Women’s shelter loses funding for counseling men

Just wondering what folks thought of this:

For 10 years, New York state gave $42,000 a year to the Vera House battered women’s shelter to run a program for abusive men.
But state officials discovered the Syracuse agency had committed a serious breach of contract: It tried to change the bad guys. So for the last three years, the state cut off the money.
The state Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence forbids any state-funded batterers programs from trying to rehabilitate abusers.

This is a hard one for me. I’m all for trusting the experts in the violence against women field, but any program that could be seen as encouraging women (even indirectly) to stay in abusive relationships because the abuser might change…ugh. Thoughts?

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  • olivesmarch4th

    My husband (in the psychology track) tells me that the profession in general strongly encourages any couple caught up in a cycle of violence to end the relationship, because once trust has been breached, there will always be an unequal power dynamic between the mates, no matter how much behavior is changed. Therefore I hesitate to assume that counselors are trying to “fix” an abusive relationship and thus encourage women to stay in abusive relationships. It is my understanding that the majority of these clinics focus on changing the male’s behavior for future partners. Of course, whether a man and woman stay in an abusive relationship is a matter of choice and they can’t very well force apart a couple who chooses to remain in such a cycle of violence. But to say that rehabilitation centers condone this is a stretch.

  • Jessica

    Right, but this isn’t a rehabilitation center–it’s a women’s shelter. It’s supposed to be helping women to escape absuive relationships…

  • Charles A. Lieberman

    There’s a difference, to me, between saying “well, maybe he won’t hit you again” and actually doing something to prevent him from hitting her again. Certainly the first is a bad solution, but merely getting the victim out of the relationship will (eventually) mean the abuser will find another victim; better we should get the victim out and also see if we can’t stop the abuser from being abusive.
    That assumes, of course, that this is a sideline, and they’re indeed focusing on protecting women by enabling them to remove themselves from abusive situations.

  • olivesmarch4th

    Hmm. Good point. That does seem to be blurring the line more so. I’m always torn on this issue because nobody would have to help women end abusive relationships if men didn’t abuse them in the first place, so whenever I see places encouraging the men to stand up and take responsibility for their actions, I can’t help but feel it is appropriate. On the other hand, it’s supposed to be a refuge for the women, a place of safety for the women, and dragging in their abuser is not going to make them safe. I would suggest that women’s shelters and men’s rehabilitation centers should be separate organizations always, to help reduce the odds of encouraging women to remain in abusive relationships. At first I didn’t understand why such a law would be in place, but after giving it some thought, it makes a lot of sense.

  • Durga_is_my_homey

    Yeah, that this is a shleter doing so add a different dimension.
    In general, however, I’m for rehabilitating abusers and leaving the option to reconcile if it is *directly* drug and/or alcohol related. Not to pull a Mel Gibson, but I come from a family of recovering addicts and addicts; I understand the desperation of an addict who may turn violent toward people (of course, this is assuming the behavior isn’t specific to hurting the spouse and/or children). But if it is a power thing, and not sickness thing, that is completely different to me.
    Yes, I can’t say I agree with this one here.

  • olivesmarch4th

    Durga_is_my_honey, I understand your perspective, but I don’t think whether abuse is triggered by drugs/alcohol is relevant to the psychology of the violence cycle. The most warm-hearted and sincere person might work very hard to change his (or her) violent behavior, but nothing is going to erase the indelible mark of trauma left on his or her victim(s). The abusee will always harbor a degree of fear and any time conflict arises will most likely be triggered into survival mode–compliant out of fear. No matter what happens, you can’t “undo” complex-PTSD, which is a condition a lot of abused women have a result of their abuse. I do not believe complete reconciliation is possible in any case, and my belief has a good degree of clinical substantiation. Personally, no matter how many years pass a part of me will always be terrified of my stepfather. When there is terror in the equation there cannot be equality.

  • adrienne

    I think it might also be important to consider that most DV shelters that provide batterer counseling or programs, do so off site and independent of their DV programs. I worked with an agency that provided a batterer program in conjunction with the local court system. The male was usually court ordered to attend some sort of program, they paid for it per session and hopefully were able to get something out of it.
    I think if you look at the prevention of abuse in our society, whether you think these programs work or not, you can’t argue that they don’t hurt. Yes?

  • http://civilliberty.about.com Tom Head

    While I’m all for anger management classes and so on for men who have battered women, I don’t think that’s really a role that DV center should play.
    Cutting off the funding entirely seems a little draconian, though.

