Category Archives: domestic violence

UK PV Perpetrator Programmes – Part 2

Any country that has tried to create a political solution to human problems has ended up with concentration camps and gulags” – Erin Pizzey

Contents

  1. Introduction

In Part 1 of this post I reviewed briefly the statistics on partner abuse from the Crime Survey for England & Wales and the compendious reviews by Fiebert and the PASK Project, followed by a critical examination of the practice and underlying philosophy of almost all PV perpetrator programmes in the UK (see Part 1 for links). It was clear that the two things were in conflict, the latter being firmly based on the patriarchal ‘power and control’ theory of partner abuse, and hence overwhelmingly male-on-female abuse, whereas the former, the actual data, did not support such a perspective. Here I review some research which has a direct bearing on the credibility of the male-specific ‘power and control’ theory, concentrating on recent research within the UK.

If the patriarchal ‘power and control’ theory was correct, the proof of the pudding would be the effectiveness of Duluth-style perpetration programmes. They aren’t, as we shall see.

  1. Dixon, Archer and Graham-Kevan (2012a)

Part 1 referred to the central role played by Respect in UK PV perpetrator programmes. There was an interesting exchange conducted in the journal “Legal and Criminological Psychology” in 2012, prompted by Respect’s Position Statement (reviewed in Part 1 and based on the male-dominator ‘power and control’ theory). Whilst this is no longer on Respect’s web site, their Accreditation Standard continues to contain similar sentiments, as discussed in Part 1. The exchange was initiated by Louise Dixon, John Archer and Nicola Graham-Kevan in their published paper, Perpetrator programmes for partner violence: Are they based on ideology or evidence? (a copy may be found here). The paper explicitly considered the validity of Respect’s Position Statement. I shall dwell at length on this publication because it addresses the issues clearly and can stand in orientation for a great deal of the academic literature, some of which I shall allude to thereafter.

To anyone who believes that the whole of academia has rolled over and handed the narrative to the ideologues: this is not the case, though the penetration of dissenting academic voices into the popular, political or policy spheres is another matter. I will quote Dixon at al at some length, and then refer more briefly to a sample of other publications. The intention is to give the reader some appreciation of the considerable extent of academic condemnation of the feminist perspective, though the literature is huge and I cannot give an exhaustive account.

Dixon et al start rather pointedly with,

Science progresses by testing and modifying theories against new evidence. The social sciences concern the application of the scientific method to areas where people may hold preconceived views. Social scientists are often motivated by an ideologically based view of their subject that makes it hard for them to think beyond a narrow range of acceptable theoretical stances. This is particularly apparent in research on violence between intimate partners.”

Referring to Respect’s Position Statement, Dixon et al set out to, “compare each statement with the evidence base gathered from various branches of the social sciences, that has not been biased by a gender analysis in the design or interpretation of results. We also consider the implications of this comparison for psychological intervention with perpetrators of partner violence in the United Kingdom.” They note that Respect’s Position Statement “is clearly driven by a feminist perspective of IPV” and that the eight statements which it contains “are a reworking of the core ideologically based belief that men’s violence to women is a product of patriarchal values, found in the earlier writings of feminist psychologists and sociologists”. Dixon et al then critically examine the empirical basis of these eight statements in turn, calling on empirical evidence from over 100 research publications. I will not cover all eight statements, but some key observations of Dixon et al are drawn out below under these ‘statements’ as headings.

I cannot do full justice to the paper which I recommend you read for yourself.

2.1 Gender is the most significant factor for being a perpetrator or victim of domestic violence

Dixon et al point out that merely observing that more women than men are victims of PV (and assuming this is true) does not mean that gender is the most significant risk factor. It could, for example, be socioeconomic group, or alcohol consumption, that was the most significant risk factor (my words). But Respect’s claims do not even examine such possibilities. Dixon et al note,

Nowadays, most feminist writings do admit that a significant minority of victims are men. For example, the Director of Women’s Aid, UK, Harwin (2006) stated that 15– 19% of those who are victims of IPV are male. These figures are used to justify all the research and practical resources being devoted to female victims. Even accepting such figures at face value (see below), this amounts to justifying no provision for one in five to one in seven victims of this type of violence, solely on the basis of their sex. Similar conclusions based on ethnicity, where Home Office Research finds less than one in 10 victims of IPV to be non-white, are of course not endorsed. On the contrary, we find that Home Office reports on ethnicity and IPV emphasize that ‘the specific issues that affect Black and other minority ethnic group (BME) women should be integrated into the delivery of all support services’ (Parmar&Sampson,2005). Whilst laudable, this position is inconsistent with the UK Government’s position on this other minority category of victims, that is men.

This is the same argument made by MRAs. There is no answer to it. We have a society-wide refusal to acknowledge that men in the same situation as women are equally deserving of support. This is the very definition of sexism and yet it is bolstered, reinforced and raised to the status of policy by the very lobby which claims to be the bastion of equality.

