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Batterers Intervention Program

I got a call today while offering my time to answer calls for the Massachusetts Bar Association’s monthly Dial-a-Lawyer program regarding the Batterers Intervention Program (BIP).  BIP is a program for batterers in a domestic violence situation.  It is similar to AA for alcoholics where batterers go and get counseling as a group and also individually.  The purpose is to rehabilitate the batterer so that they no longer batter their spouse, significant other or family member.  Does it work? Rarely.

The recidivism rate for batterers who attended and completed the BIP is unacceptably high.  There can be many explanations – it’s not a voluntary problem for most because they’re referred by the criminal justice system; they see it as punishment; once a batterer, always a batterer.  There are a myriad of explanations but the one thing I know for sure is that they don’t work well.

As a victim of domestic abuse and violence, should you depend on the BIP to rehabilitate your abuser?  A therepist or counselor would tell you that it’s up to you to decide.  However, as a divorce attorney, I don’t have to be impartial and I believe it to be my job to advise people who they should do.  My advice is this: it’s great that the abuser is going to treatment and I hope they never batter someone else but for the abused, it’s already too late.  A good and healthy relationship won’t likely result from any treatment so the victim must move on.  Get a divorce or move away.

A counselor will probably advise that the victim decide for themselves because it empowers them but I believe victims are seeking different advice when they go see an attorney than when they go see a counselor.

Click here for a list of Domestic Violence Programs in Massachusetts.


5 Comments on “Batterers Intervention Program

  1. Not all BIPs are created equal and it is important to distinguish BIPs from Anger Management Programs (which are *never* appropriate to address battering a domestic partner).

    It is critically important to understand that it usually takes many attempts before a victim of domestic violence is able leave and when (s)he does it is *the* most dangerous time. Only your client knows when and how is the safest way for her to leave and it is important that she be the one to take control herself and make that decision.

    2 books you can recommend to your clients are: “Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry & Controlling Men” & “The Batterer As Parent” both by Lundy Bancroft. See:

    Finally, victims of domestic violence should be aware that their internet activity always can be traced easily. For more information, please see:

  2. Thank you for the additional info Danielle and I totally agree with you.

    Batterers do not necessarily have an anger management issue because if they did, they wouldn’t just be battering their significant others or family – they would be hitting everyone. It’s important to realize that it’s not about anger as it is about control.

  3. BIPs do not work as almost all those attending are males. I would ask why couples are not sent to counseling instead of just the male being punished. If you believe that Domestic abuse is about control, then the evidence is clear that women have all the control as all it takes is one 911 call and the man is completely helpless. Having been to a BIP I can tell you, it’s all about giving complete control to the woman PERIOD.

  4. Paul, I’m not sure what your particular experience with BIP was but I can tell you that the reason why it’s mostly men in BIPs is because statistically, batterers are mostly men. There are a small percentage that are women but men do have the advantage in strength and economy in most situations.

    Couples therapy only works in a situation where the power share is equal in a relationship. It seeks to find common ground in conflicts, not to equalize power. If there is domestic violence, the power dynamic is not equal and sending a couple to therapy together in a domestic violence situation is actually detrimental. This is not opinion. It is accepted fact of counseling and therapy.

  5. The (U.S.) National Violence Against Women survey estimates that each year 1.5 million women and 835,000 men are assaulted by intimate partners. The (U.S.) National Child Abuse and Data System reports that over 55% of the physical abuse of children is by women. Dr. Dutton points out that lesbian relationships were significantly more violent than gay relationships; rates of verbal, physical and sexual abuse were all significantly higher in lesbian relationships than in heterosexual relationships; and in one sample of women, 78.2% had been in a prior relationship with a man: reports of violence by men were all lower than reports of violence in prior relationships with women.

    All of these findings refute the notion that family violence is caused by male control of women. They are ignored by domestic violence “experts” and the media because they contradict the ideological paradigm of these programs, that family violence is men’s efforts to control women. One result is that there is virtually no public education, victim outreach and education, or help for battered men.

    Is domestic vioilence by women in self-defense? Dr. Martin Fiebert of the University of California at Long Beach surveyed almost 1,000 women, 280 of whom had initiated an assault on their partner. The most common reasons? “My partner wasn’t sensitive to my needs.” “I wished to gain my partner’s attention.” “My partner was not listening to me.” These all ranked above “My partner was being verbally abusive to me.”