My intention was to write a piece on UK-specific research into partner abuse, focussing on perpetrator programmes. But in view of the volume of material I wish to cover, and to avoid another over-long article, I have organised the piece into two parts to be published separately. This first part is mostly an introduction to the Duluth-based programmes which are ubiquitous in the UK. The second part, to follow, will acquaint the reader with some UK academic research which discredits the Duluth (or feminist) approach.
The sub-text, as always, is the role that allegations of domestic violence (DV) play in the family courts and in parents’, especially fathers’, sundering from their children. The matter is topical in view of Women’s Aid’s publication on 26/7/17 of their latest research entitled “Allegations of domestic abuse in child contact cases“. The report is a continuation of the agenda apparent in Women’s Aid’s 19 Child Homicides report which I deconstructed here. For the first time, CAFCASS (the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) has collaborated with Women’s Aid in the production of this “research”. I agree with ExInjuria that this is a major error of judgment on behalf of CAFCASS. It smacks of carelessness or arrogance that a body supposedly impartial voluntarily shackles itself to self-declared prejudice.
The main finding of Women’s Aid’s latest report was that domestic abuse was alleged in almost two-thirds (62%) of child contact cases from CAFCASS’s records, with fathers more likely to be the subject of allegations than mothers. I am bound to find this credible. It is consistent with the upper bound of the estimates I made of the percentage of private law cases involving DV injunctions in Legal Aid and Domestic Violence in the Family Courts. But injunctions are granted based on allegations, not convictions, nor even investigations. The same post also showed that the number of DV injunctions mysteriously increased at just the time legal aid became dependent upon such allegations. Odd that. Yet no official bodies see fit to question it.
Odder still is the massive percentage of CAFCASS cases now claimed to involve DV (62%!) It is testament to the success of the programme to denigrate men over the last 45 years that such a statistic can be cited without cries of “ridiculous!”.
Despite the large number of posts on this blog, and despite partner abuse being such an important topic for the MRM, and despite this blog being a notoriously data-driven thing – nevertheless I have not posted on the basic statistics of partner abuse, or domestic violence more generally. Oh, I have published articles in which partner violence is the principal subject matter, including,
- Invisible Dead Men
- Legal Aid and Domestic Violence in the Family Courts
- 332 Child Homicides
- Istanbul Convention
- UK Domestic Violence Charities’ Finances
- Con, not Consultation
But I have never dwelt upon the bald statistics. The reason is historical. Immediately prior to starting this blog in September 2014, I had compiled rather a Magnum Opus on Partner Violence (PV) Against Men in England & Wales. Though it’s now three years old, I see no reason to revisit it – I doubt the more recent data looks very different. For the benefit of those new to the subject I’ll start with a short section on the big picture of the statistics.
- Domestic Violence Statistics
2.1 The UK
The Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) is the most authoritative account of the prevalence of domestic abuse (a subset of which is partner abuse, a subset of which is partner violence). Forgive me if I conflate this with “the UK”. Some data on Scotland and N.Ireland can be found in the above report.
Popular accounts are prone to headline scary figures, such as 1-in-4 women will experience domestic abuse in their lifetimes. (Such sources often omit the corresponding statistic for men, which is 1-in-7). But to interpret this you need to know just what is being counted as “domestic abuse”. The definition of partner abuse is included in my report. It includes such things as not providing a partner with a fair share of household money, or preventing him/her from seeing friends and family, or repeatedly belittling him/her. Physical violence includes minor pushing or holding down.
Another thing you will not appreciate from popular accounts is that partner abuse, and domestic abuse more generally, have been decreasing over the last 11 years, see Figure 1 based on data from CSEW “Focus on: Violent Crime and Sexual Offences, year ending March 2016 – Bulletin Tables“. For men and women both the prevalence of PV and DV has reduced by between 30% and 40%.
Figure 1 (from CSEW 2016 Bulletin tables, Figures 4.7 and 4.8) click to enlarge
One of the key aspects of the CSEW which tends not to get mentioned is that the PV and DV data we hear so much about relate overwhelmingly to people who are not married, see Figure 2. This Figure shows the domestic abuse data for each sex expressed as a percentage of the total number of respondents of either sex who reported domestic abuse or sexual abuse or stalking. The data relates to DV within the preceding one year period (not lifetime).
