Jump to Body Text

Guidelines for Men Who Batter Programs

Subcommittees of the Participating Members of the People Who Work With People Who Batter Meeting

Published: January,1997

Historical Context

Since 1984 a group of professionals (more recently known as: People Who Work With People Who Batter) working with men who batter representing a variety of agencies and programs met monthly. For nearly eight years the group met for support, to share information, and gain an understanding of what other programs were offering.

Toward the end of the seventh year the group agreed that it was important for programs who work with men who batter to collectively develop baseline, accepted guidelines in order to:

  • Assist new and existing batterers? programs in understanding accepted ways of practice.

  • Lay a foundation for the possibility of a future state credentialling process for programs or professionals who work with men who batter.

  • Provide information and education to judges, lawyers, county systems personnel, and other community members about accepted ways for programs to work with men who batter.

As a result, the group met over a five-year period to develop guidelines, using our collective experience and other states? standards as examples. After further feedback was solicited from around the state, a second draft was completed by a focus group. These revised guidelines are the result of that process.


Violence is any action or word that hurts another person. It is the misuse of power by one person or group of people with the intent of controlling or oppressing others. There are many contributing factors which make this issue more complex. However, violence is a learned behavior with the need for a variety of approaches to prevent, reduce, and eliminate it. We believe there is a need for agencies working with victim/ survivors and perpetrators to seek ways to cooperate, collaborate and coordinate information and services. In addition, programs need to work together in addressing policy issues and assist in changing overall systems for the safety of the victims of domestic violence.

This committee recognizes that providing services to men who have been violent to their spouses or women partners is one way to contribute to the elimination of violence in our community and society. Batterers? programs should actively involve input and feedback about programming from outside agencies particularly those programs working directly with women who are victim/ survivors of domestic abuse. Men's programs are encouraged not to compete with battered women's services for limited public and private resources.

In the vast majority of cases, as experienced in this State and as confirmed by national statistics, the victim/ survivors of domestic violence are overwhelmingly women and the batterers are men. It is intended that these guidelines be a guide for new and existing programs toward the development and delivery of services to men involved in heterosexual relationships who have acted abusively toward a partner or spouse. These guidelines are not meant to be generalized to other professional groups or types of services related to violence or domestic violence.

We sincerely believe that these guidelines will not hamper creativity and innovation in providing services to batterers but will lay a foundation for programs to generate more efficient and effective methods of intervention. We have developed these guidelines in good faith, with the full knowledge that there will be ongoing need for revisions as professionals continue to learn about these issues. You are encouraged to make these guidelines fit for your geographical area or community.

These standards and guidelines reflect a group product, and do not represent unanimous agreement.

Responses and comments about these Guidelines can be directed to: mathewsdt@aol.com . PWWWPWB meetings are held the third Thursday of each month from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. all are invited to attend.

Purposes of Batterers' Program Guidelines

Batterers' Program guidelines promote the elimination of domestic violence by providing directions for ethical and accountable batterer?s programs.

Batterers' program guidelines:

  1. Prioritize the safety of victim/ survivors.

  2. Promote a high level of ethical practice based on current knowledge and research and encourage provider responsibility in reaching these standards.

  3. Establish a minimum level of responsibility, service and accountability expected from providers.

  4. Help insure that men who batter receive services that are humane, support change and hold them accountable.

  5. Encourage collaboration, cooperation and communication with battered women's programs and services.

Philosophy Statement

This philosophy statement reflects some of the commonly understood root causes, beliefs, and underpinnings of domestic abuse within heterosexual relationships. The guidelines that follow are intended to address these beliefs.

To understand domestic violence a careful examination of the contributing factors of the much larger issue of violence is necessary. All forms of violence and oppression are connected, and the elimination of one is impossible without the elimination of all. Violence is a complex problem with many contributing factors and requires multiple intervention strategies on a variety of levels.

Our core beliefs in addressing domestic violence are that:

  • Domestic Violence is an individual, family, neighborhood, community, country, world, societal, cultural, and spiritual issue.

  • Domestic Violence is a learned behavior; it has rewards and consequences.

  • Domestic Violence is reinforced by many parts of society.

  • Domestic Violence can be (and most often is) passed on from generation to generation.

  • Domestic Violence is the hurtful misuse of power and desire or choice to control a partner, spouse, child or situation.