  • http://www.myspace.com/theliterateloser Mike

    This is a double-standard. They have shelters for the victums but lose money for trying to rehabilitate men. Yes, it’s wrong for him to do it in the first place, but he needs to stop doing it. This is sort of like having a shelter for the families of drug addict, but losing funds for trying to help the drug addict. This is not enouragement for the couples to stay together, this program is ment to heal violent men so that they don’t strike the next person who comes along.
    I can’t believe that this is going on. This is furthering the victimization of women. This program leaves men to cope with the problem themselves. Men with these problems can’t cope with them on his own. He needs help. Yes, he’s wrong for striking a hand on a women, but vilifying him with do nothing to mend the domestic violence in this country. The soulution will not be solved unless both the women and the men are helped.

  • Maria Ann

    It seems to me unless the law suddenly changes and starts executing batterers immediately, I want funding to help abusers to not abuse.
    While we obviously don’t want to encourage people to stay in abusive relationships, I doubt that this will affect it that much. And if the shelters are doing their jobs, which I have no reason to believe they are not, they will couch these programs in appropriate terms.
    Also, is there any reason to believe that treatment of batterers is completely ineffective? I think if there is even a chance, it’s irresponsible to the rest of the women out there who may be affected by the abuser later on to do nothing.

  • squip

    Right, but this isn’t a rehabilitation center–it’s a women’s shelter. It’s supposed to be helping women to escape absuive relationships…
    We don’t know what sort of setup they have. It’s probably a safe bet that they don’t counsel abusers and their victims in the same room. And yes, it’s nominally a women’s shelter, but so what? The program is (was) state-sponsored, so it’s not like it’s misrepresenting itself as a charitable organization. This objection requires that one take an artificially narrow view of what constitutes a domestic violence issue. It’s like saying that shelters shouldn’t provide any services to help women become economically independent, cuz you know, that’s not sheltering.
    Anyway, going off on a little bit of a tangent, is it really correct to only examine this issue with regard to its direct impact on women? Don’t abusive men still have a basic right not to be treated like irredeemable pariahs? Condemning them while tacitly denying any hope of rehabilitation or change is kinda cruel, isn’t it? (Let me emphasize that I’m not trying to minimize the effects of domestic abuse, nor am I trying to make this issue “all about the menz,” ok? So please don’t go there.) And even if some basis existed for this concern – that is, that rehabilitation programs encourage women (who, presumably, have received support themselves) to return to abusive relationships – is that something we should be concerned about from a public policy perspective, what with basic principles of self-determination and all? Or does an abusive relationship render one forever unfit to make decisions about one’s personal life, regardless of any subsequent therapy, support, or growth as a human being?

  • kmg

    ditto what adrienne said. The article doesn’t say whether rehabilitation sessions were conducted at the shelter, but it would be completely outside my experience if they were–such an arrangement would obviously be inappropriate and possible dangerous. But offsite rehabilitation programs run by people who see the effects of domestic violence every day, undertand its dynamics and aren’t going to be sending any mixed messages about what kinds of behaviors and responses are acceptable? Sounds like a fine idea to me. It’s too bad the State of New York doesn’t think so.

  • kmg

    also (sorry for dping) I sincerely doubt that any part of the program encourages abusers and abused partners to stay together. Every rehabilitation program I’ve heard of runs the programs independent of the shelter, even if they’re run by the same umbrella organization. The primary focus is always on women’s safety. The rehab program is an attempt to break the cycle of violence so the abuser doesn’t continue his abusive behaviors *in future relationships*.

  • Emilka

    “Right, but this isn’t a rehabilitation center–it’s a women’s shelter. It’s supposed to be helping women to escape absuive relationships…”
    The largest program on domestic and sexual violence in my state has a philosophy which is more effective. Our program is not designed solely to help women escape abusive relationships. It is meant to empower them to make their own choices, whatever they may be. This dimension of empowerment is crucial– it is the opposite of the abuser’s control. For women in abusive relationships, leaving is a process. It usually doesn’t happen overnight, over a week, a month, even a year. Sometimes the process can take 10 years. Assuming that all people who are abused will want to escape instantly shifts the focus away from the abuser and back onto the survivor, lending itself strongly to the perspective that blames the victim and asks the cliche question “why does she/he stay?” The question, in all circumstances, must be “WHY does he/she (the assailant) DO that?” Programs that include rehabilitation or counseling for abusers address this question. Abusers, for the most part, do not change, especially male assailants who abuse female partners. Counseling, even if mandated by the courts, places the blame correctly and addresses the root of the problem, which is the deeply engrained patriarchal notion that abuse is an appropriate component of a relationship. The issue of allocating funds between programs for abusers and survivors is another matter, but if all is in order counseling for batterers is not regressive.