Dixon et al also note that Respect’s claimed empirical support includes work by feminist researchers to investigate female victimization “using highly selected samples of couples where the male partner has received a conviction for physical aggression against the woman, restricting its use to male-against-female perpetration, or reporting only the data for male-against-female perpetration while collecting that for both sexes”.

2.2 Women’s violence is defensive, retaliatory, self-defence, or resistance

Dixon et al summarise the Respect position on this as follows,

“…..if there are a significant number of women perpetrators of IPV, this must have arisen from self-defence…..having argued that women’s violence is infrequent, the authors now seek to identify it as justifiable when it does occur. The implications of this are that when Respect and similar organizations recognize the needs of victims of both sexes, the needs of male victims will be different from those of female victims. This is because, according to this statement, male victimization is the result of men’s own aggression. However, published research contradicts this conclusion and shows that the best predictor of female victimization is perpetration towards a male partner”.

Dixon et al’s refutation of Respect’s claim cites a large number (~19) of independent publications whose conclusions are broadly similar to those of the PASK Project (see Part 1), namely that roughly half of PV is reciprocal, whilst the other half, where abuse is unidirectional, involves a female abuser twice as often as a male abuser. In contrast to this weight of peer reviewed and published evidence, “the citations offered in the appendix to support Respect’s statement consist of two unpublished reports, a study of homicide that involved same-sex rather than spousal homicide, and two sources that were not listed in the bibliography”.

2.3 Men and women have different environmental and social limits and opportunities

This statement moves away from partner violence to the societal backgrounds of men and women, making the large conceptual leap from men’s overall societal power to the assumption that this directly translates into the behaviour of men and women in relationships. Respect stated that ‘women who abuse do not have the same or equivalent means to justify or support that abuse’. Yet, all the evidence is that women’s abuse is viewed as less serious and less blameworthy (i.e., more justifiable) than men’s is. There is greater acceptance of women hitting their male partners than vice-versa, and greater general acceptance of women hitting men. Third parties are more likely to call the police when a man hits a woman. These findings are not what we would expect if physical aggression between partners is legitimized as part of patriarchal control, as stated by ideologically based researchers, and repeated in the Respect position statement.” Dixon et al support all these contentions with a string of references.

2.4 Assumptions about roles and expectations in intimate relationships are gendered and related to justifications for domestic violence

Here Dixon et al allude to the evidence that, irrespective of one’s ideological position, perpetrator programmes based on Duluth/feminist/patriarchal power & control theory just don’t work…

This again leads to a supposed link between gender roles (specifically masculinity) and ‘the choice to use violence in intimate relationships’ (Respect, 2008). As indicated above, men’s physical aggression is generally inhibited when a partner is concerned, compared to their level to a same-sex other. It makes no sense to explain such a finding by supposing that traditional masculinity somehow enables men to hit women. This is again a case of statements being driven by ideology rather than being evidence based. It leads to the claim that effective interventions for IPV need to change men’s underlying belief systems, which has been the basis of intervention programmes since the Duluth model of Pence and Paymar (1983).

A recent meta-analytic review of perpetrator programme efficacy found that Duluth-based treatment programmes have, at best, a minimal impact on post-treatment recidivism, in contrast to more psychologically driven programmes (Babcock, Green, & Robie, 2004). An evaluation by Shepard (1992) concluded that ‘[T]he extent to which men participated in the DAIP* did not determine whether or not they would recidivate’. Indeed, despite UK Probation’s long-running use of the Integrated Domestic Abuse Programme (IDAP), a Duluth-informed programme, there is no published evidence that it works. *Domestic Abuse Intervention Programme.

The UK government has committed itself to evidence-based practice, yet, data from the IDAP are routinely collected and could have been analysed prior to deciding upon the type of programme the UK should adopt to treat IPV.”

In general I have omitted the references from the quotes, to avoid over-burdening the text. But in this case I have include them. The references are,

  • Babcock, Green, & Robie (2004) Does batterer’s treatment Work?: A metaanalytic review of domestic violence treatment. Clinical Psychology Review, 2, 1023–1053
  • Shepard (1992) Predicting batterer recidivism five years after community intervention. Journal of Family Violence, 7, 167–178

2.5 Gender understanding is critical for work to prevent domestic violence

The position of Dixon et al is summed up in this hard hitting paragraph,

This statement is again a reworking of the theme that gender roles are the basis of partner violence. As indicated above, this is ideologically based rather than evidence based. It is clear that Respect, such as their predecessors in the feminist tradition, have one core belief that men’s violence to their partners stems from gender roles. Both Respect’s interpretation of the evidence and their advocacy of specific ‘educational’ programmes for male perpetrators stems from this belief. Unfortunately, the evidence is contrary to it, and therefore the underpinnings of practice based on it are unsound. Andrews and Bonta (1995) wrote that sociological theories within the criminal justice system had been used to orchestrate ‘….outrageous knowledge destruction exercises aimed at both the prediction and treatment literature’. Reviewing the Respect (2008) statements, it is apparent that this outrage continues, in the form of using non-peer-reviewed, low-quality, research and rejecting peer-reviewed, high-quality, research to support an ideological position.”

