT?
A man may enter treatment after his partner has left, threatened to leave, or
obtained a protection order against him. In other cases, the court may
have required him to attend treatment. Unfortunately, it is often true
that a man comes for counseling only because it makes him look good and
convinces his partner to take him back.
CAN HE REALLY CHANGE?
Yes, but progress will depend on his recognizing hr has a problem and his
willingness to work hard on it for a long time - without expecting rewards or
support from you for his efforts. Change does not occur overnight, if it occurs
at all, and many men drop out along the way. Long-term improvement in
behavior is more likely for a man who completes the full year's program, but
even completion is no guarantee; men may continue to be violent and controlling
after treatment. Many batterers say that it was only after their partners
left, got a protection order, or criminal charges were filed that they realized
the seriousness of their violence.
IF HE IS SORRY, WILL HE CHANGE?
It is common for an abusive man to be apologetic after being abusive.
But this does not mean he will stop being violent. In fact, many batterers
have a repeated cycle with a stage of increasing abusiveness, than an incident
of violence, and then a period of regret and attempts to make up. He may
make promises and apologize to get you to take him back, to drop a protection
order. or to not cooperate with the prosecutor. This remorseful stage is
just another tactic of his abuse and control of you, and does not lead to any
IS HE VIOLENT BECAUSE HE DRINKS?
Alcohol does not cause a man to be abusive; i5 just gives him a convenient excuse. If he is violent and also abuses alcohol, then he has two problems to take care of. Within days of getting off alcohol, a substance-abusing batterer typically has a period of improved behavior, and then heads back to old abusive ways. He may use his sobriety to manipulate you. Although battering and substance abuse are two separate problems, a substance-abusing batterer is often particularly dangerous. He will have to be clean and sober in order to make any meaningful progress o his battering problem.
No. Couples' counseling allows him to stay focused on his criticisms of you, instead of dealing with his own problems. He may even retaliate against you physically or verbally for what you say to the counselor. You may also be put under pressure to give up certain things that are important to you in return for him giving up his violence. Abuse is a problem in the abuser, not a problem in the relationship. For all these reasons, a man should not be in couples' counseling while be is attending treatment. Couples' counseling may be helpful to you in working on other problems, after he has stopped using violence or intimidation for at lest 6 months, and is consistently treating you better.
In the state of Washington, batterers' treatment programs must be certified by the state. Such programs are expected to meet a number of requirements. In a nutshell, the treatment goal is to increase your safety by holding the abuser accountable for his violence an for taking responsibility for changing his behavior. The program is one year long. For a minimum of six months, he will meet with a group of other men once a week. Then he will attend a session at least once a month for six months.
The treatment program will contact you as part of assessing how they can help you (and your children) get safe and how they can best work with the abuser. They contact you as soon as possible after he joins the program, and then periodically thereafter. They do not tell your abuser anything you say unless they have your permission. In addition to their calls to you, you are also free to contact the treatment provider any time for an update on his participation in the program. Remember though, that you are the best judge of his progress. The abuser is told not to discuss your contact with the treatment providers, except to tell you that they will be calling. He is not allowed to try to influence what you tell the treatment providers, or to ask you questions afterwards about it. He is not to be present while they talk to you. He is free to discuss is own sessions if he wishes.
While the abuser attends treatment, it is not your role to give him emotional or financial support. In fact, while in the program, he must take responsibility for the abuse. You have the right to decide to limit or eliminate contact with him for any length of time if you choose to do so.
Your first consideration should be safety for you and your children. You are encouraged to get support for yourself, if it is safe to do so, through your local program for battered women. He may pressure you to stay with him while he attends treatment; this is a tactic of abuse and control, designed to keep you from making up your own mind. If he is serious about changing, he will respect your wishes about the relationship.
You are the best judge of whether he is changing or not. Trust your gut feelings regardless of other signs. Some of the things to look for are:
Some signs he is not changing: