Domestic Abuse Chat Transcript

Two Experts Talk About Treatments For Batterers

48 Hours' "Living With The Enemy" delved into the frightening and tragic world of domestic abuse. After the program we offered our viewers a chance to talk directly with two experts who appeared in the broadcast. The following is a transcript of the live Web chat:

CBS Host: Welcome Sara Elinoff and Russell Bradbury-Carlin. Elinoff and Carlin are co-directors of the Men Overcoming Violence program at the Men's Resource Center Of Western Massachusetts.

Sara Elinoff: My name is Sara Elinoff I have been working in the field of domestic violence since 1985, I have been working the Men Overcoming Violence Program in Boston Massachusetts.

Russ Bradbury Carlin: My name is Russell Bradbury-Carlin and I have been the co-director of the Men Overcoming Violence program for 4 years and I have been involved with the Men's Research Center of Western Massachusetts for about 11 years.

midnight: what makes some women seem to gravitate towards abusive relationship?

Sara Elinoff: I don't believe that women gravitate towards abusive relationships. One thing we have to remember: someone who is abusive isn't abusive 24 hours a day. Someone who is abusive is often like Jeckel and Hyde and they often don't reveal their abusive behavior months or years until into the relationship.

When a woman realizes her partner is abusive it is often very shocking. They can't really believe that this is happening and a lot of times they hope that when a lot of stress is away from the relationship their husband or boyfriend will return to being the man they fell in love with.

Mary Thomson: Why is there so much focus on the victims of domestic abuse and so little emphasis placed on holding the batterer accountable?

Sara Elinoff: I think that we started the domestic violence movement first by focusing on victims -- realizing that we had to provide shelters and pass laws to protect victims But after a number of years of helping victims, we realize if we didn't also work with perpetrators things weren't going to change.

So, starting in the 1980s there began to be programs for batterers and I think that we are just still getting the resources and the education that we need in this country to make batterers and interventions more well known and more effective.

Russ Bradbury-Carlin: Clearly this is what needs to be focused on now and into the future in domestic violence. Clearly we need to continue providing victim's services but we need to step up as a nation in making the batterers accountable.
CBS Host: How long is the program to help men stop being abusive.

Russ Bradbury-Carlin: It is 40 weeks for mandated clients, 20 weeks for voluntary clients and that's only the basic program.

We also have follow-up programs that have no timelines. In fact, the men in the program had all been in a follow-up group for many years. It is long term work.

brh:> What is the success rate of men who complete your program and do not re-offend?

Sara Elinoff: First of all, it's important to say that between 40-50 percent of men who start our program do not complete the program. Of the ones who do complete about 15 percent exhibited no marked improvement

Thirty-three percent showed a minimal reduction in their level of abuse and violence. About 35 percent showed a moderate reduction in their level of abuse and violence. What that means is that these men stopped being physically abusive but continued to be verbally or emotionally abusive in some way. And finally, only 16 percent of the clients who completed our program were able to remain abusive free on all levels - physical, verbal, emotional.

Russ Bradbury-Carlin: The other important thing to realize is that 40 percent of the men in our program have not been mandated by the court so the idea of their re-offending and being arrested is hard to track.

icedtea: Statistics have shown that batterers counseling is NOT effective. Do you feel that you are giving false hope to their victims by counseling the batterers?

Sara Elinoff: I think that is a very good question and one of the things we try to be very careful about at the batterer program is to not give false hope. Many women do have, sometimes, unrealistic expectations that a program like ours will make a difference in their partner's life--abusive behavior.

So we do extensive outreach to women partners to let them know what the true statistics are and how they can assess for themselves whether their partner is making any progress in the program. There are very specific things they can look for and that if they don't see any changes in their partner for 3-6 months from starting the program we let them know it is extremely unlikely their partner is going to change!

CBS Host: How do you respond to the observation that counseling for batterers is NOT effective?

Sara Elinoff: Although counseling may not be effective for the majority of abusers, we believe that it can be effective for those men willing to take responsibility and to work very hard for an extended period of time on their abusive behaviors. That has been our experience in our program with the small group of men we have worked with. It would be false to say that counseling never helps just as it would be false to say that counseling always helps.

mary: What makes abusive men different from other, should I say regular, men? Is it genetic?
jesse: What causes abuse? Is it stress? Or is it the psychology of the abuser?

Russ Bradbury-Carlin: Personally I believe there is a continuum of behavior. I don't know that there is such a thing as a batterer and a "normal man."

I think men in our culture get socialized to be a certain way around women and given a lot of other factors a man could start using controlling and abusive behavior--the wors case being physical abuse.

I think there are a lot of men out there who use non-physical abuse - financial, emotional - who don't get called a batterer, and lots of men who don't use abuse at all and have healthy relationships.

I don't think it is genetic. It is a learned behavior.

sinsin6: Is it even possible to undo the damage that has made these men into abusers?

Sara Elinoff: It's possible for some of these men but it is very difficult work and they have to be willing to work at it for a long time. They have to be willing to examine every facet of their lives, their attitudes, their behaviors, their belief systems.

And even if someone who has been abusive is able to recover that doesn't necessarily mean that they will ever be able to undo the damage they have done to their loved ones. Some of the men in our program who do recover - some of the times their relationships don't because there has been too much damage for their partner to ever trust them again.

Russ Bradbury-Carlin: Clearly stopping abuse is only one part - an important part - but just one part of undoing the immense tangled knot of domestic violence for these men.

CBS Host: I'd like to ask a question about MOVE...would you say you encourage the men to face their current relationship and face those issues, or encourage them to move on and away from that pain?

We don't encourage the men to make any decisions about the relationship. We really ask them to focus on their behavior in the moment. I think it may be different for their partners

Sara Elinoff: Our position is - the focus of our program is to help men be accountable for their abusive behavior and we don't take a position on what to do with their relationship. However, if we feel that the man continues to be at very high risk to be violent, we encourage the partner to seek help for herself and that may include separating from him or seeking a restraining order.

Molita: What are the warning signs for domestic violence?

Sara Elinoff: Obviously if someone has a history of domestic violence or has been physically abusive. Often times we get asked the question "how can I tell if the man is going to be abusive"?
Very possessive, jealous behavior, very controlling behavior, having a short trigger and flaring into anger very rapidly, destruction of property or abuse towards animals.

Russ Bradbury-Carlin: One thing I would add is that if you're an outside person looking in it can be really hard to see those signals. Very often a batterer can look very good on the outside. He'll try very hard to not let people see that side that he keeps at home.

CBS Host: This question comes from a user "Bob." Are you and your co-workers satisfied with the CBS report on such a sensitive topic?

Sara Elinoff: We appreciate that CBS wanted to devote an entire show to the huge problem of domestic violence and of course, here is a lot of complexity that can't be adequately communicated in such a short program.

We think that given the limits of the television hour they did a good job!

LuisG: How can you differentiate between an isolated incident and a real domestic violence case?

Russ Bradbury-Carlin: Before evaluating someone we gather as much information as possible from partners, ex-partners, police reports, therapists, and really what we're looking for is a pattern of behavior. And if we find anything that indicates that then, yes, it is domestic abuse.

Sara Elinoff: Yes! If the isolated incident is serious and violent, we don't need to wait for a pattern to be established before we know there is a problem here. As soon as someone uses physical force against their partner even one time we know there is an issue we have to deal with.

girleetm24: Is domestic violence generally increasing or decreasing?

Sara Elinoff: It's hard to say. What is increasing is reports of domestic violence; that has been steadily increasing over the years, the number of restraining orders being issued, the number of domestic assault and battery arrests

But what we don't know is whether that means that people are feeling more comfortable about reporting and going to the police or whether that reflect an increase in violence in our society. My guess is that it's the first.

Russ Bradbury-Carlin: Mine too

Wizard: What is the role of alcohol in the DV cases you have dealt with? Why isn't the role of alcohol and drugs recognized more often in these cases?

Russ Bradbury-Carlin: What we feel is that if there is an issue of alcohol or drug abuse in the case of the men who are coming into the program, then they have actually two problems and need to deal with them both.

It is a fiction to think that alcohol causes someone to be violent. What it usually does is just make an incident worse

To answer the second question, I would say that there is definitely an overlap between alcoholism and domestic violence and a lot more needs to be done to look at the connections between the two and how they intertwine. Some work is being done on that and I recently went to a conference in Massachusetts on that specifically.

Sara Elinoff: A lot of battered women whose abusers are also alcoholics believe that if their partner would only stop drinking then he would stop being abusive. So they focus their energy on getting him in AA or a substance abuse program. But that is only half the problem and many sober alcoholics continue to be abusive after they stop drinking.

If someone has a very serious drinking problem or substance abuse problem they will have to get help for that first before entering a program like ours. Before they get that under control they won't be able to learn anything.

dschmidt: Are not female alcoholics also likely to abuse their male mates?

mikimra:> Can we address women’s roles in DV ?

mark67: As a victim of physical abuse from an abusive girlfriend who I cared for, is there any equivalent to "MOVE" for women ?

Marc: What is the success rate of programs like yours with abusive women?

Russ Bradbury-Carlin: Our program doesn't work with abusive women although we have done some work with women who are abusive in lesbian relationships.

I'm sure that we know that there are cases of women who are abusive in heterosexual relationships but I am not sure how high that number is. A lot of cases where a woman is physically abusive I believe are actually in retaliation or in protection of herself. And if you were to look at the full scope of the relationship you'd see that he was the one with the power control - not anger, but power.

I think there is a need to take an extremely sophisticated look at this issue and as far as I know there are no programs in our vicinity for women who are abusive.

dschmidt: Research studies have shown 50% of heterosexual abuse is female on male. Why do you purposefully ignore it?

Russ Bradbury-Carlin: I don't agree with that statistic. There are many statistics that counter that and I would refer back to my previous response of looking at the relationship in the long term. I am not saying that it doesn't happen and I believe that there is a need to look at that but that is not what we do.