  • http://writeslikeshetalks.blogspot.com/2006/09/battling-brainwashing-of-children.html Jill Zimon

    I’d be interested to look more closely at who is in that state office. Maybe someone should be raising this with Eliot Spitzer now that he’s taking over?

  • mona_gray

    I currently intern at a DV shelter-and we work with many shelters in our surrounding areas. However, one in particular believes DV is a sign that something is wrong with the relationship, not the abuser. They believe it is up to the couple to prevent abuse from reccuring. As such, they have a public location where batterers and victims are counseled together.
    I’m not sure how many shelters like this exist – but having just one seems like too much and gets to the core “ugh” feeling Jessica described in the original post.

  • scarolina

    If this shelter is conducting treatment for batterers at its actual shelter instead of off site it deserves to loose every dime. Batterers treatment programs do not work for everyone, but they do work for some. Funding them is better than doing nothing to change abusive behavior. Also victims stay with abusers and go back to abusers. We can wish they would leave until we are blue in the face, but many want to continue the relationship – they just want the abuse to stop.

  • EG

    “They have shelters for the victums but lose money for trying to rehabilitate men. Yes, it’s wrong for him to do it in the first place, but he needs to stop doing it. This is sort of like having a shelter for the families of drug addict, but losing funds for trying to help the drug addict.”
    No, it’s not at all like that. Drug addicts hurt people collaterally, as they feed their addictions through whatever means possible. Abusive men hurt women in order to hurt women. Shelters are supposed to provide a safe haven for the victims of abusers to rest and rebuild themselves.
    Nobody has a “right” not to be treated as a social pariah, and the fact is that violence against women and children rarely results in such a punishment. I see no problem whatsoever with the organizations dedicated to helping those men’s victims treating the men as pariahs.
    That said, if experts in domestic violence think counseling will help, then I don’t see why they shouldn’t do it as long as they keep the program far, far, far away from the actual shelter.

  • Spungen

    However, one in particular believes DV is a sign that something is wrong with the relationship, not the abuser. They believe it is up to the couple to prevent abuse from reccuring.
    Oh, ick! Sadly, this doesn’t completely surprise me. There really is a belief out there that people can persuade others to treat them well just by acting a certain way. Like, maybe there’s some version of “The Rules” for making a guy not beat you!
    That said, I think that rehabilitation is something we need to look at, since these guys are going to keep walking among us.

  • celticfeminist

    I used to work at the YWCA here in my town, which runs the battered women’s shelter *and* a program to counsel/rehabilitate abusers. I loved both of the programs because they addressed separate aspects of a complex problem.
    The battered women’s shelter was offsite and in a relatively anonymous location to provide a feeling of security for the women and their children. (There was even a program set up with the SPCA that would house their pets while they were in the shelter.) The women’s program focused first on providing a safe place, then moved to counseling and empowerment. Services were provided for job training, legal help, employment, housing, etc. There is even “transistional housing” for women, which allows them a more permanent place to live while they put their lives back together.
    On the other hand, the YWCA operated a program for abusers. It was NOT held at the shelter. But it worked with men to help them understand their own problem, help them overcome their abusive cycle, and teach them how to interact with others in a positive manner. The program was NOT geared towards making the abusive relationship work or making abused women return to their partners. Its sole purpose was to help abusers recognize and overcome their behaviors/actions/thoughts in the abuse cycle. Without giving abusers the tools/knowledge to do this, a very large part of the problem of abuse is being overlooked and left to fester.
    Programs like the battered women’s shelter and the abuser’s counseling program,address BOTH sides of this complex issue and actually complement each other by helping people to become healthier in their relationships with others and themselves.
    Empowering women to leave and stay out of these relationships is absolutely paramount. Women need to be empowered, safe, and secure to leave the relationship. At the same time, abusers need to learn how to manage their behavior and relate to their _future_ partners in a positive manner.
    Additionally, I think the abuser’s program is important because, at the very least, it is better than doing nothing to address why the abusers are violent in the first place. Does a program like this always work? No. No more than a battered women’s shelter and counseling always works to prevent a woman from returning to an abusive relationship. BUT, because it often *does* work and it actively addresses the problem, it’s worth it to keep it going.
    All of that said, I would be a little skeptical of any abuser program that was held at the shelter that was housing abused women. That seems a bit off to me, if that was the case for the program you reference above.

  • soullite

    This isn’t the job of a womans sheltered. The job of a woman’s shelter is to give people a safe place to be, to give them breathing room for whatever decisions they have ot make and offer them the support in making them.
    There may be some utility in attempting to reform people. I’m not sure I believe that people can change, but even if they can they should change for future relationships. Glorified couples counseling for abusive people is a waste of time and resources. This shelter deserved to have it’s funding cut.

