Showing posts with label accountability. Show all posts
Showing posts with label accountability. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Report Writing for Battering Intervention Classes

Administrative issues in domestic violence work are topics that are easily seen as dry, boring, and for some even unnecessary if they are doing direct service work. Cultures within agencies and programs are easily ingrained and accepted with little critical thought, sometimes because front line workers have little power to address them, and at other times because workers with very little experience are placed in roles where they do not fully understand the content, let alone the administrative structure. In addition, battering intervention work is easily downplayed in importance and need, with interns gaining responsibility, agencies investing few resources, or the program itself becoming sidelined due to other agency needs. These are all issues which need to be addressed to create an effective program, and report writing is a dynamic which can link to several of these challenges in this work.

When I conduct supervision, I consider administrative issues to be important ones. When discussing clinical challenges, I stress creating balance between process and content. You both need to understand the specific details of individuals in the group and curriculum/educational information (content), and the boundaries of group rules and how individuals make their way through the sessions of the class (process). I have written before that there is a need to know the difference between the model used for intervention (the process of the class, the structure of the rules, the beginning, middle and end experience of the individual participant) and the curriculum used for education (the lesson plans, activities, use of media, structured discussions). The article is going to be focused on methods of reporting on an individual participant in a battering intervention program.

Each program has intake paperwork that gathers background information on incoming participants. While this is not strictly reporting a battering intervention worker will do to outside sources, these documents help inform later reporting, and sometimes help to establish rapport and understanding og the individual participant. The format this takes is sometimes an individual interview, sometimes a group orientation, sometimes a group overview. State guidelines and standards often determine the content requirements, but some of the important aspects include:
  1. Danger/Risk/Lethality assessment: Specific questions on paperwork that give indications of potential lethality are important to include, along with understanding that such assessment is an ongoing process throughout an individual's time in the program, not just during paperwork. It is best to have these questions spread out, rather than in a block, as someone filling out intake paperwork may gloss over extreme questions if they are all together, particularly when they are "yes or no" answers. Most often, these questions come from Jaqueline Campbell's work on Domestic Violence Danger Assessment.
  2. Screening tools: These may vary by program, but I personally like to use the PHQ9, the Mood Disorders Questionnaire, and the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE). I think such items support participants in working toward self-care, and often provide words to experiences that make depression, mental illness, and childhood trauma difficult to talk about and seek help over. This paperwork serves a dual purpose: identifying potential problem areas for individuals, and providing humanization by specifically discussing how domestic violence classes are not just about harm toward others, but also harms toward self. It can demonstrate a layer of care over the individual that can be important in establishing rapport and motivating change.
  3. Description of harms: If done as an individual interview, this might engage a participant prior to group to discuss hurtful behavior. I personally think it is better, as an engagement strategy, to collect basic information without getting into detail unless the participant wants to provide it. I want to know charged crimes (if applicable), general patterns of harm, motives for hurtful behavior, a participant's perception of the situation, and I also consider general attitude as a part of collecting this information. Some programs collect police reports and collaborative information or require it for initial intake appointments. I think these can be useful secondary information and a way to ask specific questions, but can also become distracting toward motivating change and allowing an individual participant to see where they might need to make shifts in their behavior in relationships overall.
  4. Objective data collection: I like to do pre-post collection of information to show overall program efficacy and to determine usefulness of the program and potential for updates and feedback from participants. I use an adapted version of Emerge's Violent and Controlling Behavior Checklist, but I know some programs prefer to use versions of the Power and Control Wheels. I also have a survey that asks for goals, concerns, perceptions of how the class might be useful for the individual, and how a participant describes respect and harm in relationships. I find that comparing the survey and the checklist before entering class, and after finishing provide some insight that is useful for participants, and fascinating for reporting on the program overall.
  5. Intake letter: I avoid doing any assessing of participants until they have attended 6-8 class sessions. I will often say during intakes, "this is the first time I've met you, and I know when I meet someone for the first time, I don't tell them my entire life story. Especially not details of things I am not proud of, or don't want to talk about. I don't expect you to do that with me today, although I am going to collect some background information so I can start learning how I can help you the best I can." This is a part of working to use Motivational Interviewing engagement strategies in the program, and it is best to do so as early as possible. Some states require writing a letter informing the referral source that an individual has entered the program, general information about battering intervention groups, the date and time the individual agreed to start classes, and contact information for the program and group facilitators. I suggest such letters not provide details beyond a general statement that the person is accepted into the program due to admission of hurtful behavior.
I work to communicate that there is no such thing as a domestic violence evaluation. People request them all the time, and the general assumption is that such an evaluation will determine if someone NEEDS the program or not. Whenever I hear this request, it is from an individual who definitely believes they do not need the program, and therefore will be evaluated as such. The reason for this confusion, in my experience, is that mental health treatment and substance abuse counseling both involve an evaluation. These evaluations use psychological tools, drug testing, structured interviews, evaluative guidelines, and diagnostic determination for an individual. From all of these sources of information, a determination is made for the TYPE of treatment an individual will receive. This may include inpatient treatment, individual counseling 1-5 times weekly, group sessions, educational sessions, or a combination of things. The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) has a breakdown of axes which look at factors within an individual's life which may intersect with substance use, and help to determine what sort of treatment might work best. Battering Intervention does not have any such screening tools, any diagnostic components, guidance on setting criteria, or differentiation of classes necessary, save the state of Colorado (which has a process for domestic violence offenders, but I disagree with several of their foundational research studies they have used to justify separation of participants which are based on general criminal populations, not specific to domestic violence offenders. They also charge a fee for initial intake that is often comparable to a full self-pay mental health evaluation of anywhere from $600-$1500).  