Even more striking is that the reports of domestic abuse are strongly dominated by people separated or divorced. Since the domestic abuse related to the immediately preceding year, it is unlikely that this can be explained by the abuse being the cause of the separation/divorce. I have previously observed that partner abuse does not seem to be one of the more common causes of a couple splitting up. Public polls most often do not mention partner abuse in their top ten or top twenty reasons for divorce. Is the reverse the case: is separation the cause of the apparent abuse? Or is the abuse of separated/divorced people being predominantly carried out by a new partner, not the ex-partner? If so, why do separated/divorced people seem to attract abusers – even more than do single people? I don’t know.
Figure 2 (from CSEW March 2016 Bulletin Tables, Figure 4.10) click to enlarge
Of calls to the police complaining of domestic violence, 22% are from men, and this percentage is slowly increasing. This figure proves the survey data are not mere make believe. That it is smaller than the surveys would suggest (i.e., more like 33%) is easily explained by men’s greater reluctance to report or seek help.
Of convictions for DV, only 7% are women, which contrasts with the report data. This may readily be explained by the endemically more lenient treatment meted out to women in the criminal justice system, and the greater reluctance by the police to arrest a woman for PV.
However, the number of women convicted for DV in 2015/16 was 5641, some 7 times more than in 2004/5.
My exceedingly brief summary of DV statistics would not be complete without a mention of Fiebert’s compedium and the PASK project.
In 2012 Martin Fiebert of the Department of Psychology, California State University, compiled a huge database of 286 scholarly investigations into partner violence. The database comprised in excess of 371,600 individual case studies worldwide. It led Fiebert to conclude that, “women are as physically aggressive as, or more aggressive than, men in their relationships with their spouses or male partners“. The research reports reviewed by Fiebert relate primarily to the USA, but it also includes 6 papers referring to the UK, a further 5 to Australia, 6 to New Zealand, 14 to Canada, and a smattering of other countries (Finland, India, Russia, Ukraine…).
May 2013 saw the publication in the journal Partner Abuse of the most comprehensive review of domestic violence research literature ever conducted. This unparalleled three-year research project was conducted by 42 scholars at 20 universities and research centres: The Partner Abuse State of Knowledge Project, or PASK. John Hamel, PASK Director, said, “The purpose of this project is to bring together, in a rigorously evidence-based, transparent and methodical manner, existing knowledge about partner abuse, with reliable, up-to-date research that can easily be accessed by anyone. PASK is grounded in the premises that everyone is entitled to their opinion, but not to their own facts; that these facts should be available to everyone, and that domestic violence intervention and policy ought to be based upon these facts rather than ideology and special interests.”
The headline finding of the review is that “except for sexual coercion, men and women perpetrate physical and non-physical forms of abuse at comparable rates, most domestic violence is mutual, women are as controlling as men, domestic violence by men and women is correlated with essentially the same risk factors, and male and female perpetrators are motivated for similar reasons.”
Key numerical results from PASK include,
- Among large population samples, 57.9% of inter-partner violence (IPV) reported was bi-directional, 42% unidirectional; 13.8% of the unidirectional violence was male to female (MFPV), 28.3% was female to male (FMPV)
- Among school and college samples, percentage of bidirectional violence was 51.9%; 16.2% was MFPV and 31.9% was FMPV
- Male and female IPV perpetrated from similar motives – primarily to get back at a partner for emotionally hurting them, because of stress or jealousy, to express anger and other feelings that they could not put into words or communicate, and to get their partner’s attention.
- Eight studies directly compared men and women in the power/control motive and subjected their findings to statistical analyses. Three reported no significant gender differences and one had mixed findings. One paper found that women were more motivated to perpetrate violence as a result of power/control than were men, and three found that men were more motivated; however, gender differences were weak.
