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Batterers ‘Re-education Training’
Courts force innocent to confess guilt in 'intervention' program

Massachusetts News--March, 2000 

Ken Newell was forced by the courts to attend three programs for men who are "batterers" of women. These programs are all run by private companies.

One of them is "Common Purpose" in Quincy. This is the company that received national attention last fall when it expelled Harry Stewart from its program because he wouldn’t sign a statement that he had battered his wife even though he had never been violent to her. As a result, the court sent him to jail for six months.

Newell was also pressured to admit he was an abuser, solely because of his wife’s accusations. He refused to admit to the charges even though he was told he would have a hard time seeing his children if he were dismissed from the program. All the while, "Common Purpose" was in constant contact with his wife, he says. Documents shown to Massachusetts News confirm that "Common Purpose" assumed Newell’s guilt and said Newell was in denial. Newell says that he was kicked out of the program after he had been attending for 35 weeks. The director testified against him at his divorce hearing, saying Newell was a "dangerous man."

It is one of many such private companies that are licensed and funded by the state and receive fees from clients also. It is a non-profit corporation that brings in $600,000 annually. Men in domestic violence disputes and in DSS "Service Plans" are frequently required to attend for at least 40 hours of classes.

One father in the program told Massachusetts News, "You have to say that you did [the violence]. If you were accused of it, then you did it, and it doesn’t matter what the truth is." 

This explains why the programs have been compared to the "re-education camps" that were operated in Cambodia and China, where the government attempted to control the minds of its citizens. The Fatherhood Coalition describes the programs as "Orwellian," and the father’s story from inside a Common Purpose program invokes images from George Orwell’s 1984, where a man is forced by an overpowering government body to declare that two plus two is not four.

These programs are only for men, even though the U.S. Department of Justice reports that "similar proportions of men and women admit to engaging in violence against their partner." 

He also attended another program at Brockton Family and Community Resources. This was run by Patricia Kelleher. "My wife had me arrested twice while I was in there and Kelleher came up with a report saying that I was "an extremely dangerous person."

He has been attending another program, Pave, since December.

Feminist Theory Requires ‘Admission of Guilt’

Batterers intervention programs, such as Common Purpose, were started in the 1970’s and are based on a feminist model. 

They claim that our society places value on male power and that this power structure makes men become batterers. Proponents of this theory contend that batterers are usually not violent in other relationships, but they are violent with women with whom they are expected to share power, i.e., their wives. 

In order to stop the domestic violence, the men must be re-educated away from their current understanding of men, women and power. Further, since this patriarchal understanding is ingrained into the minds of men, then every man is guilty and he can confess to being a part of the patriarch. The program’s insistence on confession, even from the non-violent, comes directly from the theories upon which the program is built.

The feminist model employed by Common Purpose is "The Duluth Curriculum," which has not been shown to be an effective curriculum for making violent men less violent. Nor has it been shown to be an accurate portrait of why men abuse women, even if it could be proven that they are more guilty of abuse than are women. More and more information suggests that those men who are batterers are also violent in their relationships with other people, not simply with women, suggesting that the feminist model may not address the reason that some men commit domestic violence.

In the domestic violence industry, there are a number of competing theories about the roots of violence. Some suggest that the violence is a function of family dysfunction; others suggest that the violence stems from the batterer’s psychological problems. Currently it is the feminist model that dominates, which may explain why any man, regardless of his history, may be considered violent and asked to confess.

In the feminist model, the violence of men towards women is a part of our culture, even though the evidence is pointing to the fact that women are more violent; and, therefore, men need to be re-educated. The confession is relevant for any man, because all men are a part of the system of hierarchical relationships between men and women, the very existence of which constitutes abuse towards women.

A more detailed report on batterers training can be found in Massachusetts News, December 1999.