{Guest blog} Kansas Attorney General’s office adopts batterer intervention programs

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas is committed to supporting local and state initiatives for the prevention of domestic violence. We asked Dorthy Stucky Halley, LMSW, Director of the Victim Services Division of the Office of the Attorney General to share how Kansas Attorney General’s Office provides resources and services to those affected by domestic violence.

The Office of the Kansas Attorney General Victim Services Division addresses domestic violence in several ways. Grants are provided to nonprofit agencies statewide through the Protection from Abuse Fund, the Crime Victim Assistance Fund and the Crime Victim Assistance Fund for Child Abuse. These grant funds help grantees provide shelter, advocacy, hotline and related services to victims and their children. The Victim Services Division also provides an information and referral hotline, 1-800-828-9745, to provide resources to victims, advocates and other professionals to ensure victims are aware of their rights and receive quality services.

While efforts to protect and empower the victim are critical, these efforts fall short of stopping the violence. Those who batter don’t stop using violence when their victim gets away from them; instead, separation is the most dangerous time for domestic violence victims. It is common for those who batter to pester, harass, and terrorize victims to get them to return. If unsuccessful, they are likely to find a new partner and continue their battering behavior. Consequently, our efforts to create victim safety include efforts to change battering behavior.

In 2007, the Kansas Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board recommended that the attorney general’s office certify batterer intervention programs (BIPs) statewide, using the Essential Elements and Standards for Batterer Intervention Programs to set the certification requirements. These standards were developed through the collaborative efforts of state and local advocacy programs, BIPs and governmental entities over an extended period of time (1991-2007), and evolved with the inclusion of the most recent research to promote safety for the victim and perpetrator accountability. As the attorney general’s office began its role in certification, a Batterer Intervention Advisory Board was developed. Under the leadership of Drs. Curt and Christie Brungardt, this board met for the first time in April 2009, and took an active role in advising staff toward successful implementation of this endeavor, and informing policymakers on the related needs in our state. Under the leadership of this board, the state moved toward requiring programs to be certified in 2012. To ensure that offenders were properly assessed, the Kansas Domestic Violence Offender Assessment (KDVOA) was developed, and the use of this assessment tool is now statutorily required by all certified programs in Kansas.

It became increasingly important to explore the effectiveness of these certified programs. In 2015, through a joint effort by the Batterer Intervention Program Advisory Board, the Office of the Attorney General, and the Office of Judicial Administration, the records of all of those who completed the program in 2012 from six certified programs were examined. Results showed that 90% did not have another protection order against them, and 88% were not charged with another “person” crime since their completion. This reduction in recidivism was encouraging.

Since then, Kansas continues to move forward in improving its certified BIPs. The Batterer Intervention Program Advisory Board, under the new and capable leadership of Marlou Wegener, has been instrumental in examining some of the challenges for BIPs in the critical areas of funding and communication and has formed subcommittees to support these efforts. Another committee is reviewing the KDVOA to make necessary adjustments.

Kansas currently has 40 BIPs that are certified through the attorney general’s office BIP Unit, covering the vast majority of judicial districts statewide. These programs offer the key to a change from violent behavior to nonviolence. While not all who batter will change, BIPs offer an opportunity that has led to many success stories throughout Kansas.

Dorthy Stucky Halley, LMSW, has been Director of the Victim Services Division of the Office of the Attorney General since this division’s inception in 2007. She led the state efforts to develop standards and certify batterer intervention programs throughout Kansas. Halley has served victims in various capacities since 1986.

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