Steve Halley, LSCSWSteve Halley, LSCSW

The Battering Intervention Facilitator’s Tool Box

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Welcome to our blog. These posts share some of the many tried and true tools, skills, and techniques that the Family Peace Initiative has found to be valuable through the years. We hope that this Facilitator's Tool Box will become a resource for you in your own quest to be the best facilitator you can be. We will be adding new blog posts monthly. Enjoy!

Excellent Victim Services Will Not Stop Domestic Violence

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In 1989, my wife, Dorthy, was serving as the Director for a shelter program for women trying to escape partner abuse. When she realized that her agency had served the 7th victim of the same abusive man, she recognized that something had to change in society’s response to domestic violence. While serving victims effectively is critical for their and their children's well-being, serving victims after they have been abused will never end domestic violence.  Dorthy knew that getting the abuser to change was the only way to stop the violence. Her efforts to start a program for those who batter in those early years formed the foundation of what is now the Family Peace Initiative.

Since the movement to address domestic violence began, the focus has been on victim services. While there is a continuing need for additional money for victim services, battering intervention programming remains almost entirely unfunded. There are beliefs that contribute to this.  Here is a list of some:

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Promoting a Change of Focus in BIP

Internal FocusI had the pleasure of listening to Chris Huffine present last November at the BISC-MI "Miles To Go" Conference in Michigan.  Chris has a remarkable skill of describing with clarity what he is trying to accomplish within his Allies in Change Program in Portland, Oregon. One topic that Chris discussed was the overall goal of helping move participants from an external focus to an internal focus. I wondered how many professionals listening to his presentation realized the importance of what Chris was saying.  Moving people from external to internal focus is exactly what we ty to accomplish at the Family Peace Initiative as change is unlikely to occur without this. It is an extremely important facilitator skill and may be one of the most challenging to master.

Dominating and controlling another, blaming and the anger that our participants often express, are all forms of external focus. Conversely, internal focus consists of managing, being fully aware of, and being accountable for oneself.  Chris Huffine talks about the need to help participants become aware of the emotions behind the anger.  He teaches that anger is seen as some other emotion plus blame. Helping participants examine the "some other emotion" without the blame helps them to move toward a calmer, less reactive internal focus.

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How Do I Start? The Group Check-in


How do I Start

John Gottman says that the way an argument is started helps determine the way it will end. I believe that the same is true for battering intervention program groups: a good beginning can influence how the group ends. I have to confess, when I started doing this work, I didn’t give much thought to how the group started. It was only after I was involved in this work for a while that I noticed the impact of the start-up, whatever it might be. I hear of some programs using mindfulness activities to begin classes, with good results. One man told me of meditative readings that he uses to set the tone for his group. While there are countless approaches to beginning a group process, I’ve noticed that quite a few of us use a version of “check-in” to start group--but the purpose and way it is administered varies greatly.  After trying to use the check-in in a variety of ways, we’ve found a relatively simple version gives both facilitators and participants good results, but for different reasons.   

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Beliefs Can be Beautiful Doorways to Change in BIP

37468682 sMuch the way a vehicle is propelled by a motor, in many ways, people are propelled, or “driven” by beliefs.  Rarely do we make a choice of what we say, do, or not do, without a belief “driving our car”. A central aspect of many batterer intervention programs is bringing the beliefs that serve to "justify"  cruel behavior the surface. Examples of these beliefs include, " I am the man, so I am the boss" or, "When I am violent, it is because she pushed my buttons".  Many group facilitators have been trained in the cognitive behavioral strategies for identifying these beliefs, and discussing them with participants. However, when using a trauma-informed affective approach, these moments can be used to accomplish even more.   

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The "Ping Pong Effect" in Batterer Intervention

89494875 sIt is no longer surprising to me when a participant discloses he was angry when he was first told he needed to attend a battering intervention program. It is common among those we serve. It still puzzles me that a person can be violent and cruel to their partner and not recognize the need to work on changing their own behavior.  Thank goodness, most of our participants change their perspective over time.  One of the helpful ingredients to make this change happen is something we call the “Ping Pong Effect”.

When discussing the process of change with those who complete our program, they commonly acknowledge the frustration and resentment they held when they first arrived. When reflecting on what helped them to move beyond this, they frequently refer to the stories that were shared by others in the group. They will say something like, “Once I learned that there are other people who are like me--in a strange way, I felt better. I realized I was not alone.”

