Webinar presenters Judge Brandon Birmingham and Dr. Jill Johansson-Love answered a number of your questions after their presentation, A View from the Bench: Understanding Judicial Decision Making as it Relates to Batterers Intervention and Prevention Programs. Here are just a few of their responses.
Audience Question: Can you speak to the possibility or the assumption that some offenders may have an anger management problem and may also be using power and control tactics with their intimate partners. Is it ever both?
Dr. Jill Johansson-Love: Yes, and I’m sorry. I actually had that note to make that point earlier. But yes, it can be both so you have to look at a lot of times what our clinicians look for is the generalized ability to different contexts. So you might have a BIPP issue at home but you also have an additional anger management on top of that and if you have any true anger management issue, we want to see that in multiple contexts that you have difficulty controlling your emotional reaction and you react with violence in instead of control, but it has a reactive format– but yes, definitely individuals can have both and then it be recommended that they participate in both interventions.
Audience Question: Could you share out the link to some of the research if that would be possible.
Dr. Jill Johansson-Love: I can definitely provide like a reference list. I should have put in a side on that. I can put the reference list in after unfortunately other researcher’s information; I cannot share but I can give the references, yes.
Audience Question: Is there a reason that more judges, attorneys, and Law Enforcement Officers aren’t domestic violence trained?
Judge Brandon Birmingham: Well, I think I mean my perspective is that there are you know, I think that we’re getting better. I think that when I first started coming down to the criminal courthouse right around 2000 or 2001, you know there really wasn’t much training at all. It really was, you know very much in its infancy. I think you know now obviously we’ve got courts at least in larger urban areas that are dedicated solely to domestic violence. I think that you know judges could always be better about studying their craft. I will say that. We have so many different classes of cases that that we see every day that perhaps it’s a function of time and money to do trainings, you know, I will say that my experience has been that the training is increasing as over the last 10 years versus the previous.
Dr. Jill Johansson-Love: And I will just highlight something that everybody needs to keep in mind that I frequently discuss in trainings that I conduct is domestic violence is personal for pretty much everyone. If it hasn’t touched your life yet, it will at some point unfortunately, and along with that comes that there are also a lot of people that engaged in that behavior and they may not be aware of it themselves and we’re going to have perpetrators in all groups. We’re going to have probation officers who are perpetrators. We’re going to have psychologists who are perpetrators. We’re going to have judges. We’re going to have police. So you kind of have to factor that in if you meet resistance or if you can’t quite get the point across at times maybe with individuals and just do the best you can to try to educate and as a community we have to keep addressing domestic violence and have to keep it at the forefront as an ongoing chronic issue that we all have to deal with and we all have to learn more about and we can’t minimize it or normalize it because along with normalizing it comes,” Oh, it happens to everybody. We don’t really have to care as much about it” because it is a significant issue that affects pretty much everyone.
Audience Question: Our DV AP facilitator encourages online for individuals that meet certain criteria such as they don’t have transportation, certain medical conditions, especially given the current pandemic issues where we find ourselves in, is this not acceptable or what would you recommend as an alternative?
Dr. Jill Johansson-Love: Well, we’re dealing with them just like everybody else. I would say in the current situation since it’s kind of an unprecedented issue going around all over the world right now. Yes, I happen to know that one of our largest providers right now the reduced group size down. How they actually able to even do it right now? I’m surprised so I’m expecting it’s just a matter of time before it’s phone or what kind of face time-version. What I am discouraging still, would be just to read kind of a webinar base material without any kind of interaction with the facilitator or any personalized information, or any personalized question regarding the specific offender’s behavior. Because in order to achieve behavior change, you actually have to challenge that individuals behavior, which will not be happening if they’re only reading materials. So that that would be my caution there. If it’s some if you do whatever you can for individuals who are not mobile, I would still currently we all have to kind of rely on web and phone based interviews, but they’re still interacting with a person.
Audience Question: I think it’s primarily for you judge Birmingham, but certainly we’ll weigh in Dr. Love. How do you evaluate contrition?
