The Seattle City Council is so concerned with funding domestic violence programs that, despite the need to cut $24 million from next year's general fund, they winced at pulling any dollars from services like the Asian Pacific Islanders Domestic Violence Consortium. Instead, they tossed $7 million at the Department of Human Services, and left the distribution up to those folks. Now Human Services has until June 3, 2002 to decide how to divvy up the cash.

Batterer's treatment, a service tailored to domestic violence offenders, is one of the funding options. It's an option that the council should have taken a tougher look at.

Treatment for the domestic violence perpetrator is often part of the punishment doled out in Washington State courts. Offenders spend a year in group therapy--when it's successful, batterer's treatment can mean the end of violence in a home. But there are two problems with the treatment: It's expensive and, according to some, it's ineffective.

Family Services provides court-required batterer's treatment, and 70 percent of their clients make less than $20,000 a year. Their annual cost of treatment, at $3,700 per person, is often prohibitive to potential clients. Though Family Services' program operates on a sliding scale, many offenders simply can't afford the treatment--which could land them in jail.

"We'll probably have one or two [people] a week who'll say I can't do it, I can't pay," says Sandy Lowe, vice president of community-based services at Family Services.

Though Family Services is slated to receive $47,140 from the city next year--which will help fund treatment for about 17 people--the program probably won't get their additional request of $95,000.

Ultimately, money might not be the answer to what some critics say is a flawed solution. Dr. Jeffrey Edleson, a nationally respected expert on batterer's treatment from the University of Minnesota, says that for offenders who complete the programs, about two out of three don't reoffend. However, few complete the program. "Of 100 [people] that call in, 50 don't make it to the first session," Edleson explains.

Though Edleson has worked with batterers for much of his career, and isn't personally critical of the treatment program, he hears others say the program may foster offenders' behavior by alerting them to legal loopholes. That said, some argue that money should go directly to victims' services, not to offenders' treatment.

amy@thestranger.com