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Conference Report - Offender Accountability

Overarching questions:

  • What best practices have been identified?
  • What is success? By whose standards? By whose definition?
  • How do we define accountability?
  • Language: how do we define offender? How do we refer to people who batter, offend, rape, harass, abuse, prey? What terms do researchers draw upon? In what ways are these inconsistent or consistent with terms used by practitioners?
  • What measurement tools exist?

Problem: Data on domestic violence are not transferable to the sexual violence arena, and data from neither arena are transferable to workplace violence, or child abuse, or bullying. What is a conceptual umbrella for these behaviors and do (could any) interventions apply to all?

How do we measure what is actually occurring versus what is in the system?

Batterer Intervention Programs (BIPs) only serve a small percentage of batterers, and due to discriminatory factors in the judicial system, a greater percentage of those referred to BIPs are poor and/or non-white. Thus, how do we measure battering in privileged groups (e.g., white, rich)?

Points of Analysis

Individual Level

  • What is the unique experience for different populations referred to BIP?  For instance, some sub-groups of batterers have characteristics of personality disorders or conduct disorders.  If psycho-educational groups only show a 10% ‘effectiveness’ impact in reduction of violence among its batterers, then would a program geared for those with personality or conduct disorders be more effective for those groups?
  • Investigate behavior change: what moves a perpetrator from denial to accountability, and long-term behavior change?
  • What is the duration of (any) behavioral changes (short-term, long-term)? To what extent are offender accountability efforts effective in reducing offending behaviors (incidents)?
  • If perpetrator behaviors fall along a continuum, then in what ways do our interventions and accountability mechanisms correlate with that continuum (e.g., effectiveness of censure, probation, referral to BIPs, anger management, jail for different behaviors)? [Typological analysis of behaviors and interventions]
  • What are risk factors for (re)offending?
  • Investigate factors and conditions that appear to be associated with reduced sexual offending.
  • The effects of witnessing abuse (e.g., victim of child abuse) on later offending.
  • Understanding perpetrators, examine perpetrator behaviors (e.g., Lisak, 2002; Lisak & Miller, 2002).
  • What is the role/influence of victims on offender accountability?
  • Overwhelmingly, the focus is on male perpetrators in opposite-sex relationships. What is the scholarship on female perpetrators and same-sex relationships (male-male, female-female)?
  • Examine intersection of offending behaviors with identity statuses (race, class, sexuality, age, etc.).


  • What is the impact of BIPs? Evaluate their effectiveness.
  • Evaluation of training for BIP service providers.
  • Evaluate sex offender programs designed to break through an offender’s entrenched denial, rationalization, minimization and manipulation.
  • Test this assumption: awareness + acceptance + action = behavior change.
  • Evaluate role and effectiveness of restorative justice.
  • Assessment of mediation as a strategy.
  • Need for a typology of interventions that respond to different types of battering (batterers).
  • Impact on program’s effectiveness (e.g., if participant is hung over, using drugs).
  • Effectiveness of DV courts and task forces in promoting offender accountability.
  • The readiness to change model in offender treatment.
  • Assessment of criminal justice system’s response to domestic violence.
  • Evaluate correctional treatment services for youth/young adult offenders.
  • Identify and evaluate programs designed to prevent re-offending.
  • Need research to enhance understanding of “dual arrest” and the relationship of such incidents to the adequacy of police training and other system policies.
  • Design probation intervention evaluations to measure both DV offender and system accountability.
  • Evaluate training for probation officers working with DV cases.

Community Level

  • Evaluation of coordinated community responses to violence against women (see Shepard, 1999).
  • The impact of model legislation on judicial decision-making in custody and visitation disputes involving domestic violence.
  • What role does prevention education have on offender accountability?
  • Case study of community initiative to redefine battering and to collectively hold batterers accountable (e.g., Penobscot nation initiative).
  • What factors contribute to community intervention, and what are the implications for different geographic regions? (e.g., social ecology studies).
  • Determine people’s assumptions about abuse (e.g., equating abuse only with broken bones and blood) and target community education/intervention on other perpetrator behaviors (e.g., manipulation, withholding resources).
  • Role of criminal justice system (policies, protocols, training) and intervention with (reduction of) offending incidents.
  • Investigate effectiveness of public education campaigns.

Socio-cultural Level

  • What are different cultural perspectives on accountability?
  • Intersections with other social problems (e.g., substance abuse, child abuse, teen pregnancy, poverty).
  • Analyses of workplace culture: policies and practices that interrupt and/or enable battering (e.g., school administrator assaults his wife but is allowed to continue employment, or background check on new employee reveals history of battering, however employee is still hired, or school principal on sex offender registry but still working).
  • Relationship between social acceptance of violence (e.g., in media, children’s toys) with offending behaviors.


Lisak, D. (2002). The undetected rapist. Boston: University of Massachusetts. Retrieved March 10, 2006 from

Lisak, D. & Miller, P.M. (2002). Repeat Rape and Multiple Offending Among Undetected Rapists,Violence and Victims, 17(1), pp. 73-84.

Shepard, M. (1999). Evaluating coordinated community responses to domestic violence. National Resource Center on Domestic Violence. Retrieved March 15, 2006 from

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