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A Call for a New Paradigm: Perspectives of Court Personnel and Clinicians on Court-Mandated Treatment Approaches for Domestic Violence Crimes



Despite the emergence of alternative models to traditional Batterer Intervention Programs (BIPs) to address domestic violence (DV), little research has explored stakeholders’ perceptions and experiences of various treatment approaches. Therefore, this study, guided by the stakeholder engagement framework, explored the experiences, attitudes, and beliefs of court personnel and clinicians involved in mandated treatment for those convicted of DV crimes.


Two focus groups and nine semi-structured individual interviews were conducted with court personnel and clinicians and were analyzed using an interpretative phenomenological approach.


Five themes emerged: (1) “Capturing a true batterer”: The discrepancy between common perceptions of DV batterers, the legal definition of DV offenses, and the standard treatment approach for DV crimes; (2) A “cookie-cutter” approach: The controversy over the one-size-fits-all approach of court-mandated treatment; (3) “I don’t have the tools”: Professionals’ frustration with policy and practice limitations; (4) The need for more inclusive treatment: Broadening the range of participants involved in the DV treatment process, and (5) A call for a shift in pedagogy: A new paradigm for DV and DV treatment. Overall, various stakeholders (i.e., court personnel and clinicians) expressed a sense of helplessness while attempting to navigate current DV statutes, court-mandated BIPs/DV treatment, and the realities of DV.


The narratives of stakeholders point to the desire and the need for a new treatment paradigm to address the various types of DV crimes, the needs of those convicted of misdemeanor DV crimes, and the broader impact of DV.

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  1. In this article, we do not use the terms IPV and DV interchangeably.

  2. The traditional gender paradigm of IPV argues that IPV is a consequence of patriarchy and assumes that men are perpetrators and women are victims. The non-gendered paradigm rejects the assumption that IPV is inherently gendered and supports a more comprehensive understanding of IPV. Debates remain ongoing as to which paradigm should inform domestic violence interventions. More about these debates are beyond the scope of this article. (See Johnson (2008); Cares et al. (2021); and Wilson et al. (2021) for more historical context on this debate.)

  3. In this study, we use the term “clinician” to indicate those providing treatment for DV crimes because, in Utah, the site of this study, those providing DV treatment are required to be licensed mental health therapists (e.g., a clinical mental health counselor or a clinical social worker) (Utah Mental Health Professional Practice Act, 2013; Utah Administrative Code, 2019).

  4. In RJ, prescriptive, value-laden language that may stigmatize individuals is avoided. Thus, terms such as the person who has caused harm and the person who has been harmed are used instead. However, in the context of the terminology used within the criminal legal system, in the sources we cite, and by the participants in our study, the terms offender(s) and victim(s) are used throughout this article.

  5. The CP model is implemented according to state standards and guidelines for treatment for misdemeanor DV crimes. In Arizona, first-time offenders had to attend 26 weeks of CP sessions. In Utah, at the time of the study, offenders had to complete 12 weeks of offender-only group treatment before they could participate in conjoint treatment with their victims. Thus, in Utah, a hybrid approach was implemented consisting of 12 weeks of BIP followed by four or six weeks of CP.

  6. In Utah, those convicted of a misdemeanor DV crime are mandated to treatment. The primary treatment available to DV offenders is BIP. Court-mandated offenders were randomly assigned to one of two programs (BIP-only or BIP-plus-CP). The randomized controlled trial was conducted in two parts: part I included all eligible DV cases, including IPV, family violence (e.g., adult child and parent), and violence between roommates with no romantic or familial relationship, and part II included only IPV cases. In part I, treatment was 18 sessions (18 weeks of BIP or 12 weeks of BIP plus six weeks of CP) and in part II, treatment was 16 sessions (16 weeks of BIP or 12 weeks of BIP plus four weeks of CP).

  7. At the time of the study, first-time offenders were mandated to a minimum of 16 weeks of treatment in the state of Utah.

  8. In RJ in general, and peacemaking circles in particular, the facilitator or Circle Keeper does not have to be a clinician. However, in the context of DV and the state standards for DV offender treatment, the Circle Keepers in CP were clinicians.

  9. A talking piece is a tool to facilitate active listening in CP sessions. Only the participant who is holding the piece is allowed to talk while everyone else listens. The use of the talking piece reassures the speakers that they will not be interrupted, enabling them to pause and find the words to express their thoughts (Pranis, 2015).


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We would like to express our sincere gratitude to those who participated in this study allowing us to gain greater insight into treatment programs for domestic violence crimes. This study would not have been possible without several invaluable partnerships with key constituent groups, including the judiciary, community-based agencies, and universities. More specifically, we would like to thank the two justice courts (and all the judges) as well as the local treatment providers (and all the clinicians) that partnered with us for this study. We are grateful to all the members of the research team who worked on this project from New York University (Anne Bauer, Jessamin Cipollina, Christine Cocchiola, Michaela Cotner, Danielle Emery, Milica Gajic, Charlotte Gundry, Alaina Long, Kelly Murphy, Nela Noll, and Yi Yi Yeap), the University of Utah (Rob Butters, Shea Chandler, April O’Neill, Kimberly Padilla, Kort Prince, Lani Taholo, and Erin Becker Worwood), and the University of Cambridge (Barak Ariel).


This research was funded by the National Science Foundation (award no. 0964821).

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Correspondence to Briana Barocas.

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Barocas, B., Yang, S., Park, Y. et al. A Call for a New Paradigm: Perspectives of Court Personnel and Clinicians on Court-Mandated Treatment Approaches for Domestic Violence Crimes. J Fam Viol (2022).

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  • Batterer Intervention Programs
  • domestic violence
  • domestic violence treatment
  • restorative justice
  • stakeholders
  • clinicians
  • court personnel