Phyllis B. Frank founded a program in 1978 to counter domestic violence through workshops for men. It was the first batterer-intervention program in New York and among the first in the U.S., reports Women’s eNews. “Batterer programs are a dumping ground,” she says. “We send men here, and we think we’re doing something.” In the 1990s she redefined the program’s goals–aligning it more with sentencing and court-order enforcement than rehabilitation–and began to develop what would become known as the New York model. Today her group operates 12 sites, to which courts can send men with misdemeanor domestic convictions. They attend classes for an hour and 15 minutes once a week, for six months to a year.
Rather than trying to address the behavior of the individual men, trainers discuss key tenets of the battered women’s movement. The uniting principle of the curriculum is that domestic violence is couched in a history of oppression and male privilege. Frank says judges are often reluctant to impose maximum sentences and may not always impose sanctions when sentencing orders are violated. “In the state of New York,” she says, “traffic tickets and speeding tickets get more serious attention than domestic violence cases.” Robert Davis of Rand Corporation has researched batterer programs and domestic violence prevention. Men who went through a Bronx, N.Y., program were as likely to re-offend as those who had not. “I think the whole idea you can re-educate people is wrong,” he says. “I don’t think in 26 hours or less, you can change the way someone thinks about something.”