I’m not a “batterer.” I don’t need something like Emerge, do I?
The term “batterer” is one which often has very negative connotations. It tends to imply repeated or severe physical violence toward a partner. Because of this, many people who might otherwise want to stop their abuse and improve their relationships shy away from Emerge or similar programs. At Emerge, we have a number of people coming to us who report no physical abuse, but do report an extensive history of emotionally or verbally harmful behavior towards their partner or family.
Our primary goal is to help people have better relationships by helping them to stop choosing harmful behavior. Harmful behavior includes emotional abuse, physical abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse (including having emotional or physical affairs), or controlling behavior. Some actions often considered minor, such as alienation or insensitivity, can be part of a larger pattern of abuse or control.
The answer to this FAQ is that if you have done things that have been harmful to your partner or family, or you have had relationships that have ended due to your behavior, you could benefit from attending Emerge. It is not a prerequisite for someone to have been physically abusive in order to come to groups, and in fact approximately 40% of our clients report having never been physically abusive.
We describe this topic a bit more in our information for clients enrolling at Emerge, which can be viewed here. For more information on “best practices” for working with abusers in substance abuse treatment, click here.
Does abuser education work?
This question is commonly asked but does not have a simple answer. Abuser education programs may work for those people who take the information presented and explored in groups and use it to stop harming others.
A comparable question might be ‘Does education and treatment for drinking and driving offenders really work?’ The answer would also be similar: someone who truly wants to stop drinking will work to do so. Someone who doesn’t take such services seriously is at greater risk to re-offend.
Ongoing studies continue to look for a definitive answer to this question. Researcher Edward Gondolf has conducted a study comparing different Abuser Education Program formats, the results of which can be viewed here. Jeffrey Edelson’s research also explores this question and can be viewed here.
What are Abuser Education groups?
Abuser Education groups try to help abusers change the harmful, abusive, controlling and violent behavior in their relationships. Abuser Education services are usually conducted in a group format during which educational material is presented and individual group members discuss their actions and are given feedback on how to change those behaviors to non-abusive ones. For more information specifically on the Emerge model, click here.
How is alcohol and other drug abuse discussed?
Emerge does not offer substance abuse services. Anyone who comes to Emerge, is abusive, and has any substance abuse issues has two things to address. During group sessions we discuss how alcohol and other drugs do not cause abuse but may escalate it. Emerge makes referrals for substance abuse evaluations when needed and receives reports from probation officers regarding mandated substance abuse testing.
Why can’t I go for couples counseling when I’m in an abuser education group?
Couples counseling can be dangerous if there is ongoing violence in the relationship. Therapy may bring up strong feelings. In a relationship where violence and abuse is occurring, it may make the situation much more dangerous for the victim. Couples counseling is designed for a situation in which both participants can be safe, regardless of how difficult the dialogue in the session becomes.
In Massachusetts, abusers who enter into abuser education groups are restricted from couples counseling unless there has been a period of nine months with no violence due to safety concerns and state certification guidelines.
What is the recidivism rate for abusers?
Measuring recidivism is difficult, since there are many types of violence which are not easily tracked. Physical violence is the most measurable type of domestic violence because if often results in arrests and the event can then be quantified. However, other types of abuse, control and violence which may not be illegal are not easily quantified or tracked.
Clients who come to Emerge are only here for two hours per week. Knowing what their activities are outside of group and knowing how they are being abusive after leaving Emerge is impossible unless they are rearrested.
In 2004, the Massachusetts Trial Court Office of the Commissioner of Probation conducted a study looking at the success rates of restraining order violators over a six year timeframe. It strongly supports abuser education over other forms of treatment. To view this study, click here. In addition, Edward Gondolf’s research study looks at the differences in abuser education models and recidivism and can be viewed here.