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Healing Circles as an Alternative to Batterer Intervention Programs for Addressing Domestic Violence Among Orthodox Jews

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Orthodox Jewish (OJ) families living with violence have concerns that are specific to their culture and tradition. This article, based on a 2009 study at New York University (S. F. Zakheim, 2009), explores the possibility that mainstream interventions developed to address domestic violence lack features that make them optimal for use among OJ families.

One often used treatment, the Batterer Intervention Program (BIP), is predicated on the belief that resocializing the male abuser will eliminate the problem of violence in a domestic setting. The BIP method of treatment dictates that, once violence has been reported, a chain of legal and societal events must be set into motion. This treatment does not involve the victim and may not even take into account his or her own expressed desires.

This article considers that, within the OJ community, it may be necessary to view domestic violence from a different perspective. To this end, it compares two forms of intervention carried out with OJ families: the BIP and an innovative restorative justice approach called healing circles (HCs). The restorative justice theory, on which HCs are predicated, permits the victim (not the legal authorities) to define what restitution he or she receives from the perpetrator. Unlike the BIP, which targets the behaviors of the abuser only, HCs work with the entire family—and the broader community—even taking into account community rituals and individual characteristics. As a treatment method sensitive to cultural intricacies, the HC proved to be more effective than BIPs in dealing with domestic violence in the OJ community.
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Document Type: Regular Paper

Publication date: October 1, 2011

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