Batterer’s Intervention Program to fight domestic violence
J.J. Kindred | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Batterers’ Intervention Program is designed for any legal system to respond to an act of domestic violence.
As of next month, Blount County will have one of its own.
Through the efforts of Haven House and Blount County Probation, domestic violence offenders will be mandated to participate in the program, which will feature a series of 25 classes facilitated by Blount County probation officers to combat the root of violence issues.
In some states, a batterer may attend a program voluntarily. Officials hope the program can play an important role in a coordinated community response to domestic violence, but the safety of the victims and holding offenders accountable are the program’s primary goals.
If the batterer is referred to the program by the court or state agency, attendance and completion of the program will be monitored.
Blount County General Sessions Judge Robert Headrick, who serves over most, if not all, of the domestic violence cases in the county, said it was a long time coming for the county to come into compliance with the program. He works heavily outside the courtroom to promote domestic violence awareness through Haven House and other related organizations in the county.
MANDATED BY LAW
“When domestic violence courts were created in the state of Tennessee, there was subsequent legislation that led to it being mandated that if you’re going to have a domestic violence court, you are going to have a Batterer’s Intervention Program,” Headrick said during an interview in his office this week.
“With (Haven House CEO) Valerie Day at the head, we have been able to implement a Batterer’s Intervention Program and become in compliance with the statute here in Blount County.
“The intent behind the program is that we had a lot of things in place for serving unfortunate victims of domestic assault,” Headrick continued. “The program hopefully goes to the root of the problem, addressing the reason as to why batterers do what they do.
“With the assistance of county probation, we have styled a program with classes, and the facilitators have gone through training that was luckily provided with the assistance of Haven House. It was at no cost to the county, which was wonderful that the board of directors for Haven House saw fit that (Valerie) went through a series of certifications where she can train facilitators for the classes. That was a very wise decision on the part of her board to send her to that necessary training.”
Joni Seratt, director of probation for Blount County, assigned probation officers Tammy Tipton and Brad Roberts to serve as facilitators for the classes, with Megan Cook backing them up.
“All three have great experience in dealing with offenders, and they have been trained thoroughly on domestic patterns and the model they will be looking after,” Seratt said. “I will be overseeing them.
“We’re trying to correct learned behavior,” Seratt continued. “(The offenders) are trying to relearn how to treat people. In a sense it is rehab, but they are teaching them to have different reactions to different situations and learn from them. Most of the people who are domestic violence offenders have had some sort of pattern in the past, where it was a behavior they learned for years. We’re trying to correct what they have learned. It will be very effective, and we will be teaching them ways to combat behavior that they’re accustomed to.”
The program has already been successful in surrounding East Tennessee counties such as Knox and Campbell.
“Our two facilitators have been down there (Campbell County) to get a grasp on it, and they came back with positive feedback from that,” Seratt said. “They sat down through a whole session, and someone going through week three may have a different frame of mind from someone going through week 20, so they’re learning.
“The constant is you can see that transformation and the difference,” Seratt continued. “They’re showing the others ‘I was like you, and here’s how my way of thinking has changed.’ It’s about how they learn from each other and how they learn at the very end.”
Headrick said the program will be a requirement of domestic violence offenders even if their case was an isolated incident and if there is no history of abuse.
“It’s a smart and proactive step as far as addressing this issue,” Headrick said. “It’s twofold, due to the fact that it is being run through county probation. Intervention is one of the special conditions they have to comply with. We went a long time without having the appropriate program. I’m hopeful that the state and defense bar will take advantage of this. If I see it to not be part of their negotiations, I will order it without hesitation.
“If it’s an order of the court, (the offender) needs to follow it,” Headrick said. “If it ends up being a situation where they don’t go forward with their plea, they’re welcome to try their case.”