  • Domestic Violence can be unlearned. Situations and people do not have to stay the way they are because "that's how it's always been." Batterers can learn to make nonviolent choices.

  • Domestic Violence cannot be justified on the basis of being provoked.

  • Domestic Violence is a type of oppression with roots in racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, etc.

  • Domestic Violence is a choice for which the perpetrator must be held accountable.

The following are fundamental definitions that will help you understand the guidelines. These definitions specifically relate to domestic violence and heterosexual men who perpetrate abuse toward their partners:

  • Violence/ Abuse is any action or word that injures or instills fear in another person. It is the misuse of power by one person or group of people with the intent of controlling, oppressing or punishing others.

  • Domestic violence/ abuse occurs in a family or relationship context with strong ties to behaviors, attitudes, and belief systems that are oppressive. Domestic violence/ abuse is a crime.

  • Battering is a systematic use of abusive behaviors.

  • Perpetrators/ Batterers are men who have acted in an abusive or violent manner with a spouse or partner in a heterosexual relationship.

  • Perpetrator/ Batterer programs are considered to be any individual or agency providing educational, therapeutic, or counseling services to men who have been violent towards a partner/ spouse in a heterosexual relationship. These groups are meant to be used in concert with existing judicial, corrections, and advocacy programs.

  • Educational or Counseling groups are two methods for intervening with men who batter. These two methods are the preferred and most widely accepted processes for intervention. These methods do not exclude the need for jail as an intervention or consequence.

There will be no distinction made within these guidelines between educational and counseling group programs. The guidelines are set up to accommodate many styles and approaches. They only recommend baseline elements and structures for whatever way the intervention is carried out.

The following guidelines were not intended to be applied to programs, professional groups or agencies other than men's perpetrator programs. In addition, during the development of these guidelines members of the committees have had varying opinions and desires for emphasizing some aspects of the guidelines more than others. As a result, the guidelines represent the majority opinion.

We understand that this brief philosophical statement does not address every facet of the issues related to men's violence toward their women partners. However, we believe that the professionals who crafted these guidelines have given an honest and genuine effort.

We hope this statement will be helpful as you read through these guidelines. Professionals who have worked in this field for years are witness to great numbers of men who have made significant progress toward a nonviolent lifestyle. We recognize that batterers' programs are not effective for all men. These guidelines have been created to inform the public, educate other professionals, and enhance a program's ability to assist men in making significant attitude and life changes.

Program Guidelines

Many programs are structured to include the following:

  1. Program length of 16-24 weeks at a minimum of 2+ hours per session.

  2. A standard intake process. This should include: assessing for lethality, chemical dependency, mental health issues and appropriateness for services (see appendices B and D).

  3. Both initial and ongoing assessment of risk level of perpetrator to victim and children, and open access to input from the victim.

  4. Perpetrators to the best of their ability pay for their own education or treatment whether participation is socially or court mandated.

  5. A policy for handling continued violence as reported by further arrests, partner report or perpetrator self-report. This can include: how and when to confront a perpetrator; when someone is discharged from the group; when, how and if a perpetrator can restart with a group once terminated.

  6. Current information and referral options to community resources for partners, children's services and other perpetrator services.

  7. A policy about: specific criteria that clients must meet for program completion; documentation of progress and completion to probation or referring agency; timely reports of violations.

  8. Recommendations for ongoing counseling or structured aftercare where indicated.

Content Guidelines

Given the current research findings on the effectiveness of programs for heterosexual male batterers, a structured educational or combined process and educational approach is recommended. A program should include the following components:

  • Education: The educational content of batterers? programs should provide information that helps men understand the dynamics of battering within the context of cultural learning and male socialization. Programs should challenge all beliefs or attitudes used to justify the use of violence in intimate relationships, especially the perceived "right" to dominate or control women. Participants should learn how their violence affects their female partners and their relationships, and its impact on children or other family members witnessing the violence. The program should enable participants to acknowledge their violent behavior, take responsibility for it, and initiate positive change within their personal relationships.

  • Values Assessment: Process time should be provided to allow participants to acknowledge and examine their current use of violence. The program should help men to identify and examine personal attitudes, experiences, feelings and beliefs that reinforce their use of violence. The program should assist participants to integrate the information presented and apply it in making behavioral change.

