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"You Made Me Hit You!" Interventions with Male Batterers
Male Batterers continuing education addiction counselor CEUs

Section 1
Men's Intimate Partner Violence Attitudes

CEU Question 1 | CE Test | Table of Contents | Introduction | Domestic Violence
Psychologist CEs, Social Worker CEUs, Counselor CEUs, MFT CEUs

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New Content Added: To update the content we have added Domestic Violence information found at the end of the Table of Contents.

On this track, we will look at ways in which Group Intervention is used in altering the attitudes of clients who batter. We will also discuss three methods of Altering Attitudes. These methods are: Broadening Definitions, Learning Empathy, and Recognizing the Effects of the Media.

As you know, group sessions help a client to expand his social network. For example, Daniel, age 30, found that group members were willing to help him become non-abusive, to alter his attitudes. Daniel had been married to Sarah for five years. He was court-ordered into the anger management group after a battering incident following his son's birthday party.

Through the course of several sessions, Daniel stated, "It was my son Jake's first birthday, and Sarah had her mom and sisters over for a party when I got home from work. I went into the living room and told Sarah to fix me a sandwich. She told me she would fix it in a minute. I told her I was hungry NOW, so she would fix the sandwich NOW! I grabbed her by the arm and threw her into the kitchen. Later that night, I slapped her. Then I started hitting her harder. She was screaming for me to stop. I ended up shoving her down and grabbing her neck till she was gasping for air, just to keep her quiet. I guess the neighbors must have heard something and called the police."

Have you found, like I, that many court-ordered clients are confused as to why they are being referred to the anger management group? I often hear statements like: "I don't know why I'm here; they just told me to come," or "I really don't have any problems, but I was told I had to be here so I could get my children back." Daniel expressed his confusion when he stated, "It's not really my problem; she's the one with the anger!"

As you can see, Daniel was trying to reflect blame away from himself and onto Sarah. He stated, "I work all day and make all the money and she just stays home with our son. So it seems like the least she can do is make me dinner. But, it all happened so fast; I didn't really know what I was doing. Sarah asked for it! She wasn't listening to me. I had to make her listen somehow! Well, at least I didn't kill her!"

Before entering the legal system, Daniel did not recognize his behavior as abusive. Thus, he saw no reason to change. I found that three methods of Altering Attitudes were helpful with Daniel. As I discuss these methods, think about how you might use them with your Daniel.

3 Methods for Altering Group Attitudes

#1. Broadening Definitions

I found that Daniel's statement, "Well, at least I didn't kill her!" summed up his definition of abuse. Like many batterers, Daniel needed to be educated regarding domestic violence law.

To help personalize the definition of abuse, I asked members of the group to make a list of behaviors they considered abusive. I wrote their answers on a flip chart. Answers ranged from pushing to slapping to choking. After working on this list, it became more clear to Daniel that abuse has a much broader definition than the one he had learned by observing his father's pushing and slapping of his mother. Thus, to Daniel, abuse was a normal way of communicating.

-- #2. Learning Empathy
After providing information about the law, I began to explore the area of empathy with the group. Like many of your clients, Daniel needed to move from denial of responsibility to feeling empathy for Sarah. How do you help your clients move from denial to empathy? With Daniel, I found it helpful to have him do an "actions versus consequences analysis." Here's how this analysis worked: The first step in evaluating the consequences was having group members describe their most violent actions in as much detail as they could. Daniel described another incident of choking Sarah until she started to go limp.

At first, he was only able to identify the consequences or negative aspects that affected him. These consequences included the arrest, court involvement, and the very real possibility that Sarah might leave him and take his son with her.

I wanted to increase Daniel's awareness of what he might consider the pay-offs of abuse. When I asked Daniel, "What do you think were the pay-offs of your actions?" he drew a blank. I urged Daniel to recall the point when he chose to use violence against Sarah. In addition to identifying the initial point of violence, Daniel needed to identify just why he felt violence was necessary at that moment. I asked Daniel what went through his mind when he started hitting Sarah.

Daniel stated, "It was pretty soon after Jake was born and I felt like Sarah was being lazy. She was using the fact that she'd just had a baby to boss me around and make me responsible for Jake." Daniel said, "She was nagging me and that drives me up the wall! I guess I thought I had to shut her up. I threw her across the floor and kept punching her in the head. She didn't say another word the rest of the night." I asked him if he felt that getting her to shut up was the benefit and he said, "Yeah, she stopped nagging me didn't she? I got my way, and afterwards I didn't feel so tense. Plus, we're always really happy for a while after we make up. "

I asked Daniel, "What did you really want during the incident?" I felt that once Daniel could understand just what he wanted out of the abusive situation, he could then evaluate how to get a similar pay-off without violence. Daniel stated, "I wanted to get through to her…for her to know I'm the boss. Somebody has to be in charge. You can't have two captains on one ship." In a group session, I asked the group to brainstorm ways they communicate their feelings without using violence. This helped Daniel to identify possible alternative behaviors he could use rather than abuse.

-- #3. Recognizing the Effects of the Media
In addition to broadening definitions and learning empathy to alter attitudes, we discussed the effects of the media. Do you have any baby boomers in your batterers group? I feel that many, many years of movie-watching as well as the themes of many earlier TV shows help to create some clients' hostility towards women. This media reinforcement can make broadening the client's definition of violence even more of a challenge. Here's how recognizing the effects of the media worked in a group setting. I asked the group to make a list of their role models and those role models' qualities.

Earnest, age 57, made a list containing names of tough guys like Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, and even "The Undertaker," a wrestler he had seen on TV. When I asked Earnest why he considered these men role models he said, "They're strong. They know what they want, and they know how to get it. They are real men who don't take any crap from anybody, especially their women."
Talking about media role models helped Earnest and the rest of the group to better understand how these role models had trained them to think of women in an objectified manner. Earnest found that he associated being "a real man" with "keeping his woman in line."

After the exercise, Earnest was beginning to understand that the "tough guy" image he tried to follow had nothing to do with creating a successful relationship. As you may know, the concept of a working successful relationship was one that hadn't occurred to Earnest.

For Daniel, whom we discussed earlier, his marriage was all about dominance and forcing his will onto Sarah. Daniel stated, "To me to be top dog is what it's all about. I can't let her push me around. If I let her do that, what kind of man would I be? God made man first, which means men are supposed to rule women. A wife is supposed to do what her husband tells her to. And damn it, she better." I suggested to Daniel that there were other media examples of men who did not need to dominate women in order to show their strength.

In this track, we talked about three methods of Altering Attitudes. Those methods were: Broadening Definitions, Learning Empathy, and Recognizing the Effects of the Media. In the next track, we will discuss the advantages of working as a male-female therapist team.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Buchbinder, E. (2018). Metaphors of transformation: Change in male batterers. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 19(3), 352–361. 

Enosh, G., & Buchbinder, E. (2019). Mirrors on the wall: Identification and confrontation in group processes with male batterers in prison. Psychology of Men & Masculinities, 20(4), 575–584. 

Napier, T. R., Howell, K. H., Maye, C. E., Jamison, L. E., Mandell, J. E., & Thurston, I. B. (2021). Demographic factors, personal life experiences, and types of intimate partner violence. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy.

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 1
What are three methods of Altering Attitudes in male batterers? To select and enter your answer go to CE Test.

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