Executive A.D.A. Moore Testifies at NYC Council Committees Oversight Hearing

November 20, 2019

New York City Council Committees on the Justice System and Women and Gender Equity

Oversight Hearing on the Efficacy and Efficiency of Batterer Intervention Programs

Good afternoon, Chairs Lancman and Rosenthal, and members of both committees. My name is Audrey Moore and I am an Executive Assistant District Attorney and Chief of the Special Victims Bureau at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. I am joined by my colleague Maggie Wolk who is the Chief of Strategic Planning and Policy. On behalf of District Attorney Vance, we thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today.

Today’s hearing is being convened at a time when incidents of domestic violence locally and nationally continue to increase even as rates of other types of crime have dropped. Domestic violence – and intimate partner violence, in particular – is a long-standing, ongoing problem that seems to resist traditional models of law enforcement. Millions of people are affected each year, costing society billions in healthcare, lost wages, and traumatized lives. In 2018, the NYPD responded to over 13,000 domestic violence complaints in Manhattan—that is more than 35 incidents each day. The prevalence of domestic violence is not just a criminal justice crisis; it is a national public health crisis that affects all neighborhoods and communities, and threatens our most vulnerable family members, particularly women and children.

One of the first steps DA Vance took when he was elected in 2010 was to create a Special Victims Bureau to enhance the training, supervision and coordination of resources applied to prosecution cases involving some of the City’s most vulnerable victims. DA Vance was also a champion, key implementer, and partial funder of the Manhattan Family Justice Center when it opened in Manhattan in 2014. In 2014, our Office likewise convened the Domestic Violence Initiative, a yearlong series of working groups comprised of criminal justice stakeholders, public health officials and community-based organizations that were brought together to develop recommendations to prevent domestic violence and enhance responses across systems.

One of the key recommendations from the working group members (which was later identified as a key recommendation of the City’s Domestic Violence Task Force), was the creation of a trauma-informed abusive partner intervention program in Manhattan. In recent years, there has been a growing focus on the impact of trauma on individuals’ well-being and the need to consider this pervasive public health issue in the delivery of behavioral health and other social services. Research suggests a link between the experience of childhood trauma and adversity and the perpetration of future domestic violence. We therefore set out to develop and implement an abusive partner intervention program that is trauma-informed and addresses the underlying behavior associated with abusive behavior. Unlike traditional methods that focused solely on issues of power and control, our goals were more expansive. In addition to holding the abusive partner accountable for their behavior, our new model aims to increase the likelihood that the abusive partner will gain insight into their behavior, develop empathy for survivors, accept responsibility for abusive behavior, respond to the intervention, and engage in meaningful and sustained behavior change.

As a part of the DA Vance’s Criminal Justice Investment Initiative, our office invested $1.475 million to pilot a trauma-informed Abusive Partner Intervention Program that offers a more holistic approach than traditional batterer intervention programs.

With the support of our technical assistance consultants at the CUNY Institute for State and Local Governance, our Office released a request for proposals in November 2016 soliciting a vendor to implement this model. A multi-disciplinary team of reviewers scored the responses to our RFP and selected the Urban Resource Institute (URI) to create and pilot the new program. URI has extensive experience providing client-centered services to domestic violence survivors and other vulnerable populations, and has successfully operated programming for perpetrators of violence.

Since there were no local examples that could serve as models, as this was the first time a truly trauma-informed APIP was being developed in New York City, we engaged URI in a 10-month planning process and sought the expertise of two leading experts in the field of abusive partner intervention and trauma – Chris Huffine and Kerry Moles. Mr. Huffine is the Executive Director of Allies In Change, a Portland-based non-profit that offers a wide range of counseling services and batterer intervention programs and is nationally recognized as a leader in this area, and Ms. Moles is the Executive Director of Court Appointed Special Advocates of New York City with over 25-years of experience in child welfare, domestic violence and youth development. These national experts assisted URI in adopting a curriculum, developing policies and procedures that reduce re-traumatization, and training staff on trauma-informed approaches.

Over the course of the 26-session program, participants learn skills to actively evaluate their choices and develop accountability for their actions by discussing and reflecting upon learned behaviors, life stressors, regulating emotions, family functions, and the impacts of trauma. URI employs highly trained facilitators to deliver this curriculum, in both English and Spanish, on a rolling basis. Each session lasts approximately two hours. The newly developed curriculum teaches abusive partners to change the justifications, attitudes, and beliefs perpetuating their abuse. The program operates out of a newly designed space in Central Harlem. Unlike other APIPs, URI offers a wide range of free, voluntary services to participants, including case management, trauma-specific interventions, and referrals to address other needs, such as job readiness and housing support.

Cases are screened by the resource coordinator in the domestic violence court part as well as by the leadership of the Office’s Domestic Violence Unit. While we weigh victim input in our decision-making, program-based dispositions are ultimately case-specific and only offered after a careful review of an individual’s criminal record, DV and DIR history, and current violent behavior. Because the program is free, no individual is denied placement due to high costs or inability to pay.

After a referral is made, URI utilizes a series of screening and assessment tools to complete a risk assessment before accepting a potential participant into the program. Through this process, URI identifies an individual’s needs (such as an immediate need for substance abuse treatment) and level of access to resources including: medical insurance and providers, transportation, housing, overall health, employment, criminal justice supports, educational supports and services, paid supports such as mental health providers and natural supports such as family and friends. Understanding the long-term and short-term needs of abusers can help providers better address the underlying reasons for their abusive behavior.

The first TI-APIP group began on July 30, 2019. There have been fifteen referrals to date and nine male-identified individuals have enrolled in the program. All nine are actively participating in one group. Two additional individuals are pending a clinical assessment and/or court approval, while four individuals were denied placement for reasons such as serious mental illness or criminal history.

During its first year of implementation, the APIP will serve 20 individuals total. During years two and three, the program will serve 40 individuals per year.

The safety of survivors and children remains a top priority of this initiative. Coordinated communication between URI and court stakeholders, as well as established protocols for reporting non-compliance, breaches in orders of protection, and victim and child safety concerns, ensure that non-compliance is addressed swiftly and law enforcement is informed immediately of risks to a survivor’s well-being.

The program connects survivors to a wide range of resources through both the Manhattan District Attorney’s Witness Aid Services Unit and URI’s crime victim services. Survivors have immediate access to counseling, safety planning, legal services, referrals to shelters, advocacy for government entitlements, and workforce development programming. Survivors have agency to determine when, if, and to what extent they would like to remain in contact with the program.

Finally, to test the efficacy of this model, we are funding a process and outcome evaluation. The Urban Institute, a nationally recognized research institution has been selected as the evaluator and will have a preliminary report available in the summer of 2022. Final results will be available in January 2023.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today and describe the process we underwent to develop and implement this innovative model. With continued support from our partners, we will continue to use all the levers available to us to address this public health crisis with the hope of creating approaches that lead to lasting change and reductions in intimate partner violence.