The Treatment of Wife Assault
In the last chapter we showed that court-mandated treatment of wife assault was making an essential contribution to the criminal justice objective of reducing recidivism. Treatment, it was argued, provides a means through which repeat wife assaulters can learn alternative skills for conflict management, improve their ability to detect and express anger, and have the negative consequences of their violence made salient to them. This latter cognitive shift occurs through a direct therapeutic challenge to the cognitive mechanisms (e.g., minimizing, rationalizing, denying responsibility) that support reprehensible conduct (Bandura 1979). We described these mechanisms in Chapter 3, and in Chapter 4 we provided an empirical study that described how they are implemented by wife assaulters. We have argued that the didactic function of arrest may be to provide a major challenge or confrontation to these cognitive mechanisms. In this chapter, we will examine how therapy extends this process of reframing the assaulter's interpretation of anger-inducing events.
In order to devise a form of therapy to be used as a condition of probation for men convicted of wife assault, certain sets of requirements must be met. First, the therapeutic form will have to have a philosophical base that is compatible with criminal justice philosophy. If, for example, criminal justice philosophy emphasizes personal responsibility for action, a treatment philosophy with a similar orientation is recommended.
In some areas of human conduct, a division exists between legal philosophy (which stresses individual responsibility) and social science philosophy (which stresses situational determinism) (see Fincham and Jaspars 1980; Dutton 1981b). Social learning theory, while acknowledging the formative role of situational events in shaping habit patterns, nevertheless stresses choice and responsibility for individual action. The therapist,