• Related story: Domestic violence: When children witness abuse

    It's not all about anger.

    Factors such as anger, alcohol and drug abuse, mental illness or a bad relationship might be contributing factors in domestic violence situations, said Roger Steffy, director of the ADVANCE program, part of Lutheran Social Services of South Central Pennsylvania. But they're not the cause of abuse.

    The real problem is a belief system rooted in male entitlement.

    "The underlying belief system is, 'Because I'm the man in this relationship, I'm in charge,'" Steffy said.

    ADVANCE offers three domestic violence intervention programs for people who have been abusive. Two are for men, and one is for women.

    The original program serves men who have been abusive and are not actively parenting children. About 80 percent of the participants are legally mandated to attend.

    Abuse can take different forms, Steffy said. A man might try to control which people his partner hangs out with or whether she works. He might choose how he uses violence or where he inflicts harm on her body -- whether he wants to leave a visible bruise, so she'll have to stay home.

    The goal is to help men change the way they think and live, Steffy said. The counselors help them to view relationships as egalitarian, not a hierarchy.

    "Our ultimate goal would be for each client to make an absolute commitment to be noncontrolling, nonviolent," Steffy said.


    It's not an easy journey, he said.

    Research on the effectiveness of batterer intervention programs varies. Some studies have reported some success in reducing the rate of participants who abuse again, and other studies have indicated the effect is minimal.

    The ADVANCE program doesn't have a specific success rate, partly because it's hard to measure something that doesn't happen, Steffy said.

    But they do occasionally hear from former participants who have made a change. Others have stopped their overtly abusive behaviors but might still be verbally abusive.

    "We know we can't force men to change their behavior," he said. "(Someone) could be completely nonabusive for three to five years and at any point could choose to be violent again."

    Steffy said he would like to offer more educational programs for youths.

    "What's not being done very much is working with young boys about what it means to be a man," he said.

    ADVANCE was invited to do workshops in one school district a few years ago, and it went well, he said. While the agency wants to be available for those types of programs, there hasn't been funding to initiate more.

    "I'd love to be able to do that," he said.

    Stacy Kimberly, a community education specialist and volunteer coordinator for Access-York, talks to high school students about domestic violence and healthy relationships.

    She's heard young boys say they're not going to let women walk all over them or they're going to treat women the way their grandfather did.

    "It doesn't have to be that way," Kimberly tells them. "That's not how it has to be."


    Lutheran Social Services offers several community outreach services, including ADVANCE.

    ADVANCE offers three domestic-abuse intervention programs for people who have been abusive.

    The original program is for men, who are not actively parenting children, who have been abusive.

    The ADVANCE Fatherhood program is for men who are parenting children and have been abusive.

    Women Choosing Non-Violence is for women who have used violence.