  • http://www.afadaproject.com puckalish

    a few thoughts.
    one – where did this conversation about counseling batterers on the grounds of a home for survivors of DV originate?
    i mean, the article doesn’t mention anything, nor does jessica’s post, about actually counseling the abusers in the vera house, just that they ran the program.
    that said, i think the most effective (and, thus, justified) ways to deal with problems are the ones which produce results.
    there are some quite interesting studies that can be attained through this site
    the story they pretty much tell is that, bottom line, these intervention programs prevent future abuses by batterers.
    further, there is a clear distinction between rehab programs for abusers and relationship counseling or, even, drug abuse counseling. check out the pamphlet on the vera house’s website for (a little) more info on what their program’s outlook is.
    in one study, the difference runs between 26% repeat offense (by the control group) and 10% (among the group who completed a 26-week program. that’s an overwhelmingly significant difference.
    if the concern is for preventing dv from happening, i think the sensible option is clear.
    our government has demonstrated, however, that it sees punishment to be much more favorable to results. demonstrably effective education programs are being cut from prison programs, money’s being spent on installing cameras on street corners while kids in the same neighborhoods read decade-old textbooks and, now, programs to rehabilitate batterers are having their funding cut.
    as Sherry Frohman said, “we’re not doing classes for bank robbers.” true though that may be, such policies are certainly not reducing recidivism. similarly, cutting rehabilitation programs for dv offenders may be the what the policy makers are “doing”, but it’s not helping anyone.
    heights and blessings

  • http://www.afadaproject.com puckalish

    soullite, read the article, check out the vera house and how they describe the program, read up on similar projects and how they are conducted.
    it’s not couples counseling… it’s an attempt by several organizations to try to stem the tide of DV. what bastards. how dare they?
    oh, yeah, and since you know so much about vera house, you’re a prime authority on whose funding should be cut.
    by the way, where did my other post go?

  • http://feministallies.com jpjesus

    It seems like there are at least two different situations where Vera House tries to help rehabilitate men who are abusers. First, off, there are men who are sent to counseling by a judge, presumably because they got arrested for said abuse. The article refers to these men not being very ‘rehabilitatalbe’ because they’re being forced to be there. There is a second group of men who seek help there. Nowhere in the article does it explain how, exactly these things work–if the abusers in the first case are going to Vera House at the same time that their partners (or former partners) are or anything like that. So, I’m curious where the idea that simply offering some rehabilitation, by itself, is encouraging people to stay in abusive relationships. If said rehabilitation is being forced on abusers by the courts as part of keeping a couple together or some such, then that take makes sense. But I don’t see that this is the case. I’m embarassed for my ignorance in the matter, but perhaps somebody could spell out why this sort of rehabilitation would encourage people to stay in abusive relationships?

  • Hysterical Feminazi

    As a staff member at a battered woman’s shelter, I strongly believe that the two things should be completely separated – services for the abusers and services for the victims. There are services out there for the batterers (mostly men, but some women) if they so chose. Any program that offers counseling to both parties is a sham and promotes dangerous hope that the relationship can be salvaged if only the abuser gets some help.

  • http://www.afadaproject.com puckalish

    will people please read the article?
    the whole idea that this program is for couples is complete conjecture.
    check yourself!
    i mean, really, hysterical, your response is knee-jerk. the vera house is 30 years old and a pretty damn big project, running several shelters.
    if you would read the “alternatives” program pamphlet, you would see, clearly that:

    Most of the men who participate in Alternatives have been mandated by the courts or probation, while some attend without a specific mandate.

    this is clearly not a “relationship counseling” program, nor is it directly tied to their shelter support services.
    so, please, come off it and pay attention before you right some damning bullshit.
    gosh! i get so frustrated!

  • http://www.afadaproject.com puckalish

    so frustrated, i write “right” instead of “write”… excuse me.
    point is, though i often agree with what you have to say, the services are seperated…
    the problem the state has with them is that they attempt to provide a more holistic service than just telling abusers that they’re wrong… they, apparently, also, offer referals to substance abuse treatment, (individual) counseling, etc.

  • http://ijuswannasing.blogspot.com Jamila Akil

    Abusive men need help just as much as abusive women and if we focus on helping them both at the same time-not necessarily encouraging them to stay together-then I think a much greater impact can be made into the problem of abuse than if we just focus on women.
    I don’t think that the state should have cut off funding to the program.

