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!

One Defining Moment

Cruelty PicI remember a domestic violence poster that I saw in the early 90’s. The poster showed the picture of a battered woman. Her face was bruised and swollen. The caption said something like, “If this is happening to you, call this number for help”.  In big bold numbers, the hotline number was inviting victims to call. When I started facilitating groups for those who batter, this poster represented my belief that our mission was to help protect women from being beaten up in relationships.

Every time we selfishly think of ourselves without considering the impact of our decisions on others, we have crossed the line into cruelty.

It did not take long before I recognized that my definition of abuse was entirely too narrow. Of course we want to help women, or men, who are being physically abused in relationships. However, there are plenty of other behaviors present in abusive relationships that are equally harmful, yet leave no tell-tale signs.  My focus on the physical types of “abuse” was counterproductive in working with those who batter, as it allowed them to avoid examining the full spectrum of their abusiveness. Working with the FPI staff, we examined our use of definitions. We thought about the impact of our definitions on those we served. We explored how the definitions invited introspection or created defensiveness.  We wanted a definition that encompassed the magnitude of the problem. Over the years, we've adopted some definitions, from other programs and from other sources, that have helped us immensely. Here are some of the definitions that have become central to our work:

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The Value of Victim Contacts in Batterer Intervention


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Len came into my office many years ago for a domestic violence assessment.  He had been arrested after an incident with his wife and was ordered by the court to complete the assessment and follow the subsequent recommendations.  I must admit that I was excited to have the appointment as I was just starting a BIP program in this particular community.  He was my very first referral there.  I had been in private practice for a few years, and had completed a fair number of assessments in other communities.  I have to admit that I thought I was pretty good at my work and I was ready to get this program up and running.

I was confident that this was an incident of situational violence where emotions had gotten out of hand.  Nothing indicated a pattern of domination that I was “expert” in detecting.

During my interview with Len, I was struck by how much responsibility he was taking for the incident.  He described how his wife, Michelle, had gone on a camping trip with some of her co-workers. She had been drinking most of the weekend and she ended up sleeping with one of her co-workers.  Len explained that he had learned of this after she returned home feeling guilty.  “I can always tell when she is lying to me.”  He said he had been stunned by the news as he never expected Michelle to “stray”.  He said that he overreacted and in the “heat of the argument,” slapped her. He had never hit her before and he felt horrible. He had apologized to his wife for his behavior but he could never recover from her cheating on him.  Len explained that they were in the middle of divorce proceedings. I listened intently, thinking I was pretty good at my work.

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Needing Help in Your BIP? Know the Five Focus Areas.


48159421 sIf you are like  most facilitators in batterer intervention, you have had that moment in class when you are at a loss as to what to say. Perhaps a participant has challenged you in an unexpected way, or has raised a question that catches you off guard, leaving you frozen, looking for the right words to say next. During these moments, it is easy to feel lost, unsure, confused, or even incompetent. When I train facilitators, I hear questions such as, “What do I say when a group member blames his partner?”, or “What do I say/do when he/she gets angry?”, or “What do I say when a participant refuses to take ownership of abusive behavior?” It may be more helpful to start with a different question. Instead of “What do I say when…?”, it can be more helpful to ask, “What Focus Area needs to be addressed?”  Understanding the Five Focus Areas of BIP can create more confidence in choosing how to address situations. 

When I talk about the Five Focus Areas, I am talking about the fundamental categories that practically all BIP conversations can be placed into.  These five areas are:  






If facilitators understand these focus areas, it makes deciding how to approach a situation much more clear.

Without a “fence”, few horses will be trained, and few batterers will change their behavior.

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Easter Eggs and Battering: Survival-based Motive in DV

Easter Eggs and Battering:  Survival-based Motive in DV

My wife, D6411972 sorthy, and I took our son, Max, and our two grandchildren, Camri and Tylr, on an Easter egg hunt while we were living in a rural town in southeast Kansas many years ago. This hunt was a huge community event in our little town.  Eggs had been spread out over the lawn of the county courthouse, people circled the square, with kids poised to race for goodies as soon as the horn sounded. Max and Camri, ages 5 and 6, knew what was happening.  It was almost as if they could already taste the chocolate and marshmallow candy.  However, three-year old Tylr was not sure what the commotion was all about. 

The horn sounded, and mayhem commenced.  I heard this almost uniform squeal from the kids who began to dart everywhere in search of candied treasure. Dorthy took little Tylr by her hand, encouraging her to run and find the eggs. We had agreed that we would meet at the fire hydrant after the chaos subsided and all of the eggs had been found.

...there are many who batter who are horrified at the thought of losing an “emotional egg” from their nearly empty “basket”.

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What Time Does Your Group Start? Thoughts on Engagement

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Years ago, while working as a court services officer, I took “Ben” to visit Boys Town in Nebraska. This young man knew that his home situation was not healthy, but he was reluctant to consider a different living arrangement. When we walked into the main office of Boys Town, the receptionist bounded out from behind her desk and greeted Ben with enthusiasm. She asked about our trip, and asked if we needed anything. While she was polite to me, she maintained her attention and focus on Ben until the admissions representative joined us. The admissions representative interacted with us in the same enthusiastic manner. She was clearly prepared for our visit. She asked Ben excellent questions, and treated him as if he was the most important person in her life at that moment. We never sat in a waiting room. She simply treated Ben as if he mattered. The outcome of this visit was that Ben decided to live at Boys Town.The Boys Town receptionist and admissions representative created such a positive connection that it left a lasting impression on me. So much so, that I am writing about this experience 25 years later. Boys Town had intentionally honed the art of engagement.

"Beginning facilitators can become reactive to these early defenses. This reactivity can harm engagement efforts."

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Minimization, Denial and Blame: It is All in How We Frame It

Signpost of blame defensives

One of the first concepts that most of us learn when we are training to facilitate BIP groups is the need to address minimization, denial and blame. We learn that those who batter will use these tactics in order to avoid responsibility for their behavior, and they sure do. We are taught to challenge these tactics when they arise in group conversation, and focus on the dysfunction of using these tactics to escape responsibility. While bringing their attention to these behaviors is valuable, how we frame our response is crucial. 

Has it ever occurred to you that perhaps our participants’ use of minimization, denial and blame is a positive indicator of awareness of their behavior being wrong? If they were not aware on some level of their behavior being “out of bounds”, they would not need the benefit of these tactics. If this is contrary to how you have approached this challenging issue in your group, please allow me to explain.

“…our participants’ use of minimization, denial and blame is a positive indicator of awareness of their behavior being wrong.”

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Getting to Ownership: The Value of Making a List

Keep Calm and Make a List

Facilitating a domestic violence intervention group comes with many unique challenges. Accountability and ownership are key components to a BIP class, but it can be challenging to find a healthy balance between these while simultaneously maintaining a positive relationship.  How to help participants take responsibility for their behaviors quickly and safely without  sacrificing emotional safety can be a challenge for even the most seasoned facilitator.

Here at the Family Peace Initiative, we love to make lists. We have found that the simple act of “list making” can open doors to the ownership of behavior that can otherwise be challenging to open.  Here is how we do it:

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