- None of the studies reported that anger/retaliation was significantly more of a motive for men than women’s violence; instead, two papers indicated that anger was more likely to be a motive for women’s violence as compared to men.
- Jealousy/partner cheating seems to be a motive to perpetrate violence for both men and women.
- The UK Perpetrator Programmes
3.1 The Freedom Programme
It is useful to start, not with the perpetrator programmes, but with a programme for victims of PV because the mindset involved is the same. Welcome to the Freedom Programme. The introduction explains,
“The Programme was primarily designed for women as victims of domestic violence, since research shows that in the vast majority of cases of serious abuse are male on female. However, the programme, when provided as an intensive two day course, is also suitable for men, whether abusive and wishing to change their attitudes and behaviour or whether victims of same sex domestic abuse themselves.”
Note that the existence of violent women is not recognised. Women on the programme are taught that their male partners are as depicted in Figure 3 below (The Dominator). Women are also taught that what they have every right to expect their male partners to be like is as depicted in Figure 4 (Mr Right).
All you need know about the Freedom Programme is quickly conveyed by watching a couple of cartoon videos on the site: there’s the Mr Wrong v Mr Right video and the Rules of the Game video. Enjoy (you won’t). Following that video, the site confidently declares,
“You have just witnessed a pattern of behaviour which always precedes a violent assault” (my emphasis reflects that of the video).
This is a false statement. It is a very false statement. Its falsity will be demonstrated in Part 2 of this post when UK research evidence is examined. Whilst there will be dreadful cases which approximate to such extreme controlling “dominator” behaviour (though the videos exaggerate to the point of silliness) such cases are exceptional, not the norm.
As we will see below, the Duluth or feminist based perpetrator programmes all start with the mindset that DV is always the fault of the man, and that the man in question is fairly represented by Figure 3’s “Dominator”. Both aspects of this mindset fly in the face of empirical evidence.
That this counterfactual narrative holds sway over the public mind and the political mind is primarily due to a refusal by almost everyone to let go of traditional gender stereotypes. Women are fragile, vulnerable and precious creatures who must be protected from men (other men) who are strong, independent, violent sexual predators. Both men and women conspire in this outmoded perspective, and it is not necessary to identify as a feminist to do so. And yet these same people who act in this way – supporting VAWG policies and seeing nothing sexist in doing so (because, hey, men are strong and don’t need any protection) – these same people will enthusiastically repeat the obligatory PC mantras that women are strong and independent and gender stereotypes are wicked and need to be overcome. These people need a brain reset. Unfortunately it’s almost everyone.
Figure 3: The Dominator (from The Freedom Programme) click to enlarge
Figure 4: Mr Right (from The Freedom Programme) click to enlarge
Of Figures 3 and 4 one could argue that Figure 4 is the more pernicious. If I were asked to dream up a graphic to illustrate gynocentrism, Figure 4 would do nicely. Just look at it. A decent male human being is defined entirely in terms of service to his female partner. [And do add to Figure 4 the fact that the man is presumed to be working 50 hours per week to provide for his family. We know that this is the presumption because men are assumed, in this model, to be in a position to be financially controlling. So I rather demure from the “not a saint” heading. I think he’d have to be rather saintly, and certainly remarkably energetic].
There is a tricky message here because one could reasonably argue that all the behaviours in Figure 4 are entirely laudable and well worth emulating, if one had the capability to be such a paragon. The pernicious aspect of Figure 4 is that women are being taught that this is what they have the right to expect as the base-level of service from a male partner: perfection (“not a saint, just a decent human being“). In addition to exciting such wildly unrealistic expectations, the pernicious aspect is lack of reciprocation. Ask yourself: what does the paragon of virtue who delivers Figure 4 get in return?
What exactly does a feminist commit to deliver of benefit to a man upon marriage? Anything? What’s the deal here? Reciprocation would involve an equivalent of Figure 4 titled Ms Right. Can you imagine if a bunch of MRAs set up a Freedom Programme for men telling them to expect perfection from their female partners – and all aspects of this perfection would be defined in terms of service to them as men? (No, you can’t imagine it. That will never happen).
