Webinar presenters Audrey Cress and Janet Good answered a number of your questions after their presentation, A Proactive Response to Domestic Violence: Understanding and Identifying Incarcerated Batterers. Here are just a few of their responses.
Audience Question: What is your experience with court-ordered BIPs? And do you just find that batterer programs are actually effective? Especially if they’ve been the court order?
Audrey Cress: Danielle will certainly be talking more about that, but I’m sure to weave into our other webinars as well. What we have found, and just a quick commercial. I think some of the effectiveness research around batterer intervention, is looking specifically at what’s happening within the program. And where we see BIP most successful is when the whole coordinated community response is strong. So, a lot of the work that we are doing in Kansas is about creating a whole system that’s responding to batterers so that we have the corrections officers, the BIP staff, that everybody is really circling around, making sure that there is support for them to come into the program. And also, I think we’ve done a lot of work around our curriculum and our program to make it as engaging and really partnering with folks to unpack new skills. So, we have found that folks really do engage, even when initially they are not excited to be ordered into a program that they don’t think they need. I think our staff does a great job of building those relationships and making it relevant. And I’m sure in the webinar that Danielle does, she can share some of our outcomes. What we have found is, even with the most dangerous offenders in the state, we have folks who are using high level of violence to screen out high on the danger assessment and the domestic violence. The other tools that we have for assessing risk, and we’ve found that when they complete a batterer intervention program, we see a significant drop in their re-arrest rate for domestic violence or other crimes. And new protection orders that we’ve seen really, really successful outcomes for folks that complete. Though there are a whole lot of barriers to completion and you touched on some of them in your question.
Audience Question: What did you look for in reporting outcomes? Were you looking for increased victim safety? Reduced recidivism? What were your success factors?
Audrey Cress: That’s a fantastic question. I think that a lot of times what we’re looking at is just re-arrest protection orders, new domestic violence charges, and some of those things that are really based in the criminal justice system. I appreciate the program that we really modeled after and use their curriculum, the Family Peace Initiative and is based here in Kansas and Topeka. They were one of the few programs that, in addition to looking at those, criminal justice outcomes, also contacted victims to ask about their experiences after the event or the participants’ completion of the program. And because our better intervention program is based within our Office of Victims Services, we’re able to look at not just those criminogenic factors, but also what are victims reporting. And what we found is that we see our results pretty well mirror some of the criminal justice outcomes. That we see victims who, occasionally, we’ll have 1 or 2 that, will say, yes, we’re seeing behaviors. They haven’t been reported, but often we’re seeing those lineup pretty smoothly. But if they haven’t been re-arrested, haven’t gotten new protection orders, some of those other concrete outcomes. We’re seeing victims also report that they feel safer. But that victim piece is so important to us beyond just the criminal justice outcomes because how this impacts families, how this impacts that unit after folks complete our program, is really central to the work that we’re doing.
Audience Question: A number of people are asking, what batterer intervention program do you use or do you recommend? And again, if you want to defer that to the next webinar, that’s fine.
Audrey Cress: I’m always happy to give this commercial, the Family Peace Initiative. We looked far and wide, we’d use the Duluth Curriculum, emergency curriculum prior to coming under the victim services umbrella, and we reviewed lots and lots and lots of different curricula options and landed on the Family Peace Initiative. They offer regular training. We have a pretty significant technical assistance support from them to help our facilitators really feel confident in the material that they’re presenting. The model that they have is comprehensive and fit for the population that we’re serving. So, I would encourage folks to check out the Family Peace Initiative. We’ve been really lucky to partner with them.
Audience Question: Where does OVS fall within your agency organizational structure?
Audrey Cress: Yeah, that’s a fantastic question. I’m super grateful, I report directly to the Secretary of Corrections, and I’m a member of our State KDOC Management Team. So, the opportunity to work directly with the folks that are making decisions within the agency, I think, has really embedded victim services and a lot of the work that we’re doing. And I have to say, shout out I think at least one of our previous director of the victim services on the call today, but Debbie Holcomb and Jenny Marsh really built the foundation that I’m standing on to be at that level within our state system.
Audience Question: Can you provide the Stalk website again, please the URL.
Audrey Cress: Sure. It is the Stalking Prevention Awareness and Resource Center at www.stalkingawareness.org They have really amazing presenters. They do lots of trainings. We brought them in for a conference here in Kansas, just a really remarkable group of people that just have way better ways of explaining how technology is used better than we can, and they stay right on top of all the cutting-edge stuff.
