A new prison-and-probation program for domestic batterers at the Travis County, Tx., Sheriff’s Department in Austin signals a shift in the treatment of offenders, reports Women’s eNews. In the past, treatment was likely to entail a handful of weekly classes on anger management or the use of violence to maintain control and power. Experts say such courses is too limited. Anger-management lessons don’t seem to stick and the other classes don’t achieve their goal of breaching an offender’s denials of abuse.
Now, while jailed, the batterers are being asked to confront their own sense of superiority over women and the choice to use violence against them. The programs are intensive and go for months. The offender is often led through that self-examination by a man who has been a batterer himself. While offender programs have typically looked at how batterers use violence to control their victims–or counseled them on how to manage “out of control” anger–the Travis program assumes that violence arises from a decision based on deeply-held beliefs of male dominance, not a flash of “uncontrollable” emotion. In a San Francisco program upon which the Travis program is based, counselors are mainly former batterers, trained in a rehabilitation curriculum called “Manalive.” The program was developed by Hamish Sinclair, a former batterer who devised it in 1980.