In many ways it suffices to consider Respect in order to represent almost all perpetrator service providers in the UK. This is because Respect is the body which accredits perpetrator programmes in the UK. Ostensibly Respect “does not prescribe one specific model of provision, professional approach or philosophical understanding“. This is less than frank. In truth, restrictions on accreditations are conditional upon meeting certain requirements which considerably limit the underpinning philosophical understanding to conform to an approach which may be termed ‘Duluth’ or simply ‘feminist’. Whilst there may be variations from the precise Duluth model of service provision, this categorisation captures the essence of the matter as will be clear below.
Organisations supporting the Respect standard include the Home Office, the Scottish Government, Refuge, Women’s Aid, Scottish Women’s Aid, Welsh Women’s Aid and Women’s Aid Federation of Northern Ireland. Get the picture?
The Duluth model originated from cases from Duluth, Minnesota, studied by Ellen Pence and Michael Paymar and published in “Education groups for men who batter: The Duluth model“, Springer (1993). The black heart of this model of DV is the infamous Power & Control Wheel – see Figure 5. This graphic tells you all you need know about the model. The similarity with the Freedom Programme’s “Dominator” caricature, Figure 1, is apparent. In this model only men are recognised as abusers, and only women are victims. Moreover, there is but one underlying cause of domestic violence in this model: men’s desire to dominate and control – it’s all about male power and privilege.
Figure 5: The Duluth Power & Control Wheel
That Respect’s philosophical orientation conforms broadly to the Duluth, or feminist, perspective is best illustrated by their 2008 Position Statement. It no longer appears on their web site but can be found here. Some extracts from this Position Statement are,
- Gender is a critical determining factor for whether or not someone will use any form of violence and assumptions about the right to use violence are therefore likely to be associated with gender.
- Men are the abusers in most incidents of domestic violence against women and in many against men . Gender is therefore the most significant risk factor for domestic violence.
- When women do use violence in intimate relationships it is often, though not always, in order to defend themselves or their children from a violent partner. It is sometimes an act of resistance or anger after being abused or an attempt to prevent it. If we identify this violence as equivalent or equal to violence from primary aggressors in intimate relationships we will fail to respond appropriately to either party. [Translation: women’s violence is justifiable, men’s is not].
- Women remain a small minority of primary aggressors of ongoing domestic violence in opposite or same-sex relationships. They also present and describe their abusive behaviour in ways that are often very different to the ways in which male perpetrators present and describe their use of abuse.
It is immediately apparent that these claims are in stark contrast to the empirical evidence summarised in Section 2, above – especially that of the highly authoritative PASK project. UK research discrediting these claims will be presented in detail in Part 2 of this post. The threat posed by men to the safety of children figures large in the Respect standard, but there is no recognition that women may pose a risk to children. This is despite the fact that mother’s are responsible for more child deaths than fathers and other male partners combined.
A quick glance at Respect’s web site may lead the casual reader to believe that the organisation accepts that men can be victims too and that women can be violent. But this is more window dressing than reality. Respect in no way treats men and women equitably. The perpetrator programme standard relates solely to male abusers, whilst the service for male victims is not all it initially seems (see Section 3.3 below).
Respect’s Accreditation Standard for DV perpetrators recognises only male abusers. From the Foreword,
“The Government has made it very clear that domestic violence is not acceptable in our society and our approach to ending domestic violence is set out in our Call to End Violence Against Women and Girls narrative and supporting action plan.
Services which address the behaviour of men who are violent against their partners should be an important element of every community’s response to domestic violence. The Respect Service Standard requires services to effectively manage risk and work as part of a co-ordinated response to domestic violence to ensure that the men attending these services are given the best chance possible of ending their abusive behaviour.
Safety is critical. The Respect Service Standard provides a framework for the delivery of quality, safe and effective services to men using intimate partner violence as well as getting the best possible outcomes in increasing the safety of women and children at risk from domestic violence.”
The scope of Respect’s Accreditation Standard is defined as “all organisations providing domestic violence prevention programmes working with men who use intimate partner violence and also providing integrated safety services (ISS)”.
