Will a Batterer Change?


Many women believe that their partner will change if he just gets the help he needs. What type of help does a batterer need? The bottom line is a batterer will not change if he is not motivated to do so. Looking in the mirror and realizing how you have hurt people you love stirs up guilt and it is easier to deny there is a problem than to face it.

No one can make painful attitude and behavioral changes unless the pain of not changing drives them to keep going toward positive change.

Some programs are more effective and use some basic principles and standards. Safety of the victim supercedes all other concerns. Success means that victims can feel safe in their homes. Programs need to have permission to talk with victims and keep disclosures confidential. Programs need to last at least half of the court ordered probationary period.

Programs must hold the batterer accountable for choosing violence to control the relationship. Many batterers blame their partners for calling the police or for "starting" fights, but the batterer should be held accountable for behavior and complying with all program rules. The material covered in the batterers group needs to address the underlying belief that one person has the right to control and dominate the partner. Programs that present only anger control, stress management and communication skills material, fail to address the power and control system of family violence. Programs should not allow venting or complaining about partner behavior. Punching pillows and other displacing techniques seem to reinforce violent behavior and should not be used in violence programs.

Programs also should not demand that victims participate. It should not guarantee success of change and safety. Awareness of safety issues and the patterns of family violence are essential to victims and their well being. You might want to get help yourself to understand the cycle of violence and to make plan for safety. Some programs do not have these resources available, but this help is available to you through victim assistance programs. The Victimís Advocacy Program at the San Antonio Police Department at 207-2141 can be of assisstance.

Programs also must acknowledge that change must be ongoing. A program of six months or less is just the beginning of lasting behavioral responsibility. Change requires continuing examination of thoughts, feelings and behavior. Even if a batterer does not change with the help of a batterers program, this can be valid information to the victim in the process of giving up hope of change in the future.

How can you tell if it is working? Some positive signs include:

††† Violence and threats of violence have stopped.

††† Acknowledgement that abusive behavior is wrong.

††† When you are with him, you donít feel afraid.

††† You donít feel threatened if you express anger.

††† Your partner listens to you and respects your right to your own opinion.

††† Your partner no longer tries to control where you go. You feel free to go out, get a job or go to school.

††† You do not feel pressured into sex when you donít want to.

Signs that indicate that change is not happening include:

††† Pressures you to come back if youíve left.

††† States that you need counseling too.

††† States that others are worse or violence wasnít "that" bad.

††† States that when the program is over, they are completely cured.

††† States that you need to be together to improve.

††† States that stress or alcohol caused the violence.

††† Is still trying to manipulate you with flowers, dinner, etc.

††† Tries to enlist sympathy from you, family or friends.

††† Tells you to forget the past.

††† Promises are not backed up with changes in behavior.

††† Physical violence stops, but emotional and verbal abuse escalate.


If you have questions and concerns about your partnerís violence program and the program is not open to talking with you, call your partnerís probation officer. Consider your safety first.

Couples counseling has a place in working out problems, but it is not effective in addressing abusive behavior. It can be dangerous. Abuse and violence is not a relationship problem. How to budget, use leisure time, raise children are relationship issues. Everyone has them. Controlling the relationship with violence is not about how you communicate or relate. It is about power and control. Programs to address violence are the necessary to help decrease violence and increase safety .

Note: This article has been written gender neutral, but male to female violence is overwhelmingly the more typical type of violence and causes much more serious injury.