Group work with African American men who batter: Toward more ethnically sensitive practice

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Developing effective approaches that confront the behavior of men who batter is imperative in order to save women's lives. Just as the use of group treatment, cognitive behavioral approaches, and court mandates have helped to enhance the participation of batterers in treatment, ethnically sensitive approaches must be considered within such a context. For many African American men who batter, the use of ethnically sensitive approaches is essential to increase their involvement in treatment and the likelihood of a successful outcome. The information presented above is designed to assist treatment programs seeking to become more effective with this population. Moreover, it may have implications for the successful involvement and treatment of men from other ethnic groups who batter as well. In any case, it is important to recognize that ethnocultural factors should not be permitted to obscure the uniqueness of each client or to allow the worker to neglect each client's individuality. In applying ethnically sensitive perspectives in group treatment with African American men who batter, group workers will need to adapt and combine the ideas that have been suggested. For example, a white group worker who conducts treatment groups made up totally of African American men who batter will need to be cognizant of the potential for greater group member identification with the themes discussed in the group because African Americans share values, group work environment and natural support networks, communal ways of helping, and traditional socialization forces similar to those fostered in group treatment; such workers should be aware of the resulting potential to create trusting relationships relatively quickly among group members. They must also have skill enough to use these elements to advantage. Further, the worker must be cognizant of how he or she may be viewed by these clients. Trust may come gradually after the worker demonstrates the ability to acknowledge the additional purposes of the group, skill in humanistic listening, the ability to validate important cultural experiences, and the ability to confront the African American man who batters within a cultural context. Analogous issues must be considered even when the worker is neither white nor African American, but from yet another ethnic group. Another special case is presented by African American and non-African American co-facilitators of either a racially homogeneous or a heterogeneous group. Both workers must demonstrate their ability to confront scapegoating, to prevent marginalization of important cultural themes, to encourage confrontation of negative behaviors, and to create an atmosphere of acceptance, openness, and support. Modeling behaviors by the workers is a key element in accomplishing these tasks. The workers' ability to model confrontation with each other and to exchange information in a respectful way models such behavior to clients. The use of ethnically sensitive group treatment approaches is a crucial element in reducing partner abuse among African American men who batter. But treatment programs must go further to confront those who batter and to protect those who are battered, and thus to break the cycle of violence in the African American community. One important consideration is for cooperative relationships to be developed between the domestic violence social service organizations and traditional social service institutions that are based in the African American community (eg. churches, health care centers, mental health) (Williams, 1992). These relationships should center on collaboration in prevention and on sharing expertise.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)91-104
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Comparative Family Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1994


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