The reference to “ISS” requires decoding. I quote,
“An ISS helps to ensure that women’s expectations of the DVPP are based on realistic expectations and that they and others do not rely solely on the service to bring about an immediate cessation of violence and abuse. It helps to ensure that women’s safety can be monitored and kept the highest priority. It also helps to ensure that work with the men attending the programme is informed by current understanding of the women’s experiences. It is now widely accepted that working with perpetrators of domestic violence can only be undertaken safely if there is an ISS that contacts partners and ex-partners and provides them with a support service.”
In other words, the only services which will be accredited are those which continue to monitor the man’s behaviour, as determined by ‘the woman’s experiences’, after the ‘re-education’ phase has completed. The man is, in effect, put on probation by a non-governmental feminist-based service provider.
Despite Respect’s insistence that they are not prescriptive of any particular “model of provision, professional approach or philosophical understanding” here are some extracts from their Accreditation Standard,
The organisation (being accredited) shall have a written model of their work with clients. Staff are required to follow this. It reflects clearly the following principles (extracts only):-
- The use of violent or abusive behaviour towards a partner, ex-partner or her children is unacceptable;
- The perpetrator is 100% responsible for his use of abusive behaviour and the use of such behaviour is a choice;
- The use of violent and abusive behaviour is functional and instrumental;
- A willingness to choose to use violent and abusive behaviour towards a partner is influenced by learnt expectations and a gender-based sense of entitlement. Workers conduct all work in a way that is non-collusive with:-
- Abusive behaviour
- Expectations of power and control over women
DVPP workers shall promote behaviour and thinking that (extracts only):-
- Engages men using intimate partner violence in the questioning of any attitudes and beliefs, especially their own, which support a gender based sense of entitlement
- Enhances men’s beliefs that they are able to develop and nurture respectful intimate relationships
- Increases men’s understanding of, and empathy for, others affected by their abusive behaviour
ISS workers shall conduct work which is empowering of women by (extracts only):-
- Enabling each woman to have informed and realistic expectations of whether her partner’s or ex-partner’s involvement in the DVPP will increase her safety. This will be based on the understanding that the perpetrator is the only one who can make the choice to stop the domestic violence and that whilst the programme and other interventions or people will help him to do this, he will still have to make the changes for himself. [Translation: only the man has any responsibility];
- Informing an individual woman if her partner/ ex-partner fails to attend or is suspended from the programme, or if there are particular concerns about her safety;
- Supporting survivors to make informed decisions and develop strategies that may increase their safety and that of their children (safety planning)
- Providing survivors with sufficient information about legal rights, and other relevant support services, in order for them to make informed decisions about these and to facilitate referral to other agencies (e.g. alcohol and drug agencies).
[The last two bullet points may relate to separation/divorce issues. Note that here is another source of advice to women not matched by any advice or support to men who are completely alone in these circumstances].
Guidance on the above sections…
Any suitable professional approach and philosophical understanding of domestic violence may be used, providing that the model reflects and can deliver the aims set out in this Standard on page 4 and the requirements in sections B1 and B2. Interventions which are based solely on anger management will not satisfy the requirements of this Standard.
[Comment: But we have seen above that these requirements are, in fact, extremely prescriptive of the underlying philosophy of the service and the requirement for ISS ‘monitoring’].
Sections 5.1 & 5.2
Domestic violence perpetrators who are not heterosexual men should not be placed in a group of heterosexual men. If the organisation addresses domestic violence other than adult male perpetrators to adult female partners, it will usually require separate provision and additional content…. it will have considered the specific needs of these clients and made adjustments to the service it offers in response to this.
This is a remarkable restriction. It actually prevents accreditation to any service provider who has the temerity to treat men and women equally – or, for that matter, if they treat heterosexual and gay men equally. And all this comes courtesy of that font of equality, feminism. Of course, we understand why this restriction is made. It is to protect Respect’s underlying philosophy (which they claim not to have), namely that DV is gendered, men are wicked and women are only ever victims.
