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Do Anger Management Courses Actually “Fix” Domestic Abusers?

Do Anger Management Courses Actually “Fix” Domestic Abusers?Domestic violence is often defined as abusive behaviors against intimate partners. The abuse can be physical, sexual, verbal, and/or psychological. It is also against the law in North Carolina.

According to the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 63 homicides were committed in North Carolina due to domestic violence in 2021. In the United States, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have endured some type of physical abuse by their partner or spouse. Because the causes of intimate partner violence can be as varied as the types and effects, there is a genuine desire to find a “cure” for these behaviors that doesn’t involve incarceration. One such option is mandatory anger management courses.

But do these interventions and anger management courses help to prevent further violence in families? The Charlotte family law attorneys at Epperson Law Group take a deeper look at anger management courses and domestic violence in today’s blog.

If you are the victim of domestic violence, immediately remove yourself from the situation and call a trusted family member or friend. If the violence is actively occurring, get to a safe place and call 911.

What interventions and programs are available?

North Carolina’s Domestic Violence Intervention Program (DVIP), formerly called the Batterer Intervention Program (BIP), provides programs and services to abusers to hold them accountable and keep their victims safe.  The DVIP defines Domestic violence as “an extensive range of tactics used by an offender to control the life of their intimate partner. Tactics include patterns of physical, sexual, economic, and psychological abuse resulting in an atmosphere of fear and/or terror for the victim.”

The DVIP’s programs are designed to:

  • Re-educate offenders on their behavior
  • Help offenders develop healthy ways of interacting with partners and family

North Carolina’s Coalition Against Domestic Violence created a program modeled after the Duluth Method, which is the most widely-used approach to combating domestic abuse in the world. This method was developed in the 1980s in the small community of Duluth, Minnesota. It is defined as an “ever evolving way of thinking about how a community works together to end domestic violence”:

This intervention model focuses on victims’ safety and justice; utilizes providers certified by the North Carolina Center for Women, Youth and Young Life; provides individualized treatment goals for abusers to reduce the tendency to commit crimes again; increases victim, family, and community safety; continues consultation and communication with the domestic violence agencies, victim advocates, and other involved agencies; provides confidentiality for victims; provides limited confidentiality for abusers so as to keep victims safe; challenges the abusers’ perceptions and beliefs; and advocates for the victim and victim’s family.

North Carolina’s mandated intervention programs are 26 weeks long, virtual and/or in-person, as opposed to regular anger management courses that are much shorter in length. Here is a listing of certified DVIP programs in North Carolina and a link to the most recent statistics regarding these programs.

Do the intervention programs work?

Sadly, most studies are inconclusive or inconsistent and tend to imply that the programs show a small amount of progress. A study by J. Babcock, C. Green, and C. Robie, published in the January 2004 issue of Clinical Psychology Review, entitled “Does Batterers’ Treatment Work? A Meta-Analytic Review of Domestic Violence Treatment,” found that these rehabilitation programs produce a minimal reduction in rearrests for domestic violence. A similar article by Feder et al. entitled, “A Meta-Analytic Review of Court-Mandated Batterer Intervention Programs: Can Courts Affect Abusers’ Behaviors?” found in the Journal of Experimental Criminology in July of 2005 produced comparable results, concluding that the intervention programs did not change behaviors.

To make it even more confusing, additional studies have found that batterer intervention makes abusers more likely to attack again and that there is no reduction in abuse after the programs. The studies claiming this include an article entitled, “The Effects of Domestic Violence Batterer Treatment on Domestic Violence Recidivism: The Chesterfield County Experience,” in Criminal Justice and Behavior: An International Journal. Another study was a final report for the National Institute of Justice by the U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, and The Urban Institute from 1991.

An earlier multistate study of four abuser programs concluded that about a quarter of abusers appear to be unresponsive and resistant to the batterer programs. This was a long-term study based on victim and abuser interviews, and police records and arrests. The research found that about half of abusers assaulted their partners again during a 30 month follow up period. A quarter of these assaults were repetitive and accounted for most of the severe assaults and injuries.

Click here to review the United States Department of Justice, Special Report, “Practical Implications of Current Domestic Violence Research: For Law Enforcement, Prosecutors and Judges.”

A quick note about these studies and the prevalence of courses

We know that many of these studies are decades old, but that is our point: the use of anger management courses – even co-called “domestic violence” courses – is ubiquitous. They also cost money to take. Without seeing any recent studies into the subject, we simply have no way of determining whether or not anger management classes do anything to reduce intimate partner violence. What they do appear to do, however, is make it easier for abusers to avoid more serious charges or prison time – a cynical perspective, but one worth thinking about before you put your trust in an online course.

Domestic violence is a serious and terrifying reality, and it can be deadly. It also yields long lasting physical, emotional and financial impacts on its victims. Interventions aimed at preventing continued abuse may not be effective. If you feel afraid or threatened, even after a partner has completed an intervention program, contacting a family law attorney will help guide you towards a safer life for you and your family.

If you fear you may be a victim of domestic violence, please:

  • Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline anytime at 1-800-799-7233(SAFE) or TTY 1-800-787-3224.
  • Text HOME to 741741 from anywhere in the US, anytime, to talk via text about any type of crisis including domestic violence.
  • Contact Epperson Law Group in Charlotte, Weddington, Concord, or Boone to learn more about your rights and options.

Are you the victim of domestic violence in Charlotte? If so, you need the experience of a family law attorney on your side. The compassionate team at Epperson Law Group fights to protect the rights of all domestic violence victims no matter their age. Call our office at 704-321-0031, or complete our contact form to schedule an appointment today. You can schedule an appointment at any of our offices in Charlotte, Weddington, Concord, or Boone.