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Thoughts on Sexual Respect

82056351 sIf you have been paying attention to the news lately, you have heard many women who have been sexually assaulted speaking out publicly. If you are familiar with the #METOO thread, you know that nearly 1.5 million women have acknowledged that they have been victims of rape, sexual abuse and sexual harassment. This should not be a surprise, as research has indicated this prevalence for a long time. Dr. Mary Koss completed a study at Kent State in the 1990’s that showed almost one third of American women, by the time they reach age 25, will have experienced rape, or attempted rape.    What often goes unspoken is the number of men—likely millions, who are sexually assaulting women. Some of these men who sexually disrespect women walk into our BIP classes each week.  Sexual respect is a topic BIP programs can't afford to ignore.

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Interns Experience the FPI Orientation

Welcome to the first edition of the Family Piece Initiative (FPI) Intern’s Blog. This blog will be written by Katie Z. and Anna K., both social work interns, who will be spending the next nine moths learning how to intervene with those who batter. It is our pleasure to share with you some of our learning experiences as we pursue the knowledge and skills to become facilitators for a batter intervention program (BIP).

The first significant lesson we learned at FPI was through an orientation class. Orientation is the first class that participants attend during their 27-week program. We were invited to engage in the class alongside participants who had been court-mandated to the program. Shortly after this class began, it became obvious that we were going to be asked to become vulnerable and take ownership for our own cruel behaviors, exactly what we ask of our participants.  Somehow, in what seemed like just a few minutes, the facilitator had all of us sharing things about ourselves that we wouldn’t normally share in every day conversation. Her approach seemed so natural, but we are still not sure how she so easily got us to open up.  It was sobering for us to participate in a process that asked us to examine our own beliefs, attitudes, and adverse emotions. It became clear that the FPI journey to becoming a skilled facilitator begins with the ability to look at ourselves.

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A Motive to Consider in the Case of Stephen Paddock


11074700 sTen days after the horrific event, the answers to so many questions about Stephen Paddock’s motive for creating death and destruction in Las Vegas remain unknown.  USA Today: October 11, 2017, when referring to Sheriff Joe Lombardo, reported: “Lombardo told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that investigators have interviewed Paddock’s entire family, including his two ex-wives. He said the investigation is progressing, but that a motive for the shooting has not been determined.  We may never know,” Lombardo said, “All those things that you would expect to find, we have not found.”  

As we watch the news unfold, there have been many predictions, not the least of which is that Paddock must be a batterer.  Some have seized the opportunity to declare that almost all of those who are terrorists battered their partner. The challenge with this thinking is that we haven’t refined our approach—it is as if every domestic batterer is prone to mow down others without provocation.  We know that domestic violence is common while murder is rare.  It is a mistake to think all murderers have the same motive, just as it is a mistake to think all batterers have the same motive.  

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The Man in the Mirror

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One of the men who completed the Family Peace Initiative program made a statement a while back that has really stuck with me.   He said, “I always thought that my job was to protect my family from monsters who might hurt them.  I will never forget the day I looked in the mirror and realized that the monster was not outside the house, but living inside the walls of our home. I realized for the first time that the monster was me.”  How is it possible that this man could be completely oblivious to the fact that he is “the monster” his family needs protection from?  

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It is All in the Message

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In our approach to trauma-focused batterer intervention, we ask people to become responsible for two things:  1) The first is to be accountable for the cruelty that they have used against others; and 2) The second is to become responsible for healing the impact of the cruelty that was done to them long before they could do anything to prevent it.  The cruelty they experienced as a child can never be their fault, but they must take on the responsibility to heal the impact of those experiences. To show how these two components are linked, let me give you an example of how it plays out in routine conversations in our group room.

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"Situational Violence" Rarely Is

wolf in sheeps clothingRuss arrived at my office for his initial domestic violence assessment.  He had been arrested for domestic violence, and was seeking a diversion agreement with the district attorney.  As a condition prior to the diversion being granted, Russ was asked to complete a DV assessment with me.  He was a business owner in a small town.  He did not want this situation going to court because it could certainly heap embarrassment on him and his family, and impact his business.  

I interviewed Russ for nearly two hours.  He began his assessment by telling me that he was completely embarrassed that he had hit his wife.  He explained that Bethany had an affair with a co-worker.  Russ confronted her shortly after he had found pictures of Bethany and the co-worker on her phone in a compromising situation.  The confrontation turned to yelling, and during the yelling, she stood up and pushed Russ.  Russ slapped her in the "heat of the moment", and Bethany called the police.  

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