3.3 Respect for Men?
Respect manage the national Men’s Advice Line, a service which the unwary might assume parallels help lines for female victims of DV. It doesn’t. It couldn’t. There are very few services, e.g., refuges, available for abused men to be referred to (though there are a few and the number is now growing). But the differences between the Men’s Advice Line and services provided by the likes of Women’s Aid charities is deeper than that.
One very significant difference is that Respect’s Toolkit for addressing male victims of PV emphasises vetting of male callers to the helpline to check that they are not, in fact, abusers masquerading as victims. This is in stark contrast to universal practice with women seeking help. “Believe the victim” is the mantra – in the case of women. With men, the opposite applies. Doubt the caller is the initial stance. Doubting a woman would be called, by the feminist lobby, additional abuse in itself. But what’s good for the goose does not apply to the gander.
The vetting process includes the use of a 23 point check list – calling for evidence to be provided on each issue. How evidence would be provided by ‘phone I don’t know. The assessment requires the practitioner to make a subjective judgment of the caller’s authenticity – from a ‘phone call. Given the ideological stance adopted by Respect, it is hard to have faith that this assessment process would be without prejudice.
The bias of the Respect approach is evident from the “Responding” section of their Toolkit. Following their vetting process it categorises male callers into one of,
- Perpetrator presenting as victim;
- Perpetrator presenting a s victim whose victim has used violence in self-defence or resistance;
- High Risk Perpetrator;
- Unhappy relationship but no abuse at this point
Contrast this with the treatment of women calling any DV helpline. They will all be treated as Category (i) – victims, with no probing questions asked. Anything else would be regarded as appalling mistreatment. For men, though, four out of five categories will deny him any support, sympathy or assistance. Worse, three out of the five brand him as a perpetrator. Calling the Men’s Advice Line is therefore a risk for a man. If categorised as (ii), the Respect advice to the practitioner includes,
- Referral to perpetrator programme;
- Contact/Referral to Child Protection Team.
In category (iv) the advice to the practitioner is,
- MARAC referral
- Consider reporting direct to police and probation officer if relevant.
[A MARAC, or Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference, is a meeting where information is shared on the highest risk domestic abuse cases between representatives of local police, probation, health, child protection, housing practitioners, Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVAs) and other specialists.]
In short, if a male victim of PV calls the Men’s Advice Line, but fails to perform well when cross-examined by the practitioner, he may find himself arrested with a threat of being separated from his children. You see how this differs rather from a woman ‘phoning Woman’s Aid?
For any male victims put off by this prospect, note that the men’s help lines run by Mankind Initiative and FNF-BPM Cymru and Abused Men in Scotland do not apply such vetting procedures. If it were me, I’d use those help lines.
- Duluth – Retracted?
It seems to have gone unnoticed by the professional DV community that, before she died, the late Ellen Pence, co-author and main developer of the original Duluth Abuser programme, recanted. The following extracts are taken from “Co-ordinating Community Responses to Domestic Violence: Lessons from Duluth and Beyond” by Melanie Shepherd and Ellen Pence, published in 1999.
“He does it for the power, he does it for control, he does it because he can – these were the jingles that, in our opinion, said all there was to say”.
But on the next page she clarifies,
“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. Like those we were criticising, we reduced our analysis to a psychological universal truism. The DAIP* staff – like the therapist insisting it was an anger control problem, or the judge wanting to see it as an alcohol problem, or the defence attorney arguing that it was a defective wife problem – remained undaunted by the differences in our theory and the actual experiences of those we were working with. We all engaged in ideological practices and claimed them to be neutral observations.*Domestic Abuse Intervention Programme
I found that many of the men I interviewed did not seem to articulate a desire for power over a partner. Although I relentlessly took every opportunity to point out to the men in 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 realised that we were finding what we had predetermined to find.”
Unfortunately, by the time Ellen Pence had the good grace to retract her support for the patriarchal power & control perspective of DV, it had already been adopted as a worldwide weapon of mass destruction – and still is.
In Part 2 we will look at UK research into the credibility of perpetrator programmes based on Respect’s Standard – though the above quote from Ellen Pence has rather anticipated the punch line.