The assessment for battering intervention is simply: is the individual appropriate for the class or not? This means that a report that determines appropriateness needs to be based on factors that make the classes useful for an individual. Complications arise when an individual participant is referred due to non-intimate partner violence, which may count as "domestic violence" but dynamics with parents, children, siblings, roommates, or extended family are much different than intimate partner relationships and are best treated differently.

Some criteria I use to assess appropriateness include:
  • The participant admits to hurtful behavior in a relationship toward an intimate partner
  • The description of hurtful behavior includes patterns and history in the relationship
  • The participant speaks both about the incident leading to referral and dynamics of harm throughout the relationship (which may include answering "why did things go downhill?")
In general, if someone is referred for a violent, abusive, or coercive controlling incident in an intimate partner relationship they will be appropriate for the class. The assessment looks at willingness to admit to hurtful behavior, and a certain degree of acknowledging patterns of harm. For those who are not referred for intimate partner violence, some additional pieces I consider have to do with the ability of the individual to speak defensively of their intimate partner, admit to hurtful behavior within "normal limits" with an intimate partner (which would include speaking about arguments, selfish and/or controlling behavior that does not stray into abuse or violence), the context of the incident itself, and the interest for the individual in joining the class in general.

For example, one man I saw for an assessment had a fight with his adult daughter over her moving out of the house because she had not followed through with an agreement to stay in treatment. He and his wife agreed with this decision (per his report), and when he spoke about his wife he did so with care and admitted to raising his voice during arguments on occasion, and lying to her about where he was going (specifically related to him coming to the class, because he said she was very stressed about his court involvement). He was assessed as inappropriate because while his incident was perhaps domestic violence related (this point could be argued), his report about his relationship with his wife over the course of 40 years seemed based in overall health and respect, and his contributions to class discussions over six class sessions consistently demonstrated this attitude about her.

Another individual was referred for brandishing a knife toward his adult siblings when they were arguing during him making dinner. He was not in a relationship at the time. While discussing the incident, he admitted to his threatening behavior toward them. He then spoke to a history in his relationships that included direct violence with a former partner, and dismissive neglectful patterns in a more recent relationship. During his sixth class session when doing a long check-in, he said directly that he needed to be in the class as he had learned about ways he had been violent that he never had considered before. The incident bringing him to the class may not have been intimate partner related, but this history and his willingness to look at his patterns made him appropriate. Now in his case, if he had not spoken to a history in his relationships, without collaborative information, it may have been difficult to assess him as appropriate due to the lack of intimate partner relationship history - but such things demonstrate why intake paperwork can be an important part of this process.