Bernie: Are psychiatrists involved in MOVE? Is there an effort to get at the root cause of the anger and treating the violent outburst as a symptom of a much larger problem?

Sara Elinoff: We do think it's a symptom of a larger problem but that problem is not psychiatric in nature. Only in rare circumstances is there a psychiatric base. We think the root problem has more to do with how men are socialized in our society. And it starts at a very early age with young boys.

Our program is not affiliated with a psychiatrist but if the client has a history of mental health problems we will certainly make a referral.

CBS Host: Russ and Sara, what are the effects of domestic violence on children, and are there studies that quantify these effects and spell out their long-term consequences?

Sara Elinoff: The effect of domestic violence on children is devastating. And even infants and toddlers can sense if something is wrong.

It's a traumatic experience for a child to witness a parent hurting another. Witnessing domestic violence as a child is one of the more common characteristics of someone who could grow up and become an abuser.

We don't have those studies or statistics available to us because our program primarily works with adults but we know that The Journal of Family Violence addresses the issues of the effect of domestic violence on children and would be a good resource.

Barb: Will the court listen when the children speak? They are being forced o stay over at his place every other weekend and he is verbally abusive, have to sleep in a cold apartment on the floor.

Sara Elinoff: Children don't have much of a voice in the court system which is really a travesty but children can have an advocate who can speak for them in the court system - that is very, very important.

Those resources vary from state to state but if I heard of a situation of a child being forced to sleep in unheated apartment that is child neglect and I would report that to Child Services.

CBS Host: Is domestic abuse more common in poor families than in middle-class or upper-class families?

atticus: Who is more at risk for domestic abuse? Poor people or rich people?

Russ Bradbury-Carlin: Domestic violence occurs across the spectrum - upper, middle, lower class - it is across the spectrum with regard to ethnicity and race. We don't see a predominant number of any of those demographics in our program - class, race or ethnicity.

Joseph: What should I do if I think a friend or relative is abusing his wife?

Russ Bradbury-Carlin: I would evaluate the situation: "Would it be safe for you to say something to him?" And I would want to think about his partner first. By saying something, is there a chance you could endanger her

If possible I would see if there were a chance for you to talk to her first. I think it can be very powerful for a man to confront another man about his sexist behavior but I would definitely be careful about accusing someone of being a batterer.

Sara Elinoff: I wouldn't even use the word batterer if I was confronting someone who I think is abusive because that term is loaded. I would say, "I'm concerned with what I'm seeing here," and I would urge the person to get some help.

But you can approach the person being abused and provide that person with resources and just an outside confirmation that what you are seeing is wrong. That is very important because when their men are abusive the men don't think it is their fault or that it is abuse. Sometimes simply sitting down with someone and saying this looks like abuse to me can be a very important thing to do but you must realize if the person is in denial of their abuse they may react to that by shutting down or pushing you away.

CBS Host: A number of people are asking "What do you do when you don't trust the police to intervene in your abusive relationship?"

There are many, many police departments that do an exemplary job at responding to abuse cases but unfortunately there are many other police departments that do a terrible job. I would suggest that if somebody is not getting the appropriate response from their police dept they consult with the district attorney's office in their community.

There are many things that someone can do without having to contact their police department to be safe and we can't in the short amount of time that we have hea begin to adequately address those. I would suggest they get in touch with their local battered women's program especially in areas where the police are not helpful.

Leah Meyers: What can the average citizen do to help support victim safety and batterer accountability?

Russ Bradbury-Carlin: Try to find out what is going on in your community: search out battered women's shelters or intervention programs. Speak out, write letters to the editor and attend marches.

On an individual level I would say speak up when you hear sexist jokes and comments.

CBS Host: Thank you for joining us Sara and Russ. Do you have any final comments?

Sara Elinoff: I guess the last thing I would like to say is that I appreciate all the good questions that we've been able to answer over the last hour. If their are battered women who have logged in please know that their is nothing you have done to deserve receiving this abuse and contact your local battered women's shelter for support.

And if you are a man that recognizes that you have an abuse problem, then go get help. Help is now available. You will not be judged. There are good programs waiting to work with you.

Russ Bradbury-Carlin: I'd like to also thank everybody for their questions. I agree with Sara's comment. I think it is very important for communities and agencies to work together around this issue. So battered women's shelters, batterer's intervention programs, police departments, judges, educators should all work together.

Thank you all again!

CBS Host: Thank you, Sara and Russ. We have been chatting with Sara Elinoff and Russ Bradbury-Carlin, Co-Directors of the Men Overcoming Violence Program at the Men's Resource Center in W. Mass. Thank you for all for attending, and I'm sorry if we didn't get to your question--we had so many good ones. Goodnight.

KSam1morx: thank you for your time.

RoniGirl: THANK YOU!!!

mizlizzy: Thank you for a wonderful program, and a very informative chat!!

Sharlene: Hi, my name is Sharlene I am the founder of Sharlene's Angels On Earth Inc. at 501c3 org. that helps survivors of domestic violence stay survivors. I want to say thank you for the show tonight, I deal with victims and survivors daily that this show will help.

mimi: Thanks for making the USA aware of this.

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