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Domestic violence remains a serious problem in the United States. According to the CDC, one in four women and one in seven men will experience physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime. In 2007, 2,340 deaths were caused by intimate partner violence, which accounted for 14% of all homicides that year. Of the 2,340 victims, 70% were female and 30% were male. Additionally, reports show that 5 million domestic violence acts are committed against women each year in the United States.
Domestic violence is a criminal offense that may be a misdemeanor or felony depending on the details of the charge; however, locking up abusers is insufficient to effect change and accomplish the goal of reducing intimate partner violence. In California, people convicted of domestic violence may be sentenced to attend a batterer intervention program. Could these programs be the key to ending domestic violence?
What are Batterer Intervention Programs?
California domestic violence laws make it illegal to harm or threaten to harm an intimate partner, your children, or other people who live with you. Common charges include domestic battery and corporal injury to a spouse or cohabitant. These charges primarily target violence between intimate partners, who are defined as:
- Spouses or former spouses
- Current or former domestic partners
- Current or former cohabitants
- Current or former fiancees
- Current or former dating partners
- The mother or father of the defendant’s child
If you’re convicted of domestic violence, a judge may sentence you to spend one year in a batterer’s intervention program and other penalties. These programs aim to help domestic abusers change their behaviors so they can form healthy relationships and learn to communicate in nonviolent ways.
The State of California requires judges to sentence offenders on probation for domestic violence to attend a batterer intervention program for one year. These programs involve classes that meet weekly for a minimum of 2 hours per week. Usually, non-profit organizations that advocate for domestic violence prevention run these programs, and each may have their own way of executing the program. By law, each of these programs must educate offenders about the nature of domestic abuse, how it affects victims, and provide techniques for preventing violence.
Are Batterer Intervention Programs Effective?
Unfortunately, research shows that requiring abusers to attend these programs may be ineffective at reducing domestic violence. According to Jeffrey Edelson, a professor of social work at the University of California, Berkeley, about 50% of participants drop out of these programs. So, about half of all convicted perpetrators of domestic violence don’t get the help they need to make important changes in their lives.
One of the main reasons perpetrators don’t finish these programs is that there is minimal follow up from the court. Once a person is enrolled, the court system doesn’t check to make sure they attend classes. It doesn’t take long for participants to lose their motivation and quit. As a result, many miss out on education and therapy that could help them adopt better ways of expressing themselves.
Batterer Intervention Programs are Just Part of the Puzzle
In many cases, people convicted of domestic violence also have other issues to cope with. From drug addiction to homelessness, participants need a multi-pronged approach to get their lives in order. Effective batterer intervention programs boost participants’ self-esteem and help them develop healthy relationship skills.
For those who do complete these programs, research shows that they play an important role in changing lives for the better. A CDC study found that after 4 years of enrolling in a batterer’s intervention program, 90% of participants had not assaulted their partners within the previous year.
This study shows that it may take time to absorb nonviolent habits. Often, abusive adults grew up in violent households and were abused themselves as children. They may have deeply ingrained methods for responding to problems, and violence may be the only way they know how to handle issues. This is why people who consistently attend classes and receive guidance for processing their abuse may see better results.
Comprehensive Domestic Violence Defense in San Diego
Were you recently convicted of a domestic violence offense? It may be possible to file an appeal and take measures to show the court you deserve a second chance. If you face charges, you need skilled legal counsel to represent your interests and protect your rights. At this time, you need competent representation by a San Diego domestic violence defense lawyer like attorney Dod on your side. Dod has practiced criminal defense for more than 17 years. He has worked on more than 6,500 cases and is uniquely qualified by the California State Bar to handle serious capital offenses.
Contact Dod today by calling 619-814-5110 or complete our contact form for a free consultation.