Family law attorneys at Law Offices of Warren R. Shiell represent clients in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, Brentwood, West Hollywood, Culver City, Glendale, Pasadena, Santa Monica,
Van Nuys, Sherman Oaks, Calabasas, Burbank, Pacific Palisades, Malibu, other areas around Los Angeles and Southern California. We also represent clients from out of state and
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1875 Century Park East, Suite 600
Los Angeles, CA 90067
tel. (310) 247-9913
fax. (310) 276-0313
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND INTERVENTION PROGRAM
Once the Court decides to order attendance at a batterers program, the court’s discretion is
prescribed by Cal. Fam, Code §6342, which provides that the court may order the restrained
person to participate in a “batterers program” approved by the probation department as provided
in Cal. Penal Code §1203.097. The Penal Code imposes stringent requirements for batterers
programs which include the size of groups, content of curricula and a requirement that completion
requires weekly attendance for a period of one year unless there is good cause for missing no
more than three individual sessions. It has been noted that attendance policies of counties vary
greatly and some appear to be more lenient than State law.
The general consensus within the mental health community is that longer periods of treatment
are necessary to address the goals of changing beliefs, teaching empathy and anger
management skills and non-violent communication. The length of time in a program depends on
the needs of each individual and their childhood and trauma histories. Substance abusers share
many characteristics with domestic violence abusers and substance abuse is often a component
of domestic abuse. However, one year would usually be considered a beginning in a substance
abuse recovery process. There may well be individuals who do not require a 52-week program,
but such a determination would be difficult without a detailed needs assessment with input from a
domestic violence expert. In the one expert’s experience, batterers need more than 52 weeks to
see transformative change.
At the end of 52 weeks, unless there has been an egregious violation, the court will generally
release the individual from any additional treatment. If the individual has a Criminal Court Order,
there is a three-year period of probation.
In one case, the batterer’s counsel proposed that his client attend an anger management
program. What is the difference between an anger management program and a batterer
intervention program approved by the probation department?
The State standards for domestic violence abuser programs do not apply to anger management
programs. There are defined training, supervision, and continuing education requirements for
group facilitators in batterers’ programs. They must also be monitored by the Probation
Department. Anger management is only one of the topics covered in batterers’ intervention
programs. Those programs cover a far wider range of issues and may use a wider range of
techniques such as didactic education, group participatory exercises, structured feedback, self-
evaluation, role-playing, skills training, homework, positive reinforcement and cognitive behavioral
techniques. For example, abusive individuals must examine “gender roles, socialization, the
nature of violence, the dynamics of power and control, and the effects of abuse on children and
others.” There are no state requirements or standards for anger management programs or for the
individuals who facilitate them.
Another questions that arises is whether batterer intervention programs should be group-based or
individualized? Anger management classes can be done individually or in group. Batterer
intervention programs are always group-focused. Individual counselors tend to be more easily
“conned” by clients. Groups that promote social accountability in a non-judgmental setting guided
by one or two facilitators are generally believed to lead to better outcomes. Group participants
develop a deeper understanding of their behaviors when other group members share their
experiences and behaviors and they have a sense of not being alone in their predicament. Group
is beneficial because members and the facilitator can confront entrenched beliefs that are often
characterized by denial, minimization and blame.
In many cases, a batterer claims that they cannot attend regular weekly sessions due to work or
travel? As discussed, State law requires a minimum 52-week period and has a limit of three
excused absences. Most programs work with perpetrators who travel for their jobs or have
fluctuating shifts by extending their time in group. Court orders often provide that an offender has
a maximum period of time to complete the program. Some programs allow group participants to
attend make-up groups or more than one group in a week. Facilitators will write progress reports
explaining why the participant has attendance problems. In one program in Los Angeles,
Alternatives To Violence, clients provide work schedule verification to their group facilitators if
they are going to miss group for an extended period of time.
1 Cal. Penal Code §1203.097(a)(6) and (c).2 Batterer Intervention Programs in California (2005) Administrative Office of the Courts.
http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/batterer-report.pdf3 Discussions with other program providers such as Kendal Evans, Dean Eddy, Gail
Billingsbeck. Gondolf E. Batterer Intervention Systems (2002) and Alyce LaViolette, Ch. “Batterers’ Intervention: A View From the Trenches” in
Mandatory Court Review and Batterer Program Compliance (2000), Geffner & Rosenbaum, Domestic Violence Offenders: Current
Interventions, Research, and Implications for Policies and Standards (2001).4 Recovering addicts and alcoholics do not say they are “cured.”
They say they are in “recovery.” Cal. Penal Code §1203.097(a)(6) and (c).
Contact a Los Angeles Family Law Attorney at Law Offices of Warren R. Shiell
Please call to make an appointment at 310.247.9913.
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