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!

The Completion Letter

57106146 sLearning styles vary among those who attend BIP classes.  The more activities used that relate to different learning styles, the stronger the BIP curriculum. One activity that we use is the Completion Letter. As the name describes, this is a letter that is written and presented by the participant to the class at the end of the program. This assignment carries with it the expectation that it will be a demonstration of what was learned throughout the 27 weeks.  The following example was recently read in class as part of a completion process. Of course, the names have been changed: 

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Domestic Violence is Child Abuse

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"Bob” sits in class talking about the cruelty that he used against his wife.  He acknowledges yelling at her, calling her names, and on several occasions, punching and pushing her down.  The rest of us sit quietly, listening to his effort to take ownership of his violence.  As he gets close to the end of what he wants to say, he makes a comment that I have heard far too many times among those who use violence in their families.  Bob says, “as bad as I have been to my wife, at least I have never been abusive to my kids.” 

I can’t think of a better example of denial than what “Bob” just said.  As if he can separate out his violence in the home and play like it only impacts one person.  Whenever there are children, abusive behavior towards “my wife”, is child abuse.  It is impossible to abuse a partner without abusing the kids. A parent is not a “good parent” if they are abusing their children’s other parent.  Period.

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The "Mantra of Shame" in Domestic Violence Intervention


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If you have been doing work with those who batter for any length of time, it is likely that you have heard the “mantra of shame”.  It usually comes unexpectedly. The mantra normally begins with a sigh, and then the eyes shift toward the floor. There is a pause and then the words come, barely audible.  “I promised myself…… I swore that I would never become… I vowed that I would never be… like my dad… and look…I am just like him.”  Tears often follow.

I have heard this mantra of shame numerous times.  This mantra is loaded with the emotional energy of sadness, fear, anger and profound grief for both the suffering of the past and the reality of present day.  It is a humbling moment when those who batterer realize that they have recreated the horror and trauma of their own experience. They have found themselves face to face with their own “River of Cruelty”.

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Handing off the Football: Fear in Batterer in Batterer Intervention

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I remember playing “tackle the man with the ball” during recess in 5th grade. I hated this game. I didn’t mind “tackling the man with the ball” but I was terrified of being the one getting tackled. I did not want my classmates to know I was afraid, so occasionally, I would muster the courage to grab the ball and run. The blood thirsty mob would join in pursuit, and just as I was about to be tackled, I would throw the football over my head, high up into the air, and someone else would pick up the ball and run.  I had effectively given my fear away to someone else.

My work with those who batter reminds me of “tackle the man with ball”.  Many who batter go to great lengths to look brave, courageous or manly, but when the façade wears thin and fear becomes intolerable, anger, violence and threats are useful tactics to hand off the fear to others “like a football”. This need to give adverse feelings away to others is a direct result of growing up in “The River of Cruelty” where fear is considered weakness. 

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"Only When I Deserved It": Those who batter and corporal punishment

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Here in Kansas, everyone who gets referred to a batterer intervention program undergoes an assessment prior to engaging in the program.  One question we ask is how they were disciplined as a child. A few questions later, we ask about experiences of physical abuse.  The answers that people give to these two questions says a lot about how cruelty is passed from person to person and from generation to generation.

Commonly, when the question about discipline is asked, the answer goes something like…

“Oh, I was a bad kid growing up. I got whoopings all the time when I got in trouble.”

I follow up with a question like…

“What did a ‘whooping’ look like in your experience?”

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Maybe the Greatest Gift

45898645 sIf you are not familiar with Yoda from the movie Star Wars, you are missing out.  In this movie, Yoda comes to the aid of Luke Skywalker who has crash-landed on a mysterious planet. Yoda earns Luke’s trust and trains himto be a Jedi Knight. Yoda eventually helps Luke to use his new-found powers to pull his spaceship out of a quagmire. Now, Luke is ready to do battle with Darth Vader and the dark side!  Without Yoda, Luke would have had a problem that would have seemed impossible to solve. He certainly would not have been prepared to battle Darth Vader. Figures like Yoda are examples of “enlightened witnesses”. This is a term Alice Miller used to describe the important people who guide us, teach us and accept us at critical moments in our lives. 