Audience Question: As a victim advocate, How did we get our local law enforcement officers to get on board with the importance of domestic violence reports and follow through?
Audrey Cress: I think that comes back is a fantastic question and I think that a lot of folks are unpacking that, I think how we do that especially during a global pandemic is a great conversation. I think we have so much common ground. What I’ve really found is the places that we can, where our mission and our vision, and our things all overlap? We’ve got so much common ground, and so being able to come to the table, ready to share and clear about our role, we can see some really cool stuff start to happen. I’ll speak really, really briefly about when I was at the community based domestic violence program. I did a training with law enforcement and initially, there was not a whole lot of excitement that this victim advocate will be in the room to talk about how we should be doing our job. And, I think that having the opportunity to really slowly build those relationships over time and not expect space(?), but really have the opportunity to build those relationships. It paid off and really big ways when we started doing lethality assessments a couple of years after I started and the relationships that we had benefited victims and created accountability for offenders, but it was a long haul. But I think it came back to that common ground that we shared in the ways that we can collaborate and be in meetings together and be in conversations together, clarifying roles, understanding how we can benefit from each other. Really getting what the different pieces that we each bring to the table mean to each other. I think that that’s the starting point that we could have a whole series of conversations. And there are lots of people talking about it. So, I’m happy to share more specifically if you want to reach out to me directly. But keep it up. Don’t give up. Lean in.
Audience Question: For a client who fears retaliation for reporting an offender. What services besides a protective order and domestic violence consulting can benefit the client, especially when the offender refuses to comply with the orders?
Janet Good: Now, there’s a lot of different things. One of the things that we like to do is to figure out different ways to find the same information that the victim is reporting. Now, when we talk to victims are not necessarily mandated reporters, and so we’re more inclined in victim services to explore those unintended consequences so victims can feel safe in talking with us and knowing that we don’t have to do anything with that information if it’s not safe. Now, if they go until the same information to, say a parole officer, they are mandated reporters, and they will act on that. So, if a victim says that the offender has been using, and he’s violent when he’s using, we can go and find a different way to come up with the same information that the offender is using. Whether that’s a random UA or a home check, or a home visit or a collateral contact with an employer will come up with some other different way. So that it protects the victim and we’re still able to hold the offender accountable, Audrey. I don’t know if there’s more that you want to share with that.
Audrey Cress: Yeah, that’s a great commercial for the next webinars. I think that the webinar in September, Canny and Laura, and Shelley will really share and build on what Janet just said, The ways that we can offer that support beyond just that traditional get a protection order, file police support kind of system that we have more robust choices than that and we’ll dig into that more in September for sure.
Janet Good: And everything that we do is victim-centered. And so, we’re not making decisions for the victim, we’re doing them with the victim and exploring all of the different options. And so, I mean, being able to be where we’re at and having a voice in the corrections management process has been really, really, really amazing for that, because the victim is absolutely driving the bus.
Audience Question: Are prisoners required to attend intervention programs while they’re incarcerated, or do they attend after release?
Audrey Cress: That’s a fantastic question, and a good one to close on. I will, again, a commercial for what Danielle is going to share, similar to what Janet has talked about. As we’re tracking the number of folks who need intervention, our capacity to provide that intervention does not lineup. So, for example, Danielle, who does our facility-based programming, cannot possibly scratch the surface of the need inside. So, we continue to ask for additional funding for an intervention program in the facility. So, in the facility, folks would meet twice a week for 26 weeks. And then when they complete that program, they’re required to attend in the community where they have the opportunity to practice the skills with their partner or out in the community. So that they basically come out halfway through the community program. So, it doesn’t check the box for all that they’re required to do just in facility, it is step one. So, for folks who can’t get the services in the facility, we’re really intentional. And I think, doing a great job in the community, especially in the sites where we have our batterer intervention program, through KDOC of getting folks referred to that program. But, for example, in Wichita, our largest community in Kansas, we have about a third of our parole population supervised out of that office. And we’re only able to serve about half of them, based on their sentences, if they have a short post-sentence. It’s not time to get through VIP, we prioritize the most dangerous and highest risk. So, there are a lot of barriers. The numbers that are served inside are much, much smaller than what we’re able to serve out in the community just based on where our resources are allocated. But we continue to ask for more and hope that we’ll be able to really address the need inside. That’s our goal.
Click Here to Watch a Recording of A Proactive Response to Domestic Violence: Understanding and Identifying Incarcerated Batterers.