Updated: Feb 5
THE DULUTH MODEL, WHY IT’S TIME TO REMOVE IT FROM DOMESTIC ABUSE TRAINING.
How can it be acceptable, in a free and democratic society in the twenty first century, to continue to ignore domestic abuse victims and their children, simply because, they don’t fit the narrative of a sixty-year-old, twentieth century, radical feminist ideology? An ideology that displays an obvious willingness, to overlook female, (straight, gay, bisexual or trans) perpetrators and an ideology that is now lodged deep within the domestic abuse system.
As a result, many male victims and their children, are being let down by a system based on these outdated social stereotypes. These victims are left feeling criminalised, worthless, belittled, powerless and irrelevant.
We have to change this. The Equality Act 2010 is there for all of us. Fairness and equality matter, because when we have a fairer and more equal society, we all thrive.
At DABS, we believe that all sufferers and survivors deserve to be recognised and supported and all perpetrators identified, regardless of gender. We hope that we can achieve this, by using gender neutral and inclusive language, that fosters real equality. In turn, we hope that over time, this change in language, will help to break down the social stigma and stereotypes that surround domestic abuse and result in straight, gay, bisexual and transgender male victims, being discriminated against, by those that should be there to help them.
Much of the domestic abuse training delivered in the U.K. today, is still heavily influenced by the Duluth Model. This is rule 101 for many organisations supporting female victims.
The Duluth Model, or Domestic Abuse Intervention Project, is a program developed to reduce domestic violence against women. It’s named after Duluth, Minnesota, the city where it was developed. The program was largely founded by feminist Ellen Pence.
As of 2006, the Duluth Model is the most common perpetrator (batterer) intervention program used in the United States and is used widely in the U.K.
This experimental program, conducted in Duluth in 1981, coordinated the actions of a variety of agencies dealing with domestic conflict. The Duluth model curriculum was developed by a "small group of activists in the battered women’s movement" with five battered women and four men as subjects.
The feminist theory underlying the Duluth Model is that men use violence within relationships to exercise power and control. This is illustrated by the "Power and Control Wheel," a graphic typically used in domestic abuse training being delivered to businesses, the military, police forces and government agencies.
According to the Duluth Model, "women and children are vulnerable to violence because of their unequal social, economic, and political status in society." Treatment of abusive men is focused on re-education, as "we do not see men’s violence against women as stemming from individual pathology, but rather from a socially reinforced sense of entitlement."
The program's philosophy is intended to help perpetrators (batterers) work to change their attitudes and personal behaviour, so they would learn to be nonviolent in any relationship.
A 2011 review of the effectiveness of batterers intervention programs (BIP) (primarily Duluth Model) found that "there is no solid empirical evidence for either the effectiveness or relative superiority of any of the current group interventions," and that "the more rigorous the methodology of evaluation studies, the less encouraging their findings." That is, as BIPs in general, and Duluth Model programs in particular, are subject to increasingly rigorous review, their success rate approaches zero.
However, there have been studies that also showed some success in preventing reoffending.
Criticism of the Duluth Model has centered on the program's insistence that men are perpetrators who are violent because they have been socialised in a patriarchy that condones male violence, and that women are victims who are violent only in self-defence.
Donald Dutton, a psychology professor at the University of British Columbia who has studied abusive personalities, states: "The Duluth Model was developed by people who didn't understand anything about therapy," and also points out that "lesbian battering is more frequent than heterosexual battering."
Philip W. Cook points out that in the case of homosexual domestic violence, the patriarchy is absent: there is no male dominance of women in same-sex relationships, and in fact, female on female abuse is reported more than twice as frequently as male on male abuse. Furthermore, some critics point out that the model ignores the reality that women can be the perpetrators of domestic violence in heterosexual relationships, as well.
Its proponents counter that the Duluth Model is effective and makes best use of scarce resources.
However, Ellen Pence herself has written,
"By determining that the need or desire for power was the motivating force behind battering, we created a conceptual framework that, in fact, did not fit the lived experience of many of the men and women we were working with. The DAIP (Domestic Abuse Intervention Project) staff remained undaunted by the difference in our theory and the actual experiences of those we were working with.
It was the cases themselves that created the chink in each of our theoretical suits of armour. Speaking for myself, I found that many of the men I interviewed did not seem to articulate a desire for power over their partner. Although I relentlessly took every opportunity to point out to men in the groups, that they were so motivated and merely in denial, the fact that few men ever articulated such a desire went unnoticed by me and many of my co-workers. Eventually, we realized that we were finding what we had already predetermined to find."
In 2018, The Crime Survey for England and Wales, found that female victims of partner abuse were more likely than male victims to report experiencing non-physical abuse (emotional, financial) (72.6% for women and 57.0% for men)
But male victims of partner abuse reported a higher level of force (45.7%) than female victims (28.0%).
There was no significant difference between female and male partner abuse victims in the prevalence of experiences of threats, indecent exposure or unwanted sexual touching, or stalking. We need to end domestic abuse training that perpetuates the myth that women and girls are the sole victims and men the sole perpetrators, because the evidence is clear, this is not the case!
It’s time to drop the Duluth Model and gendered approach to domestic abuse training. I would ask those of you, passionate about supporting all victims of domestic abuse, regardless of their gender, sexuality, ethnicity, religion, disability or social and workplace position – and their children, to share our DABS Power and Control Wheel, to promote gender equality in domestic abuse services.
To download a PNG or PDF file of the wheel, please go to our resources page here: RESOURCES | DABS (d-a-b-s.co.uk)