Volume 41 Number 46
                 Produced: Thu Dec 18  6:02:26 US/Eastern 2003

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Child vs. Spouse Abuse comparisons
         [Alana Suskin]
Explicit Jewish Laws on Repentance for Violence
         [Russell Jay Hendel]
How AMIT changed Therapy methods--The Beth Giloh School
         [Rise Goldstein]


From: Alana Suskin <alanamscat@...>
Date: Tue, 16 Dec 2003 09:24:00 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Child vs. Spouse Abuse comparisons

Your therapy method can't be applied to adults for a number of reasons,
most of which have already been discussed in this thread once:

First, your hypothetical case sounds great until one really examines it:
Abusers change their environments all the time - it's how they get new
victims.  Second, your assumption is exposed with the phrase "all the
possible stimuli that cause his condition" - the stimuli aren't external
- they're internal - they're not chemical, to begin with, and they're
not about the environment. The behavior is caused by a desire to control
the people around him (see the Duluth model for an explanation of the
power and control cycles). He uses his physical strength to intimidate
and isolate those over whom he can get power, and the more power he can
get, the more he'll exercise it.  Spouse abusers are not nearly in the
same position that abused children are: abused children are powerLESS -
they're the victims- even though they often take that experience and
turn it on others, in the situations of abuse they are the victims (the
reason removing them from the environment works sometimes is because it
lessons some of their powerlessness - they'r eno longer at the mercy of
a crazy adult). Adults are not. Indeed, adult abusers are very canny
about how they behave themselves - note how uncommon for abuse to happen
in public places where people can see it. Abusers are perfectly able to
control their surroundings and themselves until the time when they feel
safe to exercise their desire to abuse. (There are a few exceptions -
they're really dangerous, and even less likely to be amenable to therapy
of any kind. They're usually sociopaths, and sociopathy is extremely
unamenable to therapy - usually what therapy teaches sociopaths is how
to better get away with their behavior, not how to change it).

In any case, your hypothetical is -in itself- a fantasy. Child and adult
abuse is not comparable (and by the way, children who misbehave are not
"abusers."  They may be ill-bahaved, mentally ill, oppositional-defiant,
or any number of other things, but they're not the same thing as spouse
abusers, or even as adults who abuse children). Adults who abuse aren't
amenable to the sort of therapy that you suggest - it's not like
quitting smoking. Changing his circle of friends and place of residence
won't help.  What helps is removing him from situations where he has
someone to abuse. At least it helps the abused.

The reason most of the literature is on people who continue with the
abuse is because abusers rarely change (I don't say never, just
rarely). Given the case, to allow a woman to be the test case is on a
par with asking her to risk her life for someone else's possible
tshuvah. Not an acceptable risk. If her partner has a history of abuse,
she should always be told. If she then wants to take the risk, she
should have resources made available to her for escape just in case he
does indeed continue to abuse.

Alana Suskin


From: <rjhendel@...> (Russell Jay Hendel)
Date: Tue, 2 Dec 2003 23:36:54 GMT
Subject: Explicit Jewish Laws on Repentance for Violence

The issue came up recently of whether (a) spousal abusers can repent (b)
if they do repent should we just give them back their former life (c)
should Judaism uses its belief in repentance to override a psychological

Turning to Chapter 5 of Torts of the Rambam we find the laws of
repentance of physical abusers.

Now dont get me wrong---Maimonides is not that kind to this person. If I
damage someones property then I pay my damage and I am forgiven. But if
I break someones bones (eg husband vs wife) then I cant get forgiveness
simply by paying him!

I must ask his forgiveness. If he doesnt give forgiveness I must come
back and beg for forgiveness. Using the guidelines found in the Laws of
Repentance I assume that means I must bring 3 sets of 3 friends who
point out how I am sorry.

Rambam then makes a remarkable point. If the person at this point does
not forgive the abuser then the abused person is unreasonable.

Translating this to our situation it explicitly says that if a husband
has been beating his wife, repents, pays her, divorces her, gives her a
nice settlement, changes all factors in his life that are
"causing/contributing" to it and has friends intercede on his behalf
then it is the woman not him who is the "animal" if she doesnt forgive

And if she does forgive him, they that is the end of the story. Jewish
law is clear (laws of lashes) that once a person has been lashed or once
a person has been humiliated (eg they started defecating during the
lashing ceremony from embarassment) THEN THEY ARE CONSIDERED FULLY OUR
BROTHER AGAIN (This is based on the Biblical language AND YOUR BROTHER
IS HUMILIATED IN PUBLIC---once he is humiliated then he is your brother
again (Dt25))

Despite all we have heard about these spousal abusers, it seems to me
that Jewish law clearly states otherwise.

There is a catch---most spousal abusers do not think they are
wrong--most spousal abusers will not humiliate themselves in public. But
if this person did that---if he totally changes his life--I dont know of
any literature that requires that we "brand him" as incurably
ill. Jewish law says he is forgiven.

To put it mildly I was really disappointed on people views on repentance
on this list. This IS Judaism. This IS what we believe in. We believe
man can change To surrender to a psychological literature which says
otherwise is to destroy our religion.

I close with another well known story--it is related of Nevuzaran who
conquered Jerusalem that he saw the uncongealed blood of Zechariah on
the Temple floor. The priests explained Zechariah was murdered and this
was a sign from heaven. Nevuzaran tried to appease Zechriah but killing
children(to avenge his blood). After killing several thousand the blood
disappeared. Nevuzaran was shocked that one life should be worth so much
in Gods eyes. He repented and from him came great scholars of our

Clearly however Nevuzaran had up to that point spent his whole life
killing This is but one example of repentance.