When writing an assessment report, I suggest that facilitators take notes when an individual talks about hurtful patterns of behavior. I use the Emerge model of intervention, which means I believe in doing a long check-in at session 6-8 of the program. I ask questions about most recent harms, what the individual considers to be the "worst" hurtful behavior, what the incident was that resulted in referral (if not otherwise disclosed), the history of the relationship currently, prior history of relationships, and specific questions about other physical assaults, sexual harms, affairs, and threats. I also tend to ask "why did your relationship go downhill" as it tends to give a lot of information about the context of the relationship overall. All of these answers given by the individual I capture quotes and detail for use in reporting. The structure of the report includes:

  1. Information on payment and attendance: this includes any financial issues, tardiness, missing classes, and overall administrative compliance with the program. This may mean I include information on an individual's inconsistency, or alternately their ability and willingness to communicate problems they might experience while attending the class. 
  2. Participation: detailing how an individual uses the classes, this can be anywhere from minimal participation noted, excessive or inappropriate participation, or details on how an individual contributes or uses the class appropriately. 
  3. Report of hurtful behavior: I start here by listing information on the referral incident. The challenge in this section is never adding in secondary information a participant might give which places responsibility onto others, justifies hurtful behavior, or exposes other people's personal issues. It is important to think about the reports through the lens of how a victim/survivor might read the report, and how a defense or prosecuting attorney might read the report. If a victim/survivor could read the report and say "those are lies about me," or if a prosecutor or a defense attorney reads the report and thinks "we need to charge the victim/survivor," or "if that is how it happened, we need to dismiss the case," then the report needs to be rewritten. The goal of reports are never to try a case, but rather to provide information on how a participant views themselves and their patterns of harm. If an individual blames, then it is possible to write "Mr. Jones justifies his behavior by focusing on Ms. Jones' behavior" or to simply not include such information at all and focus exclusively on hurtful behavior the participant admits to. This section will also detail patterns and history, and may include other dates and times of harm. It is important to either specifically name times (years and months when available), or if speaking of general patterns to identify a timeframe (in a prior relationship X years ago). Generally speaking about behavior without a time reference could again be used for or against someone in legal negotiations, and is important to differentiate for clarity. I often also include details of cheating, other physical harms, and threats in this section.
  4. Concerns: It is important to note concerns for each individual participant. Sometimes concerns are related to administrative compliance issues, sometimes for behavior issues in the class, sometimes for specific nature of harms in a relationship, sometimes for current behavior in a relationship, sometimes with self-care issues and/or overlaps with mental health or substance abuse issues. Occasionally, I have noted the very real possibility that an individual is feeding me information to coach a report but there may be additional information left out. Noting concerns can be helpful to discuss with a co-facilitator or supervisor.
  5. Recommendations: The most common recommendation is to complete the program, however, if there are secondary issues to be addressed such as parenting, mental health, or substance abuse related needs, then I will note that the individual may benefit from specific care in other areas. As this is not an evaluation report, recommendations are best as suggestions and if needs are apparent, these suggestions are best made for the individual to be evaluated for services by someone else.
There may be state guidelines that outline needs for reports on a monthly, quarterly, or even weekly basis. Often this can be determined by the needs of the referral sources.
  • Weekly reports: I currently do weekly reports on participants via email. These reports are basic attendance and compliance issues, and occasionally I will write a note that summarizes a problem. If weekly reporting is needed, it is best done in a list style. This can create confidentiality issues, and have several logistical challenges as a result. Most of my referrals are from a specific probation department, so I do a list of every class participant, but those not referred by them I use initials instead of names. The challenge with this method of reporting is it tends to lack detail, and problems are not flagged until they are bigger issues.
  • Monthly reports: Overall, I think this is the best method of ongoing reports. It does become cumbersome for facilitators to write reports on every participant, but it structures an individual's process through the program which is useful when behavior builds over time, and can often be protective of program staff's decisions about individual participants. I like to use a section with check-off boxes to simplify the process, and a section with notes to add in information on how a participant is in the classes. Most commonly, the notes section contains a statement such as "Mr. Jones participated appropriately during class sessions," but it allows facilitators an opportunity to communicate information on individual activities, challenges, ongoing issues inside or outside the class, or details on behavior problems.
  • Status updates: These are simple reports, often just listing attendance and payment details. I often do these per request, and they are not specifically scheduled.
  • Letters/information to partner/victim/survivors: State requirements may indicate a need to conduct partner contacts, and occasionally may require a letter to be sent to a participant's partner and/or ex-partner. If this is a practice, it is important to detail the limitations of the group, information on how to get support or advocacy, and contact information for the program specifically. It can be good to provide a pamphlet outlining the program goals, and basic information on domestic violence. 
For completion reports, I mirror the format of the assessment report, including all the sections as listed above. If someone is completing, I will insert additional information on "report of abuse" if additional information came forward during an individual activity, and also tend to expand on participation information to detail how the individual used the groups overall. Concerns may shift based on how facilitators have experienced the individual, and recommendations often include a line such as "if Mr. Jones were to be abusive or violent, he may return to the program," in addition to any overall needs that may have been identified during the course of the program.

