Domestic Violence Program
The Domestic Violence Program was established in the First Municipal District (Chicago) in 1979 and has since expanded to all five (5) suburban districts. Program clients are persons found guilty of violent behavior against an intimate partner and who have received a court order of reporting conditional discharge or reporting supervision. Casework staff who are specially trained in domestic violence provide probationary supervision, group intervention, and requisite abuser treatment to domestic violence offenders. By integrating the authority and sanctions of the court with state-of-the-art abuser treatment intervention in a court-based setting, the Social Service Department attends to victim safety, maximizes the impact of treatment, and works within the judicial process to hold offenders accountable for their abusive behavior.
The Social Service Department's Domestic Violence Program has been awarded compliance status with the standards for abuser treatment as set forth in the Illinois Protocol for Domestic Abuse Batterers Programs. In 1992, the Illinois Department of Public Aid requested the Social Service Department to participate on the Male Responsibility Abuser Service Committee of the Domestic Violence Advisory Council. The committee was charged with creating the protocol. The purpose of the protocol is to reduce and prevent domestic violence through effective, quality and accountable programs that have the potential to help prevent future occurrences of violence, recognize appropriate interventions with this population, and establish a minimum level of expectations. Published in 1994, the protocol provides guidelines and direction in those areas where there is consensus among practitioners regarding treatment issues. The protocol includes input from victim services and batterers programs, judges, state's attorneys, police officers and other organizations and advocates throughout the State of Illinois. The Illinois Department of Human Services, Bureau of Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention evaluates abuser services and provides a list of programs throughout the state that comply with the Illinois Protocol. Their evaluation includes, but is not limited to, the following:
The inclusion of a specialized approach is required that focuses on ending violence and placing the safety and rights of victims at highest priority.
The structure of a domestic violence program must include group intervention.
- The content of a program should include a broad definition of violence, both physical and nonphysical behavior, and address power and control as the motive.
Safety planning should be addressed including time outs and control logs.
The overall goal of the Domestic Violence Program is to eliminate the use of violence by offenders. Two principles that determine and shape the intervention strategies are abuser accountability and victim safety. Once the physical violence has ceased, the goal is to stop other forms of violence and intimidation that offenders use to gain control over their partners. Principles of the program's philosophy are as follows:
Violence is a learned behavior. An astounding 80% of male batterers experienced or witnessed abuse as a child. Observation of violence in the family of origin has more consistently predicted violence by men toward their partners than has abuse as a child. If violence is a learned behavior, alternatives to violence may be learned as well.
Violence is a choice. While persons often describe feeling out of control when they commit violent acts, they are actually in control of their behavior and can learn nonviolent behavior to replace their physical and nonphysical violence. Batterers are solely responsible their use of violence. Blaming others or outside factors, such as alcohol, drugs or stress, prevents batterers from acknowledging responsibility for their behavior. Taking responsibility permits batterers to make a decision to change their violent behavior.
Power and control are at the root of violent behavior. Persons behave abusively from a desire to control their partners' thoughts, feelings, and behavior. By controlling their partners, they feel more powerful.
Violence towards partners is a crime and should be treated as such. Domestic violence is not a family matter. One of the key pathological aspects of the battering relationship is the shift in responsibility for the violence from the batterer to the victim. A clear message must be sent to the batterer that the batterer is responsible for his or her behavior, there is no excuse for domestic violence and that he or she does not have the right to brutalize his or her partner.