Batterer Intervention

Circle of empty chairs

Battering, as defined by many intervention providers, is a constellation of physical, psychological, and/or sexual abuses that may include physical violence, threats, intimidation, isolation, emotional abuse, using of children, economic coercion, manipulation, and/or the assertion of privilege, such as making all major family decisions.

Types of Battering

There are different aspects and manifestations of battering:

  • Physical violence. Physical abuse may include unwanted physical behavior against a partner, such as hitting or beating, pushing or shoving, choking, throwing objects, using a weapon, burning, or restraining the partner from leaving. It may also include refusing to get help for a partner if he or she is injured or ill.
  • Intimidation. Intimidation includes gestures, looks, and actions that remind a victim of a batterer’s potential for physical violence. Those actions, gestures or looks may include destroying property, smashing things, abandoning a partner in a dangerous place, abusing pets, or displaying weapons.
  • Threats. Threatening to hurt the victim, victim's family, children, or pets is another common tactic among batterers. An abuser may also threaten to cause legal, career, or family trouble for the victim or threaten to commit suicide.
  • Isolation. Isolation tactics include controlling what the victim does or whom he or she contacts or sees. An abuser may deny access to a telephone, computer or car, hold the victim against his or her will, alienate him or her from family and friends, or deter him or her from attending school or work.
  • Emotional abuse. A batterer uses verbal insults serve to undermine the victim’s self-confidence to discourage him or her from ending the relationship. The abuser may also try to convince the victim that he or she is an unsuitable spouse or parent, crazy, unattractive, stupid, promiscuous, unemployable, incompetent or the cause of the abuse.
  • Using children. An abuser can control the victim by violence or threats against children they share together, criticism of his or her parenting skills and threats related to child custody. In some cases, joint custody allows the batterer to continue to attack or intimidate the victim, children or both.
  • Sexual abuse. A batterer uses sexual mutilation, forced prostitution, and unwanted sexual practices to control the victim. Other practices that may be considered sexual abuse include making degrading sexual statements, forcing him or her to pose for pornographic photographs or imitate pornography, not disclosing a sexually transmitted disease, accusing the victim of having affairs or attempting to attract other partners and comparing his or her body and sexual behavior to that of others.
  • Economic control. An abuser may keep control over all of the family’s resources, including the victim’s own income, giving an allowance or forcing the victim to ask for money for basic necessities. The batterer might keep some sources of income secret.
  • Male privilege. In the majority of domestic violence cases, men are the batterers. He may use male privilege in acting like the king or master, making all important family decisions, and expecting the woman to wait on him and perform all the household duties. Batterer intervention programs are an integral part of any comprehensive approach to domestic violence. Batterer intervention programs are relatively new and were initiated as a first step toward helping batterers and raising awareness. Though still fairly new, batterer intervention programs are playing a major role in the criminal justice system. On average, batterer intervention programs estimate that 80 percent of their referrals are mandated through the justice system.

Role of Psychotherapy in Batterer Intervention Programs

Psychotherapy has a major role in batterer intervention programs. Therapy for survivors, batterers, and families involved in battering situations are often required by law to attend therapy. Individual, couple, and family therapy sessions are part of batterer intervention. Group therapy may also be beneficial.

  • Survivors. Survivors of abuse can attend psychotherapy to help them recover from the abuse they have endured. Through therapy, survivors learn proactive ways to handle potentially dangerous situations, how to control their emotions, repair the damage of the abuse, forgive their abuser and how to break free from the grasp of the batterer. A substantial part of psychotherapy for survivors is treating low self esteem and fear of being alone.
  • Batterers. Batterers may attend psychotherapy to help them discover the underlying causes of their needs for control and abuse. Psychotherapy may also help them to realize the depth and seriousness of their actions and proceed in finding ways to reverse their abusive behaviors. Psychotherapy may also assist the abuser in learning how to repair broken relationships and create new relationships with affected individuals, if possible. Ironically, batterers, like survivors, often suffer from psychological insecurity and low self esteem. Controlling behavior demonstrated by batterers is typically an attempt to keep their spouse or partner from leaving them.
  • Children. In many domestic violence cases, a batterer’s target is a spouse or significant other. If the couple has children, those children will be adversely affected by the domestic violence they see. Psychotherapy for children in domestic violence situations is crucial to their recovery. It can help them understand that they are not to blame for the violence and that they can still love both parents. Psychotherapy can help children gain effective coping skills.
  • Couples. Though couples therapy in regard to domestic violence has been previously controversial, it can help couples to sort through the underlying causes of emotions and feelings that lead to violence. Through couples therapy, rebuilding a trust relationship may occur.
  • Families. Entire families are affected by domestic violence. Family psychotherapy can help rebuild and strengthen family relationships, while getting input and insight from each individual. Family therapy can treat family issues rather than just individual issues.

If there's something important you'd like us to consider adding to this page, please feel free to suggest your ideas.

Therapist Resources

Last updated: 07-03-2015

Advanced Search is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, medical treatment, or therapy. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding any mental health symptom or medical condition. Never disregard professional psychological or medical advice nor delay in seeking professional advice or treatment because of something you have read on