  • Behavioral Change: Participants who sincerely wish to change and unlearn their violent behavior benefit from specific training that teaches egalitarian, respectful strategies for decision making, communication, and conflict resolution. Programs should teach interactional strategies to maintain equitable, nonviolent relationships. The program should also emphasize that lasting (long term) behavioral change is the measure of successful completion of the program, not simply finishing a certain number of sessions.

A variety of materials and educational techniques may be effective in achieving these goals. General content guidelines from existing programs include the following broad topic areas: socio-cultural foundations of violent behavior; tactics of control and abuse; self-control planning; equality modeling; family of origin and generational issues; sexual abuse; children, youth and violence; non-violent communication, decision making and conflict resolution.

A list of specific topics within each category is outlined in Appendix A.

Victim Safety and Confidentiality

All programs must follow state mandates regarding the Data Practices Act. Areas of specific concern include: the limits to client confidentiality, duty to warn, child protection reporting and client bill of rights.

Perpetrator confidentiality is limited. Each participant in a perpetrator program must sign a release of information to the victim/survivor upon entering the program. This release permits staff to advise victim/survivors of the participant's enrollment, attendance, any on-going threats of violence, discharge, and program completion. When the participant is mandated by the court, a release of information will be given to the appropriate court worker specifying all of the above-mentioned items. The court worker must be apprised of a mandated participant's failure to participate, any further acts of violence, program attendance, and discharge. The release of information may also permit the program to provide the victim/survivor with periodic evaluations of the participant.

In addition, perpetrator programs have a number of specific obligations to victim/survivors which include the following:


    Perpetrator programs shall maintain the confidentiality of victim/survivors, unless confidential communications are specifically waived by the victim and there is reasonable cause to believe that the victim/survivor will not be in imminent danger by revealing this information. Perpetrator programs shall not persuade nor coerce victim/survivors to waive confidentiality and shall inform victim/survivors of the limits of confidentiality. To avoid unintended disclosure of confidential communications of the victim/survivor or partner to the participant, workers having contact with the victim/survivor or partner should be staff other than those providing direct services to the participant. This is often not feasible in small perpetrator programs.


    It is strongly advised that the perpetrator programs keep separate records for the participant and any victim/survivor or partner. Separate record-keeping reduces the risk of inadvertent disclosure. Information about victim/survivors or partners, even in separate case records, should be kept to a minimum. These separate partner records should be destroyed when the perpetrator is discharged. Remember, partner records may be subpoenaed even if they are in a separate file, so careful consideration must be given to the content of these records.


    Perpetrator programs that have contact with victim/survivors or partners of participants and document this contact should require that participants sign a written waiver to any right to this information about the victim/survivor or partner that the program may acquire. The participant should explicitly agree that he will not seek to have any information about the victim/survivor disclosed or discovered in any judicial or administrative proceeding. The program might ask that he grant limited power of attorney to the perpetrator program to safeguard information acquired about any victim/survivor or partner.

Partner Contact

There is substantial debate within the national perpetrator services community about whether perpetrator program personnel should make contact with partners of participants. Partner contact is appropriate for the purposes of providing victim/survivors with information about the intervention services, informing battered partners about the importance of safety planning and the availability of services from the local domestic violence program. Partner contact may also be appropriate at intake or during the time the man receives services in order to gather information helpful in the treatment of the perpetrator including that about past or current abusiveness and the purposes of research.

Those espousing the propriety of partner contact invariably report that the information is valuable in the development of intervention plans with perpetrators. As a consequence, intervention staff may use partner contact as a method of investigation to enhance the participant's rehabilitation. We strongly recommend that any partner contact give highest priority to the safety of the victim/survivor. The acquisition of information must be incidental to victim safety.

Service providers for perpetrators should guard against asking a victim/survivor to support or expedite a perpetrator's participation in the program. Any contact with the victim/survivor can be rife with opportunity for the victim/survivor to renew a sense of responsibility for the perpetrator, for the perpetrator's change, or the success of the program.

Therefore, the following should shape procedure for partner contact:


    Before victim/survivors share information with a perpetrator program, the program shall carefully describe the concept of informed consent to the victim/survivor; identify safety issues that may arise from the disclosure; advise of the need for a safety plan; and refer to a battered women's program or elsewhere for safety services. The perpetrator shall also be informed of this contact as part of the intake procedure.