Termination reports are also mirrored, but often list information on last attended session, outstanding balance due, content on the reason for termination, and concerns tend to highlight those reasons. Administrative discharges (participant moved, changed programs, is released due to medical issues, is suspending program participation for an agreed upon allowance, etc) need to detail out the reasons for closure, methods of reentry, and also follow the same format overall.

Sometimes, when an individual never attends a class, or drops out before completing an assessment (most common terminations in my experience) I will write a shorter letter outlining the issues leading to termination. I may also draw from intake paperwork to detail some information if it seems necessary to use the entire termination report format.

The most common issue I have seen with program reporting is including impersonal check-off report styles with little to no context, or providing a "certificate" at the end of the program. Often I find that battering intervention workers may not understand how dangerous such practices can be for victims/survivors. Lack of detail in reports can be used against victims/survivors by saying things such as "hey, I finished my program and they loved me there - said I could teach the class - and she hasn't done anything." This is an easy set up, and may lead to court systems making decisions in favor of someone who is abusive, and uses the certificate to further manipulation and control. Check-off style reports without individual details can sometimes contain things such as "good progress/poor progress" which seems to indicate that the facilitators know definite risk and how a participant is using the program. However, a primary characteristic of domestic violence offenders are that they are excellent radars, and great at using those radars to manipulate others. I can never guarantee that even the seemingly most enlightened participant has changed behavior without doing a partner/victim contact and having knowledge of behavior outside of the class. Judging absorption of material is not the place facilitators need to focus - let the individual's behavior speak for itself through quotes, and detail of attitude in the class. After all, participation in class is a mirror into behavior in intimate partner relationships.

Other problems involve facilitators not understanding why report writing is an important part of accountability. Yes, it is sometimes an administrative headache, but when the safety of victims/survivors is at risk it is both necessary and ethical to make sure reports are neutral or worse about participants, and that assessment or discharge reports always contain information that describes the participant's hurtful, abusive, violent, and controlling behavior. Some programs, who may have an integrated community coordinated response that involves extensive contact with referral sources in an authentic and working relationship may minimize paperwork due to this. That doesn't mean reporting doesn't happen - it just means the reporting is directed through interpersonal connections, not by paperwork. I prefer the paper trail, regardless, because it CAN potentially be used against an abuser who might evidence increased risk or danger.

For this reason, reports for BIP should be neutral or worse. Remember that "positive" reports might overlook manipulations an individual abuser has worked to use against facilitators. The thinking error of "feeding the change agent what the change agent wants to hear" is particularly challenging in BIP classes, and often can lead facilitators to miss how an individual participant avoids responsibility and accountability in classes, and might be using the class to look good and further harm others.

