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Mid-Shore Council on Family Violence’s Abuser Intervention Program (AIP) provides the information and counseling that abusers need to change destructive ways of relating to the important people in their lives. Following the Duluth Model, the AIP is a comprehensive set of counseling services designed specifically for individuals who display abusive behavior within the family. The centerpiece of this program is a 26-week group comprehensive set of counseling services with group experiences and individual sessions provided to each participant. Most of the individuals involved in this program have been referred by the local court system. However, others may attend the program voluntarily.
During the 2018 fiscal year, 87 adults attended at least one AIP session. Of these:
· Nine out of 10 were male
· They ranged in age from 19 to 78, with an average age of 36 years.
· They attended an average of 12 sessions, though the amount ranged broadly from 1 to 25 sessions.
· Half of AIP participants are Caucasian and 43% are African American. Few (5%) AIP participants are Hispanic/Latino.
· Four out of ten AIP participants reside in Dorchester County. This contrasts notably with the county distribution of the victims MSCFV serves, only 20% of whom reside in Dorchester.
Forty-one AIP participants completed MSCFV’s Assignment of Responsibility outcome measure during FY2018. Most did so when they began the program. This scale includes two questions about responsibility:
1. Thinking about the violence in your relationship, how responsible would you say you are for it?
2. How responsible would you say your partner was for the violence?
The following table illustrates AIP participants’ responses to these questions when they first enter the program. Only 4 respondents (10%) say they are 100% responsible and their partners are 0% responsible. Most participants (n = 31 or 76%) attribute 50% or less of the responsibility for the violence to themselves.
0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100%
My responsibility 4 7 2 4 4 10 0 3 2 1 4
Partner responsibility 4 3 4 1 1 8 4 4 3 5 4
Another question measures AIP participants’ willingness to change:
Our program is all about learning new attitudes and behaviors to change how you relate to your partner. Are you not prepared to change, already changing or somewhere in the middle? All AIP participants indicated that they were either prepared to change or already changing, with an average rating of 8.2 on the 10 point scale. One out of three AIP participants gave themselves a rating of 10 when they began the program, indicating that they were “already changing”.
Understanding AIP Completions and Recidivism
MSCFV recently participated in two research studies focused on AIP initiatives. These studies, conducted by Dr. Tara Richard, University of Baltimore and Dr. Christopher Murphy, University of Maryland Baltimore County, examined the structure of AIPs, completion rates, and recidivism. Based on the data from the first study, the authors recommend developing strategies to enhance participant accountability and program engagement. The second study confirmed the wisdom of that recommendation with these key findings:
As with all correlational studies, the relationship between AIP participation and lower recidivism could result either from AIP causing participants to refrain from further domestic violence or from other factors leading to both AIP completion and lower recidivism. The researchers tested the second explanation by including a number of control variables in their analyses. They found that the positive impact of AIP on recidivism holds even when control variables (gender, race, age at first offense, and criminal history) were considered. AIP completers continued to have significantly less total recidivism than the other three groups, significantly lower violent recidivism than AIP dropouts and AIP no-shows, and significantly lower domestic violence recidivism than AIP no-shows. These findings add support to the hypothesis that AIP participation lowers recidivism risk.
The study also found that risk factors such as substance abuse, mental health problems, unemployment and under-education are prevalent among those referred to AIP and decrease the odds the participant will complete the program. Researchers recommend providing wrap-around services dealing with these risk factors to help increase AIP completion rates. However, it’s important to note that their first study found considerable variation in the assessment and screening tools used from AIPs. Programs could benefit from a standard set of assessment and screening protocols. Richard and Murphy also note that:
Resource constraints continue to impose significant limitations on the ability of AIPs to provide case-responsive services and appropriate levels of monitoring and case management. AIPs should be encouraged to access funding targeted at criminal rehabilitation and violence reduction. Because AIP participation reduces domestic violence, additional resources invested in improving the program ultimate benefit victims.