    Since information shared by a victim/survivor can be used against them by the perpetrator, previous willingness to share should not be considered an indication of continuing consent. Each time she is contacted, the victim/survivor should be encouraged to assess the safety issues involved when communication with the perpetrator could occur.


    When the program representatives or counselor attempt to reach the victim/ survivor, providing input should always be clearly optional. Even where partners are informed that their input is optional, they may have difficulty declining information to the partner's counselor. Therefore we recommend that perpetrator programs work with local shelter, intervention or safety programs, and have these programs contact victim/survivors. We further recommend that a letter be sent prior to telephone contact so that the victim/ survivor has time to make an informed decision about whether (or what information) to reveal. The victim/survivors' safety is foremost. Program staff may suggest that the victim/survivor discuss the advantages and disadvantages of continued contact with the perpetrator program with advocates at the local domestic violence intervention program. Any solicitation of a victim/survivor's input, however valuable it may be to the perpetrator's program, must be clearly identified as optional and not necessarily in the victim/ survivor's best interest.


    Relying upon victim/ survivors to supplement perpetrator information may only support perpetrator denial, minimization, and blame; and may maintain partner responsibility for the perpetrator. Obtaining information from partners may place them at heightened risk for retaliation if the perpetrator concludes that the victim/survivor has been sharing information with the perpetrator program. Therefore, every effort should be made to receive information from the perpetrator and police reports. Contact with the victim/ survivor for violence verification should be sharply limited, and any verification must not be disclosed to the perpetrator without the victim's explicit permission.


    Some victim/survivors inform perpetrator programs of violations of protection orders or other violent acts, and are quite clear that they want the perpetrator to be confronted. The perpetrator program staff, nonetheless, retains the right to decide not to confront the perpetrator about the violation. If the program chooses to confront the perpetrator, before doing so the staff should ascertain that the victim/survivor has made a safety plan related to the potential consequences of confrontation. Some victim/survivors contact perpetrator program staff to report abusive and endangering conduct of perpetrators, yet they do not want the perpetrator to know of their communication. If the program decides to work with the perpetrator on the issue presented by the victim/survivor indirectly, the victim/survivor should be advised and safety plans should be identified in light of potential consequences of this indirect confrontation. Victim/ survivors may also be referred to local battered women's programs or other safety services.


    We recommend that perpetrator programs evaluate their programs in regards to effectiveness. This may be done through a variety of methods including: client survey; checking recidivism rates in criminal and family court; partner contact; evaluating drop out rates; and client participation. If partner contact is utilized for program evaluation, the program must consider all issues regarding victim/ survivor safety as described in these guidelines. Furthermore, victim/ survivors should be notified at intake or at initial contact regarding evaluations involving their feedback.

**Adapted in part from Hart, B. 1992. "Confidentiality" & "Partner Contact."**

Areas of Competency for Facilitators

The following areas of competency are intended to provide a contextual understanding of family violence, to enhance facilitation skills, and to offer practical suggestions on how the group process can be used most effectively.


    Facilitators should have a general knowledge of the history and philosophy of the battered women?s movement and its definitions of violence and abuse. They should also be aware of cultural, societal, and gender-related aspects of violence; and the systematic tactics of each aspect to maintain dominance and oppression, such as sexism, racism, homophobia, and classism. Requirements should include education on the power and control dynamics within relationships, the rewards and consequences of violent behavior, and specific examples of non-violent and non-threatening behavior.


    Facilitators should possess interviewing techniques which maintain an atmosphere which is compassionate and challenging without being colluding or being disrespectful. This includes the ability to take a history and evaluate the client?s abusive behaviors towards family members, previous arrests or violent behavior, chemical or alcohol dependency, mental health concerns, strengths and weaknesses identified by the client, patterns of abuse in family of origin and assessment for lethality. Crisis intervention skills are necessary to defuse potentially dangerous responses. Facilitators should be aware of their agency's policies for accurate record keeping, data privacy, confidentiality, client rights, and mandated reporting laws.


