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Vermont Domestic Abuse Teams and Programs

Batterers Intervention Program (BIP), Network Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Programs, Vermont Center for Crime Victim Services.


Overview of Department of Corrections services for cases of domestic violence:

Successful work with domestic violence offenders within the Department of Corrections requires the Department to engage in a range of services in domestic violence cases.


The three main components of the DOC’s response to Domestic Violence Offenders are:

  1. Case planning and offender supervision
  2. Victim services and advocacy
  3. Batterer Intervention programs for offenders who are convicted of Domestic Violence offenses


The goals of the Department’s domestic violence services are to:

  • Support the safety and well-being of victims, children, and the community
  • Hold offenders accountable for their choices, and
  • Support offenders in their process of change.


Overview of programming for male domestic violence offenders:

Independent community organizations provide certified batterer intervention programs (B IP’s) for probation-level cases. (For more information about the certification process visit http://www.biscmi.org/other_resources/Vermont_Signed_BIP_Standards.pdf to view the Vermont Statewide Standards for Domestic Abuse Intervention.)

Currently, in Vermont, batterer intervention programs are intended for adult men who batter their female intimate partners. These programs are not intended for women, perpetrators of violence in same-sex relationships, or for intervention in other forms of family violence such as child or elder abuse.


Purpose: Why do we have batterer’s intervention programs?

As stated in the Vermont Statewide Standards for Domestic Abuse Intervention (section 2.2, Program Objectives):


The program and curriculum utilized in the programs shall work to:

  1. Increase the participant's understanding of his abuse as a means of controlling his partner's and children's actions, thoughts, and/or feelings. All forms of abuse shall be identified and challenged, including physical, verbal, and emotional abuse, intimidating behavior, threats, terrorizing tactics, isolating tactics, using male privilege, using the children, and sexual abuse.
  2. Identify cultural and social influences that contribute to abusive behavior, as well as the social contexts in which this violence is used; rationalizations used to excuse or justify an individual’s abusive actions will be uncovered and addressed.
  3. Address and confront excuses for abuse. This shall include a philosophical position emphasizing that men who batter are solely responsible for their choices to abuse and that abuse is never justified. This confrontation must occur in a way which is respectful and is supportive of self-change.
  4. Examine the harmful, damaging and potentially lethal consequences of abuse on battered women, children and the batterer's relationship with them. The short- and long-term effects of abuse and violence shall be enumerated, and participants shall be expected to take responsibility for creating these consequences. Programs will also work to increase the participant's understanding of the effects of domestic abuse on children.
  5. Provide the participant with practical information on how to end his abusive behavior and how to interact with his partner in non-controlling and respectful ways.
  6. Furnish the participant with general information concerning the federal, state, and local responses to domestic violence.

Domestic abuse intervention programs do not guarantee that men will cease their violence. Nor are interventions intended to salvage relationships.


Program Structure:

As stated in the Vermont Statewide Standards for Domestic Abuse Intervention (section 4.3, Intervention Format):

The preferred format for intervention services for men who batter is the educational group or class. This format provides a social environment of peers for men to be accountable for their behavior and to explore motivations for change. This format also provides an opportunity for men to challenge each other based on their shared experience.

Groups should be led by at least two trained facilitators/instructors. It is not recommended that one facilitator, regardless of the facilitator’s experience or training, leads groups. Co-facilitation teams should consist of one male and one female. Despite the challenges that staffing groups with a man and a woman present, experience has shown that same-sex facilitator teams (whether male-male or female-female) can significantly alter the dynamics of the group process and content.

These groups will generally be open-ended and designed so that new participants can be enrolled to begin the program at any point.”


Outcome: What data do we have that shows a reduction in recidivism?

While there is still much to learn about the impact of BIP’s, there is evidence to indicate that batterer intervention programs have modest but positive effects on violence prevention similar to another programming for mandated criminal populations. National studies that have looked at other cognitive-behavioral programs indicate that men referred to batterer intervention programs have decreased or eliminated their assaultive behavior. For a comprehensive understanding of the research in this field, see Edward Gondolf’s “Batterer Intervention Systems: Issues, Outcomes, and Recommendations” (Sage, 2002.) Additionally, other national researchers who have contributed to the national body of evidence regarding batterer’s intervention include J. Edleson, O. Williams, L. Feder & D.B. Wilson, and J.C. Babcock, et al.

There is a small body of evidence that exists specific to batterer’s intervention in the State of Vermont. The Department’s 2006 “Facts and Figures” document indicates a reduction of re-conviction rates for participants who completed a batterer’s intervention program. In 2002 a pre-post test study was completed on a 27-week batterers intervention program provided in Chittenden, Franklin, and Addison County. The study indicated“ positive changes in attitude and motivational factors” among group participants and suggested that “this is an effective model in changing underlying batterer attitudes that provide rationale for abusive behavior,” Short-Term Change in Attitude and Motivating Factors to Change Abusive Behavior of Male Batterers after Participating in a Group Intervention Program based on the Pro-Feminist and Cognitive-Behavioral Approach” (Journal of Family Violence, March 2007).


Other measures of effectiveness?

Measuring the effectiveness of programming for men who batter presents a number of significant challenges. The effectiveness of a program is influenced by the decisions made by other elements of the criminal justice system, and so it can be challenging to isolate program effect for analysis. Additionally, rather than placing emphasis solely on recidivism, some suggest that effectiveness can be better measured by looking at other factors, such as measuring incidents of re-assault that have not led to a conviction. Others suggest that effectiveness can be best measured by seeking input from the victim and/or current partner of former participants. An assessment of the victim/current partner’s sense of safety may be difficult to attain but may provide the most accurate way to measure whether a domestic violence offender has ceased his abusive, violent, or controlling behavior.

Programs seeking to adhere to the Vermont Statewide Standards for Domestic Abuse Intervention, seek to actively collaborate with victims of domestic violence and victim’s advocacy organizations. We prioritize seeking and maintaining the support of the Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence (www.vtnetwork.org,) recognizing that active involvement with programs serving victims is critical for any program providing services to men who batter. Additionally, the effectiveness of batterer’ s interventions programs is increased when programs actively participate in the coordinated community response to domestic violence, most typically through participation in local county-based domestic violence task forces.


Program Contact

Kim Bushey, Program Services Director

Department of Corrections
103 So. Main St.
Waterbury, VT  05671-1001


Tel. (802) 951-5012

Email: Kim.Bushey@vermont.gov