Judge Brandon Birmingham: I think you can evaluate contrition by measuring the words against the physical facts as you know them to be. I mean, you know, if you are confronted with a number of witnesses or digital information, perhaps the form of GPS monitoring or in the form of social networking that you’ve been able to uncover, or in the form of jail phone calls that have been recorded where you know, you’re proving contact and the person is you know, just still being dishonest about it then you know, that’s a that’s a big problem. I think the other part is their actions. After they have you know, suspected of being caught or been caught, you know, you know, I think those are all components of it and then you you’re going to have to take a you know, to measure their actions against their words after afterwards in you know, perhaps you look at their sanction history and you talk about honesty along the way, you know before there’s a major sanction or something like that. You keep talking about talking to the person and showing them that you as the judge are interested in honesty and progress in good faith effort and if you know as long as they show you those things then you know, you’re not going to have a problem. If they continue to express that type of behavior will then you know that the contrition is probably not genuine. So there’s a component of honesty. There’s a component of consistency and there’s a component of corroboration and they give you take all those things together. There you can get an idea about whether or not somebody is truly contrite about what they’ve done. I hope that helps. It’s not a scientific. I wish there was a contrition meter.
Audience Question: Dr. Love I know you spoke about people graduating BIPP programs without actually learning anything or participating. So, how do you track progress?
Dr. Jill Johansson-Love: That’s something that you’re going to have to talk to your providers about and set up some expectations. So that for example the provider that that we we’re working with, we don’t provide BIPP in our probation department, but we have a very large community organization that provide BIPP but we have multiple smaller ones as well but the one that is most involved with this court is one and we asked them to develop a longer BIPP than their usual and we also asked them to incorporate some individual sessions or potential extensions for individuals that they are telling us is not showing progress. So from we are relying on the BIPP facilitator to say what they consider being a progress or not and that comes from their kind of clinical opinion of a person’s change and accountability of their behavior. So, I know that our current BIPP provider wants them to be able to recognize that they are abusive just start off with that they are developing. Even if they initially come in resistant that they actually eventually come to accept the fact that they have engaged in abusive behavior and controlling behavior and violent behavior. And then after that it builds from there, so he obviously have different levels of success and some people may not get much further than that. But even though they might successfully complete, you’re going to have to ask the BIPP provider explain to the court what that level of success looks like and I guess that’s what is concerning to me because a lot of times the offender is the only one coming in and presenting a certificate and those certificates can mean very different things. So we have put in extra safeguards for this program, but we still have multiple providers where that certificate means different things. So, we have our officers asking extra things and we’re trying to educate we’re actually may have a mandatory requirement of all of our officers sitting through a full day of DV training with myself as well as the detective, as well as the BIPP provider in order to educate them to ask more questions about what that certificate means. We have had providers that sells certificates to offenders. Obviously, we don’t utilize them anymore, but you have to be able to ask those questions and get that information to stop that from happening and you have to know if a certificate of completion from this provider means that they were just sitting through the class, whereas another one would be willing to come into court and testify to what progress actually took place. I don’t know if that answered your question.
Audience Question: Could you comment on cultural and language differences in domestic violence cases and how those differences might be addressed especially in people that only speak Spanish.
Dr. Jill Johansson-Love: Well, we’re in Texas. So we have BIPP providers in Spanish and we definitely have this Spanish culture covered. I would say I’m very comfortable with our coverage of that and actually the BIPP provider that we have for this court program and he’s Hispanic, and he does groups in both English and Spanish. But obviously we’re in Dallas. We have lots of resources that I understand that you don’t have in other jurisdictions. We have so many domestic violence organizations here. We have one called Mosaic that reportedly speak 37 languages. We have a lot of different organizations that can kind of handle the cultural components. We have Muslim women, you know working against domestic violence. So look at the resources that you have and do the best that you can to try to address those issues because there are cultural barriers for sure and you also have to recognize what is something that’s culturally acceptable or where it becomes abusive. There are a lot of individuals here who tends to the perpetrator becomes a citizen, the children becomes a citizen, but the survivor or victim is still not a citizen and it’s a constant threat of deportation in order to achieve compliance, which at that point you don’t even necessarily need to be violent because you have ultimate control you can separate the mother from the children quite easily by just turning her over. So those issues are definitely there as well. And I know that’s more the logistic nationality issue than necessarily a part of it has been a culture but that’s something that we run into here and there are victim visas for those victims that could be utilized but you have to kind of seek out what you have in your community to address that if you think that that’s occurring in a specific case.
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