    Facilitators should have the skills to conduct an open, respectful group process by establishing and using group ground rules. They should be able to keep the group focused on the issues of violence, abuse, control and change. They should also be able to provide new information and teach non-controlling relationship skills. Being able to distinguish between the dynamics of on-going open-ended and close-ended groups, and to assess the cohesiveness of a group based on the group process and content are highly effective skills in facilitation. We also recommend having two facilitators conducting the group process.


    Facilitators should be educated about the effects of generational violence to families and should have an understanding of the family as a system operating under specific myths, beliefs and expectations. They should be aware of child development issues, the effects of violence on self-esteem, and the coping mechanisms of child witnesses to abuse such as guilt, shame, grief, loss, and abandonment. Understanding the effects of socialization on sexuality and dating violence is also necessary information for effective facilitation of violence group work. Being able to provide non-violent parenting skills and options is crucial to encouraging change and safety for children and adolescents.


    A group facilitator should be abuse-free in his or her personal life and be a role model of non-controlling behavior. A group facilitator should be free of civil and criminal court mandates such as an Order for Protection (a restraining order), past due child support, assault related charges, or probation conditions for one year prior to employment. Should a group facilitator be charged and found guilty of assault and/or disorderly conduct, it is recommended he or she be prohibited from facilitating any type of group until all court related mandates and obligations are legally satisfied.

Match group facilitators with the majority ethnicities of the group members. It is helpful when at least one facilitator reflects the ethnicity of the clients being served.

Facilitator Training

We recommend that any individual who will facilitate groups for male perpetrators of abuse should adhere to the following criteria:


    Group facilitators, prior to their facilitating groups alone, should complete fifty (50) hours of educational training specifically related to the areas of competency outlined in the training requirements section of these guidelines. Twelve (12) of the fifty (50) hours of educational training should be provided by a battered women's program.


    In addition to the educational requirement, group facilitators, prior to their facilitating a group alone, should complete a cycle of groups offered by a local program and/ or at least 40 hours of co-facilitation under the supervision of a group facilitator who meets all requirements set forth in this document. Completion of a minimum of two complete group cycles and or 80 hours of co-facilitation is preferable. During the year following completion of these requirements, facilitators should receive a minimum of two hours of supervision per month.

    A training facilitator should have a minimum of two years of direct group practice experience working with male perpetrators.


    A group facilitator or trainer should complete thirty (30) hours of Continuing Education Units (CEUs) in every two year period. CEUs should be specific to the areas of competency as outlined in the training requirements section of this guidelines. All facilitators should maintain a written record of the CEUs completed for each two-year period.


    Group facilitators, as well as other program staff, should receive regularly scheduled trainings that address the areas of gender role stereotypes, cross cultural issues, ethical practice, sexism, racism, homophobia, classism and all types of oppression.


    Group facilitators should network, collaborate, and/or consult with other domestic abuse service providers no fewer than six times each year. Three of the six meetings should include agencies or programs serving the needs of battered women (shelters, advocacy groups, statewide coalitions). This is to prevent group facilitators from working in isolation and becoming vulnerable to the distortions and manipulations of clients.

Appendix A: Areas of Content


  1. Socio-cultural basis for domestic violence and abuse

  2. Occurrence in all ethnic and racial groups, religious affiliation, income and educational levels, affectional preferences, disabilities and abilities, and in all ages.

  3. Male entitlement and privilege in world patriarchy

  4. Link between violence and sex-role stereotypes, e.g. as depicted in mythologies, fairy tales, and the media

  5. Perceived and real differences between women and men: nature vs. nurture

  6. The underlying political and sexist devaluing of women in organized religions

  7. Attitudes which support or lead to violent behavior including racism, sexism, classism and homophobia


  1. Dominance and control issues, and the myth of provocation

  2. The perpetrator's intense need and desire for control

  3. Abuser's denial, minimization, projection of blame, and other justifications for abuse

  4. Emotional and psychological, verbal and sexual intimidation

  5. Distinctions between aggressive and assertive behavior

  6. Sexual abuse

  7. The effects of victimization on women and children

  8. Exploration of individual attitudes which support or lead to violence

  9. Self-defeating consequences for the abuser


  1. The escalation of abusive behavior

  2. Definitions and types of abuse; violent behavior is a crime

  3. The development of an individualized and specific plan to prevent violent behavior

  4. Time-outs/cool-downs to remove oneself from potentially violent encounters

  5. The recognition of physical, emotional, and cognitive cues or triggers of escalating tension with the goal of timely intervention

