Violence at the Door: Treatment of Lesbian Batterers

Reviewed by
Suzana Rose, Ph.D.

from an article of the same title by:
Liz Margolies &
Elaine Leeder

Violence Against Women,1995,
1(2), 139-157

To describe two treatment models that were developed based on the authors' clinical experience working with lesbian batterers.

The clients that were treated included 32 lesbian batterers between 18 and 47 years old who came from both an urban and rural setting. About 20% had a history of drug or alcohol abuse but all had been involved in a recovery program and were sober when the treatment began.


Treatment included individual therapy, group therapy, and a community-based model that used a combination of individual, couple and community treatment.

All the lesbian batterers grew up in violent households. About 70% were survivors of childhood sexual abuse, 65% were physically and/or verbally abused, and almost all witnessed their mothers being abused by fathers or stepfathers. .The batterers in treatment may not be similar to non-treatment seeking batterers. All the batterers who sought treatment believed they should not use violence. .Avoiding feelings of loss and abandonment was a primary motivation of batterers. Most violent incidents occurred during threatened separations.

Urban Setting: Group therapy with four to seven members was used for batterers. The group convened for 2 years. Average length of treatment in the group for batterers choosing this option was 1 year. The goals of the group were to develop new norms and behaviors for dealing with anger and learning the technique of "time out" in response to feeling angry. In most cases, the relationship violence stopped within 4 to 6 weeks of starting the group. Emotional abuse continued long after the physical violence stopped.

Community Model: Involved a combination of individual psychotherapy with both the perpetrator and victim, conjoint couple work, and the inclusion of concerned friends and family members during an 18 month treatment plan. Individual therapy with the batterer focused on becoming aware of triggers to violence and learning "time out" techniques. Conjoint work included developing a safety plan for the victim to be implemented immediately if the batterer failed to honor a no-violence policy. Community involvement provided the victim with someone to ensure her safety and the batterer with someone to call to talk out her anger.

Reviewed by Suzanna Rose, Ph.D.
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