|While domestic violence is now acknowledged
as a pressing social concern, judges are still leery of
slapping male batterers with penalties that would teach them
a lesson, according to a U.S. expert.
Diversion programs have been a "disaster" because men
convicted of spousal abuse who aren't jailed don't take
therapy seriously, says Lundy Bancroft, the author of Why
Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling
Men who batter should be jailed for a first offence to
drive home the message that there are serious consequences
to such behaviour, says Bancroft, who was a keynote speaker
at the Diverse Voices family violence conference in Edmonton
"Judges across the U.S. and Canada still are giving very,
very light sentences for domestic violence convictions," he
And intervention counselling is only effective if
combined with a tough sentence, he maintains.
"I know not a lot of judges are going to be willing to
start jailing batterers on the first offence," he said in an
interview. But jail can be a sharp wake-up for men who feel
it's perfectly all right to bash their spouses, he
"Diversion has to be scrapped on domestic violence
cases," he said. "I think jail really gets their attention."
While there's always the risk that such men will come out
of jail even angrier than before, it's important to get them
into a program for abusers and monitor them, said Bancroft.
"Jail is our only intervention that's really proving to
be very successful at getting batterers to believe that
they've committed a serious offence."
And it's hard to get perpetrators to change their
stripes, said Bancroft, who's counselled more than 1,000
male abusers and has testified as an expert witness at
domestic violence and child-abuse cases.
He's had clients who've made significant changes, but
only after a long, painstaking process of facing up to the
damage they've done and and developing empathy for the women
"They tend to need to have lost two or three
relationships because of their abuse before they start to
face the fact that they've got a problem," Bancroft said.
A stint in jail or being confronted by friends and
relatives has also convinced male abusers to turn over a new
leaf, he added. "It doesn't happen nearly enough," he said.
"When batterers do change, it's only in fairly unusual
circumstances where they take the problem really seriously
and where there's strong legal intervention and strong
Ordinary citizens should not underestimate the power they
have to persuade men to stop battering the women in their
lives, he added. "One thing communities can really do to
contribute to ending domestic violence is to start
confronting their own ... brothers, fathers and sons."
If abusive men don't change, it's not because they can't,
he emphasized. It's because they won't.
Greater emphasis in schools on healthy relationships and
offering outreach services to boys who've been exposed to
battering would help curb domestic violence, he said.
Bancroft, based in Massachusetts, now works full time as
a trainer, speaking to judges, child-protection workers,
therapists, police officers and other groups about the
profiles and tactics of abusive men.
Male superiority is still portrayed in the mass media,
and the porn industry objectifies women far more today than
it did three decades ago, he said.
"That, unfortunately, conditions boys to have a lot of
trouble seeing women as human beings."