Seeking to educate, not fix: 'Duluth Model' works with perpetrators of violence

10850608_10154902211490075_1193121561_n Part 2 in a two-part series. Read Part 1 here.

Out of 25 international nominations, the "Duluth Model" was the only policy to be awarded the 2014 Future Policy Award for Ending Violence against Women and Girls, or Gold Award.

“The Duluth Model is based on the fundamental human rights principle of protecting the victims and holding the offenders accountable,” Beatriz Menanteau, staff attorney in the Women’s Rights Program of the Advocates for Human Rights, said in a phone interview from her office in Minneapolis.

One way the system holds offenders accountable is by providing a batterer intervention program. Although this is a program for batterers, the focus is still on the victims.

“The key to the batterer intervention program within the Duluth Model is that they do not exist within a vacuum," Menanteau said. “They exist as one part of a larger systems response to domestic violence.”

This means that the intervention program is connected to the justice system. If the perpetrators fails to meet the requirements of the program, the court will be notified, and they will face other consequences.

For example, if the group facilitator hears that the perpetrator is continuing to use violence, or is still planning on using violence, the facilitator can do two things: notify the probation officer or contact the victim advocacy group.

Although the Duluth Model won a prestigious award, it has a number of skeptics. Since there is no way to measure whether or not batterer programs actually work, the program is sometimes deemed unsuccessful.

“It’s possible that they’re not going to work,” Menanteau said. “But if you’re going to pursue a program, follow one that protects victims and still holds offenders accountable. That’s where the Duluth Model has succeeded and others have not.”

One way success of the program is measured is by monitoring re-entry into the civil or criminal justice system.

“Between 70 to 75 percent of the guys that go through the Coordinated Community Response program, we won’t see back again eight years from their last probation,” explained Scott Miller, coordinator for the Coordinating Community Response team and co-coordinator for the Men’s Program.

“It averages out to about 230 to 250 perpetrators who go through the Men’s Program per year,” he said.

Chris Godsey, a co-facilitator for the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project (DAIP), works directly with men who are placed in the 27-Week Men’s Group, a weekly dialogue between experts and perpetrators.

“We don’t see ourselves as trying to heal these guys or fix them,” Godsey said. “We see ourselves as trying to help the guys who have used violence and figure out their thinking that led them to using it, and figure out where that thinking came from.”

The program concentrates on providing group-facilitated exercises that challenge a male’s perception of entitlement to control and dominate his partner through the Power and Control and Equality Wheel.

“The curriculum is based on the coordinated community response: the idea that violence is a social norm. Patriarchy is real, and men are taught that they have more value than women,” he explained.

Throughout the sessions, it is the facilitator's job to create a community in which men realize why they have shown violence toward women and where they learned the behavior.

“Through the group conversation process, each individual can see clearly what the thinking was behind using violence, and then if they want to, change the thinking,” Godsey said.

The Duluth Model has been adopted by hundreds of cities across the United States as well as numerous countries around the world. It continues to grow in popularity.

The other article in this series: ‘Duluth Model’ seeks justice for victims of abuse


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