The reference is: Andrews and Bonta (1995) “The psychology of criminal conduct and effective treatment” in J.McGuire(Ed.), “What works: Reducing reoffending – guidelines from research and practice”, (pp. 35–62). Chichester: Wiley.

Dixon et al conclude thus,

In the assessment and treatment of IPV, the behaviour of both partners needs to be addressed. Assumptions cannot be made regarding the motivations for IPV or the impact it has, on the basis of the biological sex of those concerned. Research consistently finds that mutual violence is not only the most common form of IPV but also that it is likely to be the most severe. It is therefore imperative that this important risk factor is acknowledged and explored during assessment and treatment. The predominance of mutual IPV also highlights the need for IPV treatment for both men and women, and also couples therapy for those wishing to remain together. As there is little evidence for any substantial sex differences in risk factors for IPV, there is no reason why men and women need separate programmes. As there is currently no agreed-upon model for IPV programmes that has a proven efficacy, it would be appropriate for service providers instead to seek good practice from intervention programmes not specially designed for IPV.

It is clear that feminist-driven perspectives about the nature and aetiology of IPV are still very influential in informing the treatment of perpetrators at the present time in the United Kingdom. Indeed, Respect’s (2008b) position statement clearly outlines the ethos that informs their practice, which overall is unsupported by the evidence, and is ideologically based. The government-backed Respect (2008a), which accredits and deems programmes that meet their standards to be ‘high quality’ and ‘effective’ should therefore be abandoned.”

  1. Respect’s Response

Inevitably, Respect were obliged to respond to a published article calling for their disbanding. The Respect response appeared in the same journal, Legal and Criminological Psychology,  (2012), 17, 216–224, “Respect response to Dixon et al. (2012)” by Thangam Debbonaire and Jo Todd (CEO of Respect). In case of difficulty obtaining the full text, a copy can be found here.

The same journal allowed the original authors to publish a “Rejoinder to Respect” (Legal and Criminological Psychology (2012), 17, 225–232), by John Archer, Louise Dixon and Nicola Graham-Kevan (a copy can also be found here).

One of the responses made by Respect is that Dixon et al based their critique on Respect’s 2008 Position Statement rather than their Accreditation Standard. But I have pointed out in Part 1 that the Accreditation Standard itself clearly ensures that accredited service providers must adopt a practice based on men’s “expectations of power and control over women”. The fact that all UK accredited perpetrator programmes do indeed conform to broadly ‘Duluth’ approaches is all the proof one needs regarding Respect’s influence over such service provision.

The most obvious evidence of Respect’s true position is that their perpetrator accreditation standard relates solely to abuse of women by heterosexual men. Female abusers, or men abusing other men, are specifically excluded. Respect have repeatedly stated, going back at least 10 years, that they are working on programmes for female abusers. But nothing has been forthcoming, nor do any accredited service providers cater for women who abuse. One has to be suspicious that their difficulty with providing a basis for perpetrator services to women or gay men is that any such discussion would inevitably undermine their central position on the patriarchal control and power theory.

In their response, Respect reiterate their claim that the Men’s Advice Line provides evidence of their acknowledgement of the existence of male victims. This is true to a limited extent, but the very different treatment meted out to men and women calling help lines has been discussed in Part 1. The Men’s Advice Line is designed to give credence only to cases of strictly unidirectional violence by the man’s partner. In contrast, women’s help lines ask no questions about a woman’s own behaviour and are designed to assist all women irrespective of the woman’s own violence. Archer et al write, “Research shows that if women are asked about their use of domestic violence, even those in refuges or victims identified by the criminal justice service contain a substantial proportion who report that they also use violence”. In contrast to women’s violence being ignored, selective screening of male callers is used to discredit their claims by reclassifying them as perpetrators.

Archer et al’s rejoinder to Respect includes a damning observation of the evidence base which Respect cite, thus: “Apart from two citations to our own work, and two other journal articles, the academic basis of Respect’s reply comes from the journal, “Violence Against Women”, whose title and content reflect the patriarchal view of male violence. Other citations are to books, reports and online sources, which lack the rigour of the academic peer review process.”

Archer et al’s rejoinder to Respect under the heading “feminism” reads,

This section of the response consisted of a series of assertions unsupported by any evidence. Here we provide two examples to illustrate the level of their discourse. They asserted that our linking feminism to the patriarchal view and considering it to be ideologically based were ‘inaccurate and careless’ and ignored ‘vast bodies of academic work’. No rationale for these statements was provided and not a single example of the supposedly vast body of research was cited. The important point we seek to make is that over the years, many feminist researchers and activists have understood and promoted partner violence as one example of inequality between men and women. Consequently, the explanations offered by such groups, as in the Respect statement, have primarily involved patriarchy. However, as robust research evidence does not support this premise, alternative theories and hypotheses for the aetiology of IPV should be considered. A second assertion made in the response was to attribute to us the view that ‘to take a gendered perspective is to take the side of women’. If they meant by this that the gendered view involves a bias towards selectively prioritizing female over male victims, this is manifestly what their statement entails. Their screening of men but not women provides an overt example of this bias.”