  • dhsredhead

    Let me explain a little bit about my background before I am going to say what I have to say about all this…
    I grew up in a very abusive and neglective household. My mom would leave our house for weekends or even longer periods of time and leave my older teenage brother to take care of us. For years my younger brother and I were physically and verbally abused by him daily. We would be thrown across rooms for something as small as refusing to do a chore he asked us to do. When my brother moved out, I was 15, but my brother who is 2 years younger then me at that point was physically stronger then me and could easily overpower me. Then he started to physically attack me during verbal arguements and destroy my property. I told my mom about the abuse my brother and I, and later just I was going through. I was told the abuse was my fault because I didn’t know when to “shut my mouth.” Needless to say I moved out of the house at the first opportunity. But for a long time after the abuse had occured I made excuses for my brother’s behavior. I would tell myself that he abused me because he was addicted to drugs and alcohol. I told myself he had “changed” because he told me he was no longer using drugs and I tried to build a relationship with him. It wasn’t until a few months ago, when he called me a fuck up over the phone, that I realized, he was never going to change. His abuse was not about drugs or alcohol, nor were they an excuse for his behavior. The drugs and the alcohol were just part of his mentality that he was better then everyone else and had the right to control other people’s actions. I realized he had only done nice things for me (such as giving me money for certain things I needed over the years) to feel a sense of control over me and my life and to make himself feel good for doing something “nice” for someone else, when he doesn’t care at all about me as a person.
    Then, a few months ago my current boyfriend and I got into a arguement outside the clinic where I am recieving pre-natal care. I didn’t want to continue to argue so I started to walk away from him. After a few seconds he came running towards me and tackled me to the ground. Someone who worked in the clinic saw this and contacted someone inside the clinic to “stop” what was going on and see if I was okay (physically I was fine, more then anything I was actually embrassed). My boyfriend has since become my “abusive boyfriend” in the eyes of the staff at the clinic.
    The reason why I metion all of this is because abuse takes on many forms and varies in consistancy. Women are also not always helpless victims. The abuse I suffered at the hands of my brother is classic, textbook abuse. It’s cruel, cold, ugly. Any woman experiancing anything like it should run as far away as she can from such a human being. The chances of my brother and men like him changing their behavior is slim. Controling other people is part of who they are as individuals and they feel they must assert their dominance on others in order to find some level of satisfaction with-in themselves. But in other situations like the one with my boyfriend, the violence is not a control issue. It’s more of a anger management issue or case where an individual just “snaps” due to stress and other factors the individual does not have the skills to control. If given those skills, I don’t see why someone can’t have healthy relationship and even why some relationships where that has happened can’t become healthy again.
    In my eyes, the best way to allow women to have an escape from abuse is to reform the abuser, if possible. In many cases even if women have left their partners who are abusive, the abuse can still continue, verbally or emotionally, so it’s best that the abuser be reformed regardless of whether or not the couple stay together. Also, in some of these cases children are involved and the woman still has to see her ex. Unreformed the abuse can actually get worse for a woman after she has left an abuser. Plus, this type of program allows the facility to keep tabs on the abuser,for them to know how much of a danger he is to his partner or ex partner. Anyways… I think it’s a positive step to at least try to reform abusers.

  • Vervain

    IMO, they shouldn’t have cut the funding for this program. I’m really uncomfortable with the notion of just writing off abusive men as beyond all help, best cut our losses and move on to the undamaged ones. Many abusers become abusers because they were themselves abused. I can’t see saying to someone, just because you had the bad luck to be born into and raised in an abusive household, we can’t help you, you’re on your own.
    This is not to say that I think a battered woman (or man) should stay with their abuser, or that this counseling should occur on the same grounds as the women’s shelter, but I just can’t help thinking the attitude of “help the victims escape, but don’t help the abusers learn not to abuse” attitude is not unlike the attitude that tells women one-hundred-and-one ways to “avoid rape” but never bothers to say to men, “don’t rape women.”

  • Scarbo

    Just curious: how much of the VAWA funds are allocated towards the rehabilitation/counseling of abusive men?
    Or, does VAWA just provide for locking these guys up and assuming that that cures them of their problem?

  • donna darko

    The state Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence forbids any state-funded batterers programs from trying to rehabilitate abusers.
    Maybe the government can start new programs for male violence in all forms. There can be anger management classes in public schools to prevent road rage, domestic violence, homocide, bottling up of feelings, etc.

  • EG

    Remedial Behaving Like an Adult
    part 1: How Not to Throw Temper Tantrums.”
    part 2: No Hitting. We Really Mean It.
    part 3: “I Want” Does Not Mean “I Get.” Learning to Live with It.
    (And yes, I realize that abuse of women is no laughing matter, and that men who beat women usually witnessed similar behavior in their own homes.)