  6. Self-control journals or logs

  7. Distorted thinking-how it impairs and impacts emotions and behavior; e.g. lack of positive self talk

  8. Developing appropriate support systems


  1. The generational aspects of abusive parenting and its impact on current attitudes and behavior

  2. Definitions of alcoholism and other forms of substance abuse, their impact on the abuser and on the family systems

  3. Lack of causal relationship between alcohol and drugs and domestic violence

  4. Effects of witnessing or directly experiencing violence in the family as a child

  5. Unlearning self-defeating coping skills, used for survival as an abused child

  6. Transcending shame and developing a self-affirming and separate identity


  1. Ability to identify and express feelings respectfully

  2. Intimacy

  3. Understanding passive-aggressive communication and behavior such as withholding affection and positive affirmations

  4. Listening with empathy and responding respectfully

  5. Conflict resolution skills such as negotiation and compromise

  6. Choices regarding violent communication, comparing different relationships such as work and family


  1. Providing shared responsibility for a safe environment in the partnership or family

  2. Honesty and accountability in accepting responsibility for oneself

  3. Trust, respect, and support in valuing partner opinions, feelings, friends, and activities

  4. Fair distribution of work and sharing in parental responsibilities

  5. Economic partnership and mutual benefit from financial arrangements

  6. Commitment to economic support of children regardless of marital status

  7. Overcoming fears of intimacy to enhance relationships


  1. Power and control in any sexual encounter makes it a non-consenting relationship. Examples are: adult and child prostitution, and partner coercion. Rape is an act of violence.


  1. The effects of domestic violence and abuse on children

  2. Parenting issues and skills: children and youth learn what they live

  3. Positive non-violent role modeling

  4. Non-abusive forms of discipline teach instead of punish

Appendix B: Intake Information Suggested


  • Reasons for referral, precipitating events, previous episodes, duration

  • Most recent incident of violent behavior in current or recent relationship

  • Worst incident of violent behavior in current or recent relationship

  • First remembered incident of violent behavior in current or most recent relationship


  • Current work or employment, finances, social network or support

  • Relationship status

  • Court Orders or restraining orders and against whom for how long


  • Amount of time together, married, separated, divorced

  • Past relationships, duration, children, current status


  • Previous counseling


  • Health history, medication, hospitalizations, head injury, psychiatric history


  • Types of drugs/ alcohol, patterns of use/ abuse


  • Violence in relationships current and past, violence toward others, family history of violent behavior


  • Orders for protection, criminal history, current and past charges, probation, referral source


  • Current living situation, family history, including pattern of chemical use or violence, mental health issues, and family discipline style



  • History of suicide or homicidal behaviors, current plan, motivation, means available, willingness to develop alternative plan


Appendix C: Releases, Forms, Documents

Following are forms, releases, and documents suggested for use by programs. Not all of these items are used in every program. We suggest that you contact the resource agencies (Appendix D) to better understand what is currently being used.

  • Client Responsibilities and Rights

  • Data Privacy

  • Client Recommendations (Partner Contact and Firearms)

  • Release of Information

  • Intake History Summary (Assessment)

  • Abusive Behavior Checklist

  • Chemical Dependency Assessment

  • Progress Report

  • Group Summary Report

  • Participation Contract

  • Letter to Victims of Perpetrators

  • Victim Contact Forms

  • Group Rules

  • Program Philosophy Statement

  • Lethality Statement

  • Letter to Referral Source

  • Group Goals

Appendix D: Resource Programs

AMHERST H. WILDER FOUNDATION, COMMUNITY ASSISTANCE PROGRAM 650 Marshall Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55117 Contact: Peter Mansur, 612-221-0048

THE COUNSELING CLINIC 6860 Shingle Creek Parkway, Suite 116 Brooklyn Center, MN 55430 Contact: Jeanne Radotich, 612-560-4860

DOMESTIC ABUSE PROJECT Franklin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55404, Contact: Diane Davis, 612-874-7063

FAMILY AND CHILDREN'S SERVICES OF MINNEAPOLIS 6900 78th Avenue North Brooklyn Park, MN 55445 Contact: Greg Sicheneder, 612-560-4412