What are your experiences? Have you worked in agencies with excellent or poor reporting systems, and how did you navigate those spaces? What is your philosophy behind report writing and administrative details of this work?

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Louis CK and Empathy Work for Abusive Men

Chances are if you have been within range of the internet, or even a local newspaper over the past few weeks, you've seen the news of numerous allegations and admissions of sexual inappropriateness, sexual assault, and sexual harassment levied against powerful men. In some ways, this is nothing new - such allegations happen regularly and sometimes they stick, other times they get waved away as rumors or settlements are made behind closed doors. What is interesting about Louis CK's sexual harassment allegations are that they were denied as rumors for years, and with pressure ramping up since Harvey Weinstein's fall from grace due to exposure of his sexually violating behavior (and the #metoo backlash), CK decided to write a letter that validating five women's claims against him as being true.

In the groups I co-facilitate for men who have chosen battering behavior in their intimate partner relationships, occasionally I have an individual complete an "empathy letter" activity. It is made very clear that this letter is not designed to be given directly to that man's victim/partner, but rather is an exercise to work to increase ability to make repairs and amends in that relationship. I tend to choose that activity for men who are still in a relationship with the woman they hurt, who want to perhaps make things better and continue their relationship. It's not necessarily a great idea to force empathy building onto someone who is not interested in doing so, or for someone who is no longer in a relationship and doesn't care about repairing anything directly. It's also an important point to emphasize that empathy is a PROCESS, not a destination - that no one thing will instantly or completely heal damage that often is done as a pattern over a long period of time.

For the sake of explaining this activity, and in analyzing the places where CK's letter is a good start toward repairs and where it falls short, let's read through what he wrote and discuss the four aspects of empathy work we look at during battering intervention class sessions. The goal is always to look at what someone comes up with and add to it, nuance it, make it a living document where the individual might have conversations with his partner in one way when a topic comes up, and in another in a different circumstance. CK has given us all a place to analyze, and some have eaten it up and been happy to see him admitting his wrongs, while others have been disgusted and found his letter to be pure bullshit, disingenuous, and simply a cover-your-ass statement. For the sake of the analysis in this article, let's consider that both perspectives might have some weight (I will be quoting his letter out of order to emphasize these different sections).

The first section to discuss in an empathy letter is does it demonstrate responsibility? Since I believe words hold power, and understanding words helps with clarity, I think it is important to name responsibility as the act of admitting to behavior. Plenty of people avoid ownership of harms they have caused others, and I find that most men entering into battering intervention classes have a hard time doing so at the start. Some might admit to some things, but even in someone who is interested in making repairs it's impossible to admit to full responsibility - particularly in places where the individual is blind to the experience of others. Responsibility, like all the sections is a process, and when the activity is done in the class, I hear someone admit to things and when we offer feedback we ask for more specific detail, for larger patterns, for how things went downhill in a relationship and why. We look at things like poor self-care and how that can damage a relationship, or irritating and alienating behavior that often are dismissed as being too low a threshold to mention (yet can be a huge problem for victims/survivors who experience this irritating and alienating behavior as a foundation to so many other harms).

Louis CK says the following in his letter, which I have put together as a section where he attempts to work toward responsibility:

"I want to address the stories told to The New York Times by five women named Abby, Rebecca, Dana, Julia who felt able to name themselves and one who did not. These stories are true. The power I had over these women is that they admired me. And I wielded that power irresponsibly. [I've] run from [my actions]. I also took advantage of the fact that I was widely admired in my and their community. I have spent my long and lucky career talking and saying anything I want."
When considered separately from the rest of the letter, when thinking about ways CK could have taken more responsibility, there is a lot that could be added here. In a class session, some feedback and discussion here would be to have him specifically name how he was sexually inappropriate, to be more explicit in how he placed women in impossible predicaments, how he understands his power as a producer and history of that power, and even in naming women he has harassed beyond these five that are bringing the accusations against him currently, perhaps even discussing any sexual aspects that contributed to the end of his marriage years before. He could speak to how in his comedy routines he has made his thinly veiled sexually abusive behavior into a humorous tale. He has long incorporated masturbation gestures in his sets, has discussed sexual behavior very directly, has named the impact and ability of power in different ways. He has the ability to name his responsibilities more directly, and his letter gives him an opportunity to expand on what he has listed and continue a dialog about his behavior - or to leave it where it is at and hope public attention goes away. Responsibility is an ongoing process of reflection, insight, and removing of layers. If he is truly working toward repairs, he will need to consistently name these behavior, and do so without blaming or excusing things by focusing on others. Since he said "I have spent my long and lucky career talking and saying anything I want," he needs to use that power to do so here and now. Several people have been angered by his letter, and he needs to validate their anger. Several have been willing to let him off the hook due to his letter, and he needs to admit that his initial letter was a start but is not going to be enough. Make this section an process, not an end point.

Next, we discuss how to admit to motives behind hurtful behavior. This section can get ugly, and it should. Abuse doesn't happen because someone feels positive things about the person they hurt, and they don't happen with consideration of other's rights and needs. This is a very difficult section to write, and it is very difficult for men who have been abusive to discuss. Louis CK is no exception here, as his description of his motives is minimal:

"At the time, I said to myself that what I did was O.K. because I never showed a woman my dick without asking first, which is also true. I didn’t think that I was [using other's admiration of me to silence others] because my position allowed me not to think about it."
He has an opportunity here to say why he did not care about boundaries of professionalism, personal space, sexual limitations, power dynamics, or the humanity of those he violated. He did not. He vaguely discusses his power, but also justifies his actions by saying he asked if he could violate these women before doing so. This is probably the most difficult thing that he will need to do if he wants to make repairs, and much of the heavy criticism of his letter seems to be due to him not explaining motives. This makes any attempts at empathy disingenuous. In intimate partner relationships, think of someone working to make repairs. They admit to harms, seem to understand impacts, say what they need to do to change, but never really say WHY they chose to hurt, chose to cause pain, chose to cause fear. This leaves the person victimized to think in their own minds why this happened. It pushes that responsibility onto someone who will never be able to know the answer, because motive is internal to an abuser's own thoughts and self-talk. In classes, I will speak to the need to be vulnerable as a part of a healthy and respectful relationship. Abusers block off vulnerability, and it makes it impossible to connect with another person, and impossible for them to be able to call you on your faults as well as support you when you need it. In this case, admitting to motives creates vulnerability in others knowing what was going through thoughts and values that allowed a choice to abuse. Louie CK, you need to improve this section dramatically, talk to why you waited several years to finally admit to your abusive behavior, speak to why you abused your power when you are so aware of power dynamics as demonstrated by your work. Why you chose that specific violation, and why you thought you had the ability to get away with such behavior.

Detailing an understanding of impact on others is in many ways one of the most direct and "easiest" parts of an empathy letter. The challenge is in deepening understanding, looking beyond the obvious. In some ways it is not a surprise that the bulk of Louis CK's letter is focused on impact. It's what people often expect. Others LOOK for impact, but SENSE when there is a lack of details in motive. Let's look at what he detailed and consider ways he could improve on understanding impact:

But what I learned later in life, too late, is that when you have power over another person, asking them to look at your dick isn’t a question. It’s a predicament for them. Now I’m aware of the extent of the impact of my actions. I learned yesterday the extent to which I left these women who admired me feeling badly about themselves and cautious around other men who would never have put them in that position. [Using other's admiration for me] disabled them from sharing their story and brought hardship to them when they tried because people who look up to me didn’t want to hear it. [My needing to reconcile my abuse with who I am as a person] is nothing compared to the task I left them with. The hardest regret to live with is what you’ve done to hurt someone else. And I can hardly wrap my head around the scope of hurt I brought on them. I’d be remiss to exclude the hurt that I’ve brought on people who I work with and have worked with who’s professional and personal lives have been impacted by all of this, including projects currently in production: the cast and crew of Better Things, Baskets, The Cops, One Mississippi, and I Love You, Daddy. I deeply regret that this has brought negative attention to my manager Dave Becky who only tried to mediate a situation that I caused. I’ve brought anguish and hardship to the people at FX who have given me so much The Orchard who took a chance on my movie. and every other entity that has bet on me through the years. I’ve brought pain to my family, my friends, my children and their mother.
I have seen criticisms of his letter which talk about CK trying to garner sympathy, sort of the "pity me" request behind his words. This is where that all comes out. Rather than just naming impacts, he laments that he just learned, is finally aware, that he can't wrap his head around the impacts. Think of how selfish such statements can be in identifying impact on others. If you use your understanding of impacts to validate, any statements that refocus on you and your process of how you understand take away from that validation. To say, "now I'm aware of the extent of the impact of my actions," takes it away from a process and makes it an end point. This is not helpful in any way, and cuts off communication. Empathy and repairs are about establishing and expanding open and transparent communication, not closing it off after an initial discussion. He fully spends half of his understanding impacts by focusing on people he has hurt professionally due to his sexually abusive behavior. This moves away from being able to talk about impacts on individuals into hurts on community. In some ways, this can be important, but if it is not combined with explicit and deep understanding of impacts on those directly violated it can remove the ability of empathy to repair. In fact, his focus on community over individuals almost seems to dismiss the impacts to them. He could speak to how his behavior might have changed their comfort around men in general, impacted their own relationships, caused potential trauma, reminded them of trauma they experienced in the past, made them question themselves, perhaps even blame themselves, how they may have been forced to continue working with him and pretend the abuse did not happen. There is a lot Louis CK needs to add here, and during group sessions, there is often a lot of discussion that broadens the ability to validate harms experienced.

Finally, the empathy letter focuses on accountability. I discuss how responsibility may be owning up and admitting to hurtful behavior, but accountability is about working toward changing it. It's about making goals, and about consistently reaching them. It's about considerations for measurable, realistic, specific, and wanted changes. It's about being vulnerable to others in a way that can allow them to hold you to account for those changes. Here is what Louis CK added in his letter on accountability:

I have been remorseful of my actions. And I’ve tried to learn from them. There is nothing about this that I forgive myself for. And I have to reconcile it with who I am. I wish I had reacted to their admiration of me by being a good example to them as a man and given them some guidance as a comedian, including because I admired their work. I will now step back and take a long time to listen. Thank you for reading.
Saying you are remorseful is not enough. Why is what you did not okay? Why do you want to stop doing such abuses to others? Not how you are "trying" to learn, but how you plan on learning more and on an ongoing basis. Empathy has little to nothing to do with forgiveness, and more to do with active change. When adding detail about needing to reconcile, how does he plan on doing so? How, despite his destructive patterns, can he work to BE a good example for others, how can he provide guidance in making up for such atrocities? Stepping back and taking time to listen is perhaps helpful, but how? What is listening going to provide, actively, for his ongoing work on empathy and repair? There are many things he could add in here, and during groups, that is where the discussion goes. Accountability, like every section is a PROCESS not an end point.

Overall, I tend to think Louis CK's letter could potentially be a good starting point. His sincerity is in question, and the only thing that will answer that question is his sincerity to the process, and details of any ongoing work he is willing and able to do. His listening is directly in his letter - but can he listen to criticisms without becoming defensive. Can he listen to the pains caused in others without going into how hard it is for him? Can he be more explicit about his motives to reveal to himself and others how his abusive behavior built as a pattern over time? Can he add to his responsibility by naming more hurtful behavior beyond the things he is being accused of. Ultimately, I have hope, and maybe it is because this is the first time I remember an individual taking accusations of sexual assault and at least simply admitting it is true. Some have called it a low bar, but in some ways, I think it's good to start somewhere. Let's continue to pressure those who choose abusive behavior to raise the bar for themselves and others. Let's keep the dialog going on methods of repairs and work toward health, respect, and amends.