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A Missing Piece in Batterer Intervention

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Most batterer intervention programs work to help those who batter take responsibility for their abusive and cruel behavior.  This is believed to be a critical step in the process of change. At the Family Peace Initiative, we too, focus on this critical step.  However, over the years, we noticed continuing obstacles for many participants in being able to move toward responsibility. Often, these obstacles centered around the cruelty and trauma participants had experienced long before they became cruel to their partner. With this realization, we expanded what it means to be “responsible” to include responsibility for "healing the impact of the cruelty that was inflicted on them during childhood." Adding this dimension over 10 years ago seems like one of our most significant improvements in helping people become nonviolent. It is as if we found an important missing puzzle piece to our work.  

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Going to the Dark Side

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At the Family Peace Initiative, we have several trained victim advocates on staff as BIP facilitators. They bring a knowledge of victim centered work and domestic violence dynamics that absolutely make us better. I was surprised to learn that advocates can pay a high price with their colleagues when they get involved in our work. They receive comments such as "What is making you go to the dark side?", like they are betraying victims by helping provide services to those who batter. Contrary to their colleagues' assumptions, many advocates report becoming better at their work with victims after they became skilled at working with those who batter.

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Looks Can Be Deceiving in Domestic Violence Intervention


18075128 sDifferent people can do the exact same thing for entirely different reasons.  Consider a Sunday morning church service. There might be 200 people in the service singing, praying, and listening to a sermon. While everyone looks like they are doing the same thing, they likely have different motives for being there. Some are probably there to commune with God. Others are there for the social interaction. Still others are there because their spouse or parent insisted. While all in attendance are seemingly doing the same thing this Sunday morning, their motives for being there vary widely. 

The same is true for those who batterer. While all battering behavior is an effort to gain domination and control, understanding the motive that drives this quest for domination and control is crucial for effective intervention and safety planning. A "one size fits all" perspective reduces a program's effectiveness and can leave victims extremely vulnerable. The Family Peace Initiative has operated since its inception with an understanding of different motives of those who batter. Here is the way we break down the common motives among those who batter, and how the differences can impact their victims.  

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The Power of Mixed Gender Co-facilitation

11549302 sIt was a memorable group session. The topic for the day was "Sexual Respect". Both Janet, my co-facilitator, and Sarah, in the early stages of training, were there with me. We commonly approach this topic by making a list of all of the ways that people can be sexually disrespectful. We work hard with the group to generate a large list of 35 to 40 behaviors that would be considered sexually disrespectful. Once the list is developed, we have everyone count the number of these behaviors that they have used in the past. We love making lists at the Family Peace Initiative, as it is a simple, yet highly effective way to get participants to acknowledge cruel behavior. This time, however, our making a list took the group in a different direction. 

Janet had looked thoughtfully at the list of nearly 40 sexually disrespectful behaviors that we had just created with the group. She then commented in a surprised tone, “I just realized that I have experienced 33 of the behaviors listed here.” The group fell silent. Sarah calmly added that she, too, had experienced over 30 of the behaviors listed and only a few days ago had been sexually harassed at a stoplight with her young son in the backseat of her car. She went on to say, “I would say that most of my female friends have experienced over 30 of these behaviors as well.” 

The men were surprised at how common sexually disrespectful experiences can be for women.

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"Facilitator Error" and The Value of Introspection in BIP

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Dick Mitchell, or “Chief Mitch” was the Director of a wilderness camp for emotionally troubled youth. I was fortunate that he chose to become a mentor for me while I worked at the camp. He believed in me, held me accountable when I strayed, made me laugh, played golf with me, and taught me how to be a better counselor. Often when I am facilitating BIP classes I get faced with situations where it is appropriate to employ a tool or strategy that I learned from “Chief Mitch”. While I wish I could remember more of his wonderful “pearls” of wisdom", the one that has been on my mind lately is a comment that he made to me over 25 years ago. 

I was having difficulty figuring out how to get my group of 10 troubled kids to function well. My group was not accomplishing much and the kids in my care were extremely challenging in their behavior. I tried everything I knew to improve the situation, but nothing seemed to work. Out of frustration, I told Chief Mitch, "these kids are impossible!"

Chief Mitch came down to my campsite one afternoon to evaluate the situation. After spending a long, difficult afternoon with the kids and me, he said something like, “You know Steve, I think that probably 80% of the problems that happen in the groups around here are the result of counselor error. As counselors get better, problems seem to go away.” Then he walked away leaving me to puzzle over his words. 

I think that Chief Mitch would agree with me when I say that probably 80% of the problems that arise in a BIP classroom are a result of “facilitator error”.

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