Batterers are much less likely to return to abusing their partners if they complete an intervention program required by the courts, according to the California State Auditor, but many of them do not finish the courses.

The courts, probation officers and those running the intervention programs routinely let batterers slide when they fail to appear for the classes, Acting California State Auditor Michael Tilden wrote in a letter submitted to Gov. Gavin Newsom, Senate President pro Tem Toni Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon.

Tilden strongly recommended that the three appoint a statewide oversight agency, saying such a group could track domestic violence data, establish program standards, oversee providers, and more adequately supervise offenders.

“These county probation departments and providers frequently did not inform the court when offenders violated conditions of their probation,” Tilden wrote, “and the courts only imposed escalating consequences for 10 percent of the violations of which they were aware. These shortcomings contributed, in part, to nearly half of the offenders whose records we reviewed not completing the program.”

The auditing team found that 65 percent of batterers who did not complete the full program returned to abusing their partners or committed an abuse-related crimes, but among offenders who completed all their courses, only 20 percent went back to abusing their partners.

Intervention can be effective if offenders attend and complete the program as the law requires,” Tilden stated.

The auditor’s team reviewed batterer intervention systems in Alameda, Contra Costa, Del Norte, Los Angeles and San Joaquin counties. They found that the probation departments in all five counties also often approved or recertified intervention programs that did not fully comply with state law.

Millions of Californians — one in every three women and one in every four men — will experience intimate partner violence, according to the National Coalitions Against Domestic Violence. The abuse starts before age 25 for 70% of females in such relationships and for 55 of males.

The impact of abuse affects the trajectory of lives, leading many girls to drop out of high school and vocational training programs and to earn lower wages than peers who are not abused. They also spend more of the dollars they earn on health care than do women who are not abused. Increasingly, researchers also are linking perpetrators of domestic violence to other violent crimes.

In August 2021, for example, researcher Lisa Geller of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence published research showing that, between 2014 and 2019, two out of every three mass shootings in the US were linked to domestic violence. The auditor’s report cited research showing that one in six homicides is a result of domestic violence.

In an effort to reduce cases of domestic violence, California law requires that offenders complete batterers intervention programs that typically runs for 52 weeks. The auditor made a number of recommendations, including urging legislators to better define requirements, definitions and safeguards in the law.

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