Russell Jay Hendel; http://www.RashiYomi.com/


From: Rise Goldstein <rbgoldstein@...>
Date: Wed, 17 Dec 2003 06:13:35 -0800
Subject: How AMIT changed Therapy methods--The Beth Giloh School

Russell Hendel wrote:

> [...]In a former article I made clear my position that Judaism
> disagrees with psychology: to wit--abusive people with chemical
> imbalances can repent.  [...details of AMIT's therapy program snipped...]
> One clinician recently spoke about the "recurrence rate for
> abusers". With Amit we speak about the cure rate---most of the children
> coming there totally change. The change is real and reflects a
> personality change.This is true independent of how much physical abuse
> has taken place and independent of how abusive the child is.

I believe Dr. Hendel is referring to me as the "one clinician."  While I
am trained as a clinical social worker, I haven't worked clinically in
over 15 years.  As such, I speak, not as a clinician, but rather based
on my knowledge and credentials as a Ph.D. epidemiologist and researcher
in fields relevant to this discussion.

In any case, Dr. Hendel is comparing apples with oranges here: abusED
children with abusIVE husbands.  Granted, abusive husbands are more
likely than nonabusive ones to have been abused themselves as children,
but the majority of abusED people do NOT go on to become abusERS.  For
this reason and others, even if there were no other issues here, the
"success" of the AMIT program with abusED children is, in my humble
professional opinion, not relevant to the question of whether abusIVE
husbands can do teshuvah and, if so, whether they should be put back in
the pool of "eligibles" for shidduchim, taken back by the wives they
previously victimized, etc.

However, there are other issues here.  AFAIK, the AMIT program, though
it sounds wonderful on the surface, has not been subjected to a
scientifically rigorous evaluation, with precisely defined target
behavioral outcomes (e.g., maintenance of a particular grade-point
average, number of days of paid employment in a particular period of
follow-up, lack of criminal record), well validated measures, and long
periods of follow-up using multiple sources of information.  What I
suspect Dr. Hendel is reporting here, though I could be wrong, is
probably based on testimonials.  Apart from their obvious public
relations value, such anecdotes are great ways to get donations, but not
acceptable as scientifically valid evidence of the program's success.

NOTE: I'm not saying the program wouldn't stand up to rigorous
scientific scrutiny.  I'm ONLY saying that, AFAIK, the scrutiny hasn't
been applied or, if it's been applied, the results haven't been
published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, which is the "gold
standard" for evidence-based practice in medicine, psychology, social
work, nursing, and other helping professions.

I would also note, though, that the behavioral science literature is
replete with examples of how "geographic cures" DON'T work, because the
gains supposedly made in therapy don't generalize automatically to the
environments in which clients must function after completing treatment.
Among the better known examples of this are residential substance abuse
treatment programs: clients have far fewer challenges to remaining drug
free in controlled environments staffed by trained counselors than they
do in their own homes, where they may live with active addicts, or on
the streets if they are discharged to homelessness, since drugs are
readily available in most places where homeless people congregate.  As
part of the therapy, clients must learn to deal with their "demons," or,
to use the more politically correct term, "issues," in their natural

Beyond these considerations, abusED children are still in developmental
phases in which their behavioral patterns are much more malleable than
is true of abusIVE husbands, at the same time as the children have far
fewer choices directly available to them as to how to behave.

> Since I have brought the above let me apply the above to spousal
> abuse. I never claimed that aperson who eg hits his wife should simply
> be forgiven. Neither Rise nor Rabbi Teitz dealt with my hypothetical
> case: Suppose "The husband gets a divorce, changes his job--in short
> removes all possible stimulii that cause his condition--suppose further
> he has been living normally this way for 10 years---suppose he goes to
> functions with other people and behaves normally"

The external "stimuli" to which Dr. Hendel refers could return, and
often do, in some form or fashion.  If the "stimulus" that the offender
tries to blame is something about the (ex-)wife he victimized, he could
find the same "flaw" in another woman.  If the "stimulus" is job stress,
well, most jobs are stressful, and the same things that are stressful
about one job are eventually likely to become so about another.
Moreover, the references to removal of external "stimuli" to abuse
implies that the victimized wife, or the job, or whatever, is to blame,
which is NOT the case.  The full and sole responsibility for abuse rests
with the abuser--not with any external "stimuli," not with the victim,
not with anything or anyone else, no matter how stressful the situation
or for what "reason."


> My position is unchanged---this person is no longer the same person. I
> would consider it criminal to malign him and deprive him of his future
> (Which he has earned).

Whether the (ex-?)abuser has "earned" it or not, and as R. Teitz, Ms.
Suskin, and others have pointed out in far more articulate fashion than
I, the primary issue here is not, and cannot be, the "criminality" of
"malign[ing] him and depriv[ing] him of his future."  Rather, it is, and
in my humble professional opinion must be, that allowing a known abuser
to be out in the pool of "eligibles" for shidduchim is to put women at
what very well may be mortal risk.  I stand by my read of the
professional literature, that the recidivism rate for abusers is so high
that the risk to women from becoming involved with them is unacceptable.
When and if there is scientifically acceptable evidence to support the
effectiveness of treatment in reducing the risk of recurrence to very
low and preferably zero levels, then the risk (to future wife material)
vs. benefit (to the possibly reformed abuser) ratio can be revisited.

Rise Goldstein (<rbgoldstein@...>)
Los Angeles, CA


End of Volume 41 Issue 46