Two and a half million women in the United States are battered by men each year. Judges are recognizing the importance of imposing jail terms to reduce violence against women. County jails, where most batterers serve their time, can play a major role in deterring violence against women. The staff at Dauphin County Prison have developed an educational program for batterers, Men Establishing New Directions (MENDS), which focuses on changing attitudes and violent behavior toward women.
MENDS is a two-phase program. In the first phase the men attend one two-hour group session per week for six weeks. The second phase is an open-ended group session conducted weekly for men who have successfully completed phase one.
It is important that co-facilitators who run the groups keep the men focused on their abusive behavior, challenge the behavior and never accept their excuses for abusing women. We found that a man and a woman as co-facilitators prevents any inadvertent sympathy for the abusive behaviors the men describe. The men tend to look to the male co-facilitator as the leader, and in many instances, it is a valuable experience for the men to be forced to recognize the woman as the group leader.
We have used demonstrations in which the female co-facilitator confronts the men about their behavior, raising her voice, and acting in an intimidating way. We then ask the men why they did not hit the co-facilitator, as they have told us they hit the women they live with for similar behavior.
We point out that hitting a woman to stop her from "nagging" is a method they can use only in situations where the woman does not have the power to stop them. We also point out that they could control their violent reaction in a situation in which they did not have power over a woman. After this demonstration, the co-facilitators model assertive, rather than aggressive, behavior between men and women, often role-playing abusive situations the men have described and teaching non-violent conflict resolution skills.
The MENDS format is based on the premise that abusive men can change their behavior. The first phase of the program concentrates on overcoming the resistance the men have to taking responsibility for their violent actions against women. We define domestic violence as any physical, emotional or sexual abuse used to control a woman in an intimate relationship. The men list behaviors that they consider abusive under each of these categories. Then the list is...