Part of Respect’s attempt to defend themselves against the accusation of being feminist ideologues references “critical men’s studies”: “Some of the most important work on gender in the last decade for Respect has focused on masculinity and men. Critical men’s studies have taken men’s comfort with and use of violence, and the choice to disavow it, as a core theme”. The phrase “critical theory” is a red flag. The term “critical theory” describes the neo-Marxist philosophy of the Frankfurt School. In this school of thought a theory is labelled “critical” insofar as it seeks “to liberate human beings from the circumstances that enslave them”. Hence “critical” denotes a specific ideological stance. It’s use in a defence against an accusation of taking an ideological stance is therefore self-defeating. Such purely logical refutations of feminist positions are often possible, because feminists themselves (and all postmodernists) place no value on logical consistency.

  1. Other UK Research

(1) “Testing Predictions from the Male Control Theory of Men’s Partner Violence” by Elizabeth Bates, Nicola Graham‐Kevan and John Archer in the journal of Aggressive Behaviour, Volume 40, pages 42–55 (2014). Abstract,

The aim of this study was to test predictions from the male control theory of intimate partner violence (IPV) and Johnson’s typology. A student sample (N ¼ 1,104) reported on their use of physical aggression and controlling behavior, to partners and to same‐sex non‐intimates. Contrary to the male control theory, women were found to be more physically aggressive to their partners than men were, and the reverse pattern was found for aggression to same‐sex non‐intimates. Furthermore, there were no substantial sex differences in controlling behavior, which significantly predicted physical aggression in both sexes. IPV was found to be associated with physical aggression to same‐sex nonintimates, thereby demonstrating a link with aggression outside the family. Using Johnson’s typology, women were more likely than men to be classed as “intimate terrorists,” which was counter to earlier findings. Overall, these results do not support the male control theory of IPV. Instead, they fit the view that IPV does not have a special etiology, and is better studied within the context of other forms of aggression.”

(2) “Is the Presence of Control Related to Help-Seeking Behavior? A Test of Johnson’s Assumptions Regarding Sex Differences and the Role of Control in Intimate Partner Violence” by Elizabeth Bates and Nicola Graham-Kevan, in Partner Abuse, Volume 7, Number 1, 2016. Abstract,

The aim of this study was to test 2 of Johnson’s (1995) assumptions regarding intimate partner violence (IPV), namely, that there are sex differences in the type of physical aggression men and women use and that controlling aggression is more problematic and requires more outside intervention than non-controlling aggression. These assumptions were tested using survey data from the 13th cycle of the General Social Survey in Canada, which was a telephone survey that asked crime victimization questions in several areas. There were no sex differences in the use of controlling behavior or physical aggression. Controlling aggression did not have an effect on problem presentation when compared with relationships low in controlling behaviors. There was mixed support for Johnson’s work and the utility of his typology is questioned.”

(3) “Current Controversies within Intimate Partner Violence: Overlooking Bidirectional Violence”, Elizabeth Bates, in Journal of Family Violence, 5th September 2016. Abstract,

There is a wealth of research that details the bidirectional nature of the majority of intimate partner violence. However, there is a tendency for interventions to treat perpetrators and victims unilaterally from a gendered standpoint. The current paper discusses the evidence to date that illustrates the extent of the problem, including frequency within several samples and the severity of outcomes. It further argues that the only way to develop effective interventions is to acknowledge that many perpetrators may also be victims, and the need to understand the context in which the violence occurs.”

(4) “Men’s Experiences of the UK Criminal Justice System Following Female Perpetrated Intimate Partner Violence” by Jessica McCarrick, Catriona Davis-McCabe and Sarah Hirst-Winthrop in Journal of Family Violence, February 2016, Volume 31, Issue 2, pp 203–213.

Quote: “In sum, the current research supports the statement that IPV is indeed a human issue and not a gender issue (McNeely, Cook & Torres, 2001) and has the potential to traumatize the victims involved, regardless of gender. In order to begin to change the treatment of male victims the current stereotypes ingrained within society need to be challenged by conducting further research and raising awareness of this issue.”

(5) “The Minority Man” by Jessica McCarrick in The Psychologist, vol 28 no 5 may 2015.

Quote: “Forty years of feminist campaigning and the influence of gender stereotypes have had a major impact on how society views IPV . The argument in this article is that both genders can be affected by partner violence, but currently there exist a number of biases in addressing this. Campaigners and researchers made waves in the 1970s, which had a positive impact and improved service provision for women. I argue that it is time to do the same for men. More media coverage addressing the IPV experiences of both men and women is needed in order to educate people about this issue. Promoting awareness of the plight of male survivors may encourage men to report abuse and feel assured that they will be taken seriously.”

