Abstract: "I Don't Have the Tools": Perspectives of Court Personnel and Clinicians on Treatment for Domestic Violence Crimes (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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284P "I Don't Have the Tools": Perspectives of Court Personnel and Clinicians on Treatment for Domestic Violence Crimes

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Briana Barocas, PhD
Sejung Yang, MSW, Doctoral Student, New York University, New York, NY
Hila Avieli, Phd, Lecturer, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel
Yangjin Park, MSW, Doctoral Student, New York University, New York, NY
Rei Shimizu, LMSW, Doctoral Candidate, New York University, New York
Background and Purpose: Domestic violence (DV) is a serious human right violation and public health concern. A large body of research has been conducted on treatment for DV crimes, yet there is still a lack of research on court personnel or treatment provider’s perspectives on DV treatment. Court personnel, including judges, prosecutors, and attorneys, implement the laws which criminalize DV (Klein, & Klein, 2016), and DV treatment providers directly work with DV offenders. Experiences of court personnel and clinicians in the current legal system may shape the extent to which they perceive DV and DV treatment. At the same time, their perspectives on DV and DV treatment influence the way in which they work with those who commit and are impacted by DV crimes. In this regard, this study aimed to explore the experiences, attitudes, and beliefs of clinicians and court personnel involved in mandated treatment for offenders convicted of misdemeanor DV crimes.

Methods: This study used the phenomenological approach to understand the experience of court personnel and clinicians from their perspective (Creswell & Creswell, 2013). Two focus groups were conducted with 13 court personnel; the first group included seven court personnel, and the second group included six. Also, semi-structured individual interviews with eight clinicians were conducted. The recordings were transcribed verbatim. Four researchers read through the transcripts several times and noted preliminary patterns and themes. Then researchers met together multiple times to refine the themes into superordinate themes and subthemes. Disagreements among researchers were resolved in reconciliation meetings. As an attempt to examine researchers’ thoughts and concepts while analyzing data, researchers engaged reflective processes such as consulting with a supervisor and colleagues and writing memos (Cutcliffe, 2003). All data were handled using Atlas.ti version 8.0.

Results: Three themes emerged from the focus groups with court personnel and individual interviews with clinicians: 1) “capturing a true batterer” – the controversy over the compatibility of individuals to court-mandated treatment [“True batterers who repeatedly do it with other people.”]. 2) “going through domestic violence treatment was kind of like traffic court" – a punitive approach towards program participants [“I feel like you're seeing me as a horrible person and you're judging me.”]. 3) "I don’t have the tools” – frustration with policy and practice limitations [“I don’t have a high expectation that the batterer intervention treatment I’m sending folks to will in fact be an appropriate intervention.”].

Conclusions and Implications: Overall, the narratives of both court personnel and clinicians reflect that the broad DV statutes do not fit into the responses of the current criminal legal system. In other words, the current cookie-cutter approach to DV treatment does not address all the offenders coming into contact with the system for DV crimes. Participants described DV offender treatment as punitive as opposed to therapeutic or restorative and expressed their frustration on the effectiveness of treatment for DV crimes. The findings highlight the need for a holistic approach and systemic efforts to address the various types of DV and its complex and multidimensional nature.