I recently attended the excellent Los Angeles domestic violence conference “From Ideology to Inclusion 2009: New Directions in Domestic Violence Research and Intervention.” The conference featured many domestic violence dissidents–researchers and clinicians who do not believe that the mainstream domestic violence establishment and its “men as perpetrators/women as victims” conceptual framework is properly serving those involved in family violence.
One of the themes of the conference is that current batterers’ treatment programs are not effective in preventing recidivism amongst domestic violence offenders. It is true that batterers who complete batterers treatment programs often will not re-offend, but that is also true of perpetrators who do not receive batterers’ training. There is a growing consensus among treatment providers that the strategies currently mandated are ineffective, and are placing abused women in harm”s way. Current treatment strategies are based on the Duluth model, which depicts domestic violence as a function of patriarchy and men”s patriarchal privilege. This model assumes that the reason men physically abuse women is to maintain control over them. In ideologically-driven classes for offenders, men in need of serious psychological intervention are instead screamed at and called “domestic terrorists” and “fascists.” While some domestic violence no doubt stems from a warped desire to control spouses or intimates, most experts believe that the roots of domestic violence generally lay elsewhere. Psychologist Donald G. Dutton, author of The Abusive Personality: Violence and Control in Intimate Relationships, asserts that personality disorders are the cause of most domestic violence. According to Dutton:
Treatment providers who work with abusive men are very frustrated by the current domestic violence treatment paradigm. Research shows that Duluth-oriented treatments are absolutely ineffective, and have no discernible impact on rates of recidivism. These methods cannot work because they preclude patients from developing the crucial therapeutic bond with their treatment providers. However, when we treat offenders like normal patients by focusing on personality disorders and employing cognitive-behavioral treatments, we see progress.
Lonnie Hazelwood, MSHP, LCDC, CCCJS, who has worked in the domestic violence and chemical dependency fields for over 25 years, discussed this issue at the conference. He said that when counseling abusive men, showing them respect is “an incredibly important part of the program.” He noted:
Nothing makes the therapeutic relationship more difficult than disrespect. Nothing makes the therapeutic relationship more productive than respect.
He criticized the Duluth model for promoting “disrespect” treatment providers for their patients. Hazelwood believes that his methods–which he calls “compassionate confrontation”–have been effective in reducing recidivism amongst domestic violence offenders. To read all reports from the Conference, please click here. From Ideology to Inclusion 2009 featured some of the world’s leading experts on domestic violence, many of whom serve on the Editorial Board