  1. Other Countries’ Research and a Mini-Reading List

This post is already too long and I cannot do justice to the extensive literature without encyclopedic length. The message is just that – there is a lot of it. I will merely give links to some works which are informative, many of which are now mini-classics. They are in ascending chronological order.

Women or Men – Who Are The Victims? From the Personal to the Political”, by Erin Pizzey (2000). And, obviously, the classic books: “Prone to Violence” (Erin Pizzey & Jeff Shapiro, 1982) and “This Way to the Revolution: A Memoir” (Erin Pizzey, 2011).

Skimmington Revisited” by M.J.George (2002). If you don’t know what a Skimmington Ride is, you’d better read this.

Disabusing the Definition of Domestic Violence: How Women Batter Men and the Role of the Feminist State” by Linda Kelly, Professor of Law, Indiana University School of Law (2003). This is a remarkably authoritative work, and apparently little known.

The gender paradigm in domestic violence research and theory: Part 1- The conflict of theory and data”, by Dutton and Nichols (2005). Feminist theory contradicted by these findings.

Processes Explaining the Concealment and Distortion of Evidence on Gender Symmetry in Partner Violence: A commentary on Graham-Kevan’s ‘Domestic Violence: Research and Implications for Batterer Programmes in Europe’” by Murray Straus (2007). Straus thoroughly backs-up Nicola Graham-Kevan’s paper which asserted that the feminist patriarchal theory of PV explains only a small proportion of cases. Murray Straus was one of the pioneers of academic domestic violence studies, and was one of the first to recognise that PV is gender symmetric. Calling himself a feminist, he was excommunicated from the sisterhood for that heresy. This is his story in brief. He died in 2016.

The political, societal and personal interface of abuse”, Senator Anne Cools. Anne Cools (2008). A remarkably hard-hitting exposé of the fraudulence and destructiveness of the feminist stranglehold on the perception of domestic violence. Anne Cools was Canada’s first black senator, and the first black woman senator in North America. She is also the longest serving senator in Canada (over 33 years as I write). Anne Cools is the Canadian version of Erin Pizzey. Listen to the two of them talk together at ICMI-14. Watch Anne Cools’ whole presentation to the Toronto Conference on Domestic Violence.

Why the Overwhelming Evidence on Partner Physical Violence by Women Has Not Been Perceived and Is Often Denied”, Murray Straus (2009). Explains the processes behind the misperception, concealment and denial of the gender symmetry of domestic violence.

A radical reVision of domestic abuse: making the case for a non-gendered, empathic approach”, Sue Parker-Hall (2010). She stresses empathic anger management in contrast to Duluth re-education.

Men’s experiences of violence and abuse from a female intimate partner:  Power, masculinity and institutional systems”, doctoral thesis by Dr Simon Josolyne (2011). This one is a novelty: the author is a post-modernist. Quote, “The research was informed by a critical realist epistemology and adopted a discourse analytic approach, drawing on the work of Michel Foucault”. Even post-modernists can come to the correct conclusion, it seems.

Missed calls for help: the scandal of domestic violence” by Yvette Cooper, then Shadow Home Secretary (2013). This is a reminder, in contrast to the rest of this mini-bibliography, of the universal perspective of our political class.

Paul Nelson becomes a deadbeat Dad” – originally published on InsideMan in November 2014, this is not an academic work but one man’s story of how the DV allegation works in practice. Do contrast with Yvette Cooper’s perspective.

Dr. Tonia Nicholls – The uncomfortable facts on IPV (2016): This video presents the key facts about PV if you prefer listening to reading. It reinforces messages from all the other credible academic and survey sources – that roughly half of PV is bidirectional, and that women are more often the abuser in unidirectional cases. It also discusses the simplest means to discredit the patriarchal power & control theory, namely the high rate of PV in same sex couples.

  1. Project Mirabal

Project Mirabal was a research project led by Durham University’s Centre for Research into Violence and Abuse. It lasted from 2009 to 2015. Professors Liz Kelly (London Metropolitan University), Nicole Westmarland (Durham University), and Charlotte Watts (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine) were funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Northern Rock Foundation to investigate the extent to which perpetrator programmes reduce violence and increase safety for women and children.

Liz Kelly is the professor and director of the Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit (London Metropolitan University), the former head of the Women’s National Commission, and co-chair of the End Violence Against Women Coalition. She was awarded the CBE in 2000 for “services to combating violence against women and children”.

Nicole Westmarland is an academic and activist in the area of violence against women (Wikipedia’s description at 2/8/17). She is currently a Professor at the University of Durham, where she researches rape, domestic violence and prostitution. Originally a taxi driver, Westmarland’s first publication focused upon security issues for female taxi drivers. Her publications include the book Violence against Women: Criminological perspectives on men’s violences. She writes in the Foreword, “…all these forms of gender discriminations continue today and serve to maintain a society in which male violence against women is implicitly condoned and upheld and sometimes overtly supported and promoted”.

The Project Mirabal web site lists 11 publications, all of which include Liz Kelly and Nicole Westmarland as authors or coauthors.

There was a presentation of the findings of Project Mirabal held at London Metropolitan University in January 2015. Yvonne Roberts of The Observer made the introductory talk. Her first words were, “It’s absolutely fabulous to see feminism brought here”. (I can’t believe it wasn’t already there).

You get the picture.

The eleven publications resulting from Project Mirabal can be found listed here. I concentrate on Kelly and Westmarland (2015) Domestic Violence Perpetrator Programmes: Steps Towards Change. Project Mirabal Final Report..

I had expected to see some numerical results encapsulating the conclusions of the project in respect of the effectiveness of Respect accredited perpetrator programmes. But no. The report contained no ‘Conclusions’ section. It ended in a Section titled ‘Reflections’ whose opening words were, “As feminists…”. The report presented ‘before’ and ‘after’ assessments of men’s behaviour, as judged by their female partners in responding to surveys carried out by the project authors.

In particular I could find no information on the percentage of men who completed the whole perpetrator course. This is odd. Such data would have been very easy to obtain simply by asking the service providers, who could hardly not know. The success of the course, as measured by the change of behaviour of those men who complete the course, becomes rather academic if only a small proportion of men actually do complete the course. This is a highly pertinent matter in view of the coercion exercised on men to attend perpetrator courses – added to the fact that the experience of being ‘Duluthed’ will not be a pleasant one. In this respect, note that the report states,

  • The largest referrers into DVPPs are now Children’s Services, followed by CAFCASS.
  • CAFCASS require men to complete a DVPP programme before considering contact

The report also includes some quotes from attendees which are revealing,

  • Well, if I get me access back, if it helps me get my access back, I will finish the programme. But if they take me access off me, I’ll just walk (Todd).
  • It’s the only motivator for me. I’ve got to, because I’ve been told to. I’ve been told I’ve got to do the programme. Because if I don’t, I don’t see my daughter. To me, that’s blackmail (Stewart).

The falsity of the Duluth approach in piling all the blame for partner disputes on the man is revealed by this quote,

  • … since I started the programme there was one occasion where I, I wasn’t – I didn’t mean to be violent – well, obviously that’s a stupid thing to say. There was a situation where I was wanting to take a Time Out.  She and I had lots of problems trying to get Time Outs organised – I didn’t explain it to her clearly enough, or – I don’t know, she didn’t like – she didn’t let me take them.  And, there was one time where I said ‘I need to take a Time Out’ and she stood in front of me, in front of the door, telling me off or whatever she was doing, I can’t specifically remember, trying to be heard.  So I thought she was fully one side of the door and she wasn’t, and I shut the door on her foot… so that’s violent.

Chillingly, the report authors fail to appreciate that accounts like this reveal, at best, a problem with both partners – and, at worst, that the female partner may actually be the source of the conflicts. Instead, they included the above quote as an example (in their minds) of a man making progress in understanding his violence, referring to his, “greater ability to talk about violence and understand its dimensions”. Women carry no responsibility in the feminist worldview, nor can their behaviour ever be reprehensible or even contributory.

The nearest to an overall numerical measure of the effectiveness of the accredited perpetrator programmes I found was in these Highlights. They state,

Most men who complete a Respect accredited domestic violence perpetrator programme (DVPP) stop using violence and reduce most other forms of abuse against their partner. At the start, almost all the women said that their partners had used some form of physical or sexual violence in the past three months. Twelve months later, after their partner or ex-partner had completed the programme, most said that the physical and sexual violence had stopped.”

That sounds pretty good, but digging into the report exposes some major problems. The most serious is this,

Recruitment of men was more successful than women with 64 men and 48 women taking part in the first interview. There was a high degree of sample attrition with 36 men (56%) men and 26 women (54%) completing the second interview.”

Despite the selection of the initial contributors, and the implicit coercion on men to cooperate with the programme in order to gain contact with their children, little more than half the men completed the programme.

Worse – bearing in mind that the project uses the reports of the women regarding their male partners’ behaviour as the measure of success, the whole of this six year project rests on the testimony of just 26 women. This problem of alarmingly small statistics is recognised in the report,

Our sample size.…..meant that we have been limited to presenting descriptive statistics.”

But worse still we read,

The sample for the qualitative interviews included both men and women in contact with DVPPs, with Time 1 interviews taking place within six weeks of a man’s start and Time 2 within six weeks of his end date regardless of whether he had completed the programme.” (my emphasis)

So there is no guarantee that the partners of the 26 women in the final interview had actually completed the programme. In what way is this a test of programme efficacy? And how can the results be used to support the Headline conclusion, quoted above, “Most men who complete a Respect accredited domestic violence perpetrator programme stop using violence..…”.

But finally, is the phrase “most men” in that conclusion as impressive as it sounds? Crucially we read,

“…women in the intervention group were far more likely to still be with the man who had abused them: nearly half were together before the man started on a programme and over a third were still together 15 months on.”

In other words, more than half the couples were not together throughout the programme, and some split during the programme. We also read,

Women who were no longer in relationship with the man, especially those where the relationship ended some time ago and his attendance was linked to an application for child contact, were not in a position to assess change on some dimensions.  Other women who had separated chose not to take part since they were seeking to move on.”

I presume (though the report is not clear) that the final set of just 26 women, upon whom the results of the report rest, were those who remained together with their partners. Selection bias, anyone? I humbly suggest that men’s improved behaviour might be causally connected with remaining in a relationship irrespective of attendance on a PV perpetrator course. Consequently, the claim that the DVPP has affected behaviour is unproved – even if the problem of the small statistics and the lack of clarity on programme completion did not apply.

There were other disconcerting remarks within the report, such as,

Project Mirabal seeks to move on from the increasingly arid academic debate between the ‘no effect’ findings of the experimental studies and increased safety for women from the system based studies (Gondolf, 2007).  By re-casting the research questions and taking new directions in analysis we offer a ‘third generation’ beginning from a re-definition of success.”

The authors choose not to give references for the alluded to “experimental studies which show no effect”, though I will make some remarks on these below. One is rather alarmed by talk of “redefining success”. Hmm, differently failed?

Finally, I note that the authors cannot resist a dig at the exchanges between Dixon, Archer & Graham-Kevan and Respect, reviewed above. They write,

One of the current contentions in the UK is whether a focus on gender in perpetrator work is ‘ideological’ and ‘inflexible’ (see Archer et al., 2012; Debbonaire and Todd, 2012).  These arguments tend to draw on simplistic notions of gender – that not all perpetrators are male and not all victims female.  Contemporary gender theory is far more sophisticated, exploring how we embody and ‘do’ gender in our everyday activities and social relations.  This type of gender theory sits underneath Evan Stark’s (2007) concept of coercive control, and Eva Lundgren (2004) argues that men are creating a particular masculinity through their use of violence whilst attempting to enforce their view of what a woman should be.”

One grows weary. It is tiring reading feminist writing because it does not rest on rational connections but upon the use of words to create an impression. The arguments of Archer et al are not based on “notions of gender”, they are based on empirical evidence. That is rather the point. And as for “contemporary gender theory being more sophisticated”, no, it isn’t. Feminist gender theory is no more sophisticated than “men bad, women good” and it hasn’t moved on since Christabel Pankhurst referred to men being “nothing more than the carriers of venereal disease”.

  1. The Actual Success Rate of Duluth-Style DVPPs

I make no pretense to give a complete account of the investigations which have been carried out into the effectiveness of feminist ‘patriarchal power and control’ DVPPs (domestic violence perpetrator programmes). However here I give some indication of their efficacy as derived from studies not controlled by feminists, including those “experimental studies which show no effect” alluded to by the Mirabal project.

Consider firstly Dutton and Corvo in Aggression and Violent Behavior 11 (2006) 457–483. Here are some of their observations (see the paper for references),

  • The Duluth model’s negligible success in reducing or eliminating violence among perpetrators in tandem with the iron-grip of prohibition of other approaches is perhaps its most damaging feature.
  • In a treatment outcome study done on the Duluth model, Shepard (1987, 1992) found a 40% recidivism rate in a six month follow-up of Duluth clients, higher than most control recidivism levels.
  • Babcock et al. (2004) put recidivism rates at 35% for a 6-12 month follow-up according to wives, and 21% for the same time period using criminal justice data (arrests).
  • Feder and Forde (1999) randomly assigned perpetrators on probation to either a feminist-psychoeducational program or no treatment in Broward County, Florida. In general, there were no statistically significant differences between the two groups on recidivism as measured by police records (d = 0.04) or by victim report (d = -0.02)……Moreover, this study suffered from a particularly high attrition rate of men from treatment (60%) and low response rate from victims at follow-up (22%) (Feder & Forde, 1999).
  • Davis et al. (1998) compared a long (26-week) psychoeducational group to a brief (8-week), psychoeducational group, and to a community service control in Brooklyn, New York…..When based on victim reports of recent offenses, neither the long nor the brief intervention had a statistically significant effect on recidivist assault when compared to no treatment.
  • Ford and Regoli (1993)……Again, there were no significant differences or effect sizes comparing recidivism rates based on victim report between men sentenced to treatment vs. those who were not.
  • Babcock et al. (2004) conducted a meta-analytic study of 22 studies of treatment outcome. The d’ for Duluth treatment was 0.19. [The statistic d’ is a standard effect size measure, a value of 0.19 indicating only a small to very small effect. CBT = Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, one of the alternatives to Duluth-style re-education methodologies].
  • There is nothing in the evaluation research on domestic violence treatment outcomes that justifies mandatory Duluth-type programming. On the contrary, there is a distinct absence of evidence for their efficacy.
  • (In Duluth-style programmes) no other circumstances, motivation, or interpretations are permitted (other than that of feminist patriarchal power and control). With this mindset, high levels of program attrition are inevitable. No therapeutic bond can form and clients who comply will feel judged and disbelieved. Empathy is impossible, change is unlikely, group process is subverted, and clients’ commitments to change are rarely internalized. It is a “take it or leave it” posture and many clients do just that: leave.
  • Approximately 40—60% of men attending the first session of treatment actually fail to complete Duluth model-type treatment in spite of participation often being a condition of probation and failure to comply risks incarceration (Buttell and Carney, 2002).
  • Dutton (2003) argued that Duluth models had two major flaws that were contraindicative of effective treatment; they attempted to shame clients and, in taking a strong adversarial stance to clients (based on a view of male sex role conditioning as a major issue in domestic violence), failed to establish a therapeutic bond with their clientele.
  • The single most predictive factor for successful therapeutic outcome (even those labelled “interventions”) is the therapeutic bond. However, it becomes extremely difficult to form a positive relationship when the therapist is required to assume that strategic intentional domination is the sole motive for all clients and to presumptively disbelieve any claims of mutuality raised by clients.

More recently a 2014 Ministry of Justice report, “Transforming Rehabilitation: a summary of evidence on reducing reoffending”, contains this statement,

The most recent systematic review of US evidence indicates that the Duluth Model appears to have no effect on recidivism. However, this review also identified substantial reductions in domestic violence reoffending by offenders who had attended other interventions.”

The US reference in question is Miller, Drake & Nafziger (2013) “What works to reduce recidivism by domestic violence offenders? Olympia, Washington State Institute for Public Policy”.

Two pieces of evidence from the UK regarding the crucial issue of completion rates of accredited DVPPs are as follows,

  • The programme DVIP in 2006/7 had 230 referrals but only 33 men completed the course, i.e., a completion rate of a woeful 14% (see here). Moreover, DVIP agreed before a parliamentary select committee that the effectiveness rate was about 70% assuming completion. Hence DVIP can be concluded to have been effective in 23 cases out of 230, i.e., 10%.
  • In a BBC Radio Northampton interview in November 2006, Mr Neil Blacklock, acting CEO of DVIP at that time,said that “sometimes as many as 25% of the men “made it through” DVIP’s programme.
  1. Other Perpetrator Services and Female Perpetrators

Whilst I have focussed largely on Respect as the accreditor of DVPPs, and as a surrogate for the entire range of Duluth-based practices and policies, this was largely a matter of convenience. This post is already overlong without going into other policy drivers such as CAADA, SafeLives, SafeFamilies and the Drive Project. The underlying ideology is much the same. There is more than an element of pouring old wine (or, perhaps, vinegar) into new skins about these more recent organisations. One suspects the motivation might be that the old skins were beginning to leak.

Reviewing the methodologies and success rate of perpetrator services which do not use Duluth-based methodologies is beyond the scope of this post. However, the motivation for alternatives is clear from the evidence presented herein. There is a need for programmes which actually work for male offenders. And there is a need for services which are fairer in acknowledging the possibility that mutual destructive behaviours are generally significant in a couple’s problems.

A better completion rate than the woeful rate of accredited programmes is certainly achievable. Temper DV, for example, use an “emotional understanding and regulation” approach. In 2015 they had 55 referrals, of which 35 were from social services. Of these social service referrals, 30 people completed out of the 35 starters, i.e., 86% (with only one known recidivist, though feedback information may not be 100%).

But an aspect which tends to get forgotten is the position of female abusers. Temper DV report that 10% – 15% of their clients used to be female – now it is a mere 2%. Women who abuse – and may be actively seeking help with their violence – are sent on the Freedom Programme for victims (see Part 1). What a very insidious form of psychological abuse it must be to be sent on a course which teaches you that your partner is the villain, and you his innocent victim, when you know, if only subconsciously, that the opposite is the case – reinforcing your own denial.

9. Conclusion

The purpose of this article has been to emphasise the volume of research evidence against the feminist patriarchal power & control view of domestic violence and to highlight the inadequacies of the associated ‘Duluth’ based perpetrator programmes. The feminist perspective controls the opinion of the public at large, the criminal and family justice system, and the political class. The latter therefore remain ill-informed about the empirical truth of DV.

You do not need to be a psychologist to see that the accredited DVPPs, based more on ideological re-education than effective methodologies, are likely to be more damaging than helpful to men, to women, and, especially, to children. The distressing thing is that the truth about PV and DVPPs is well known in academic circles, and in many therapeutic circles, but the present unhelpful practices are kept in place by entrenched centres of influence and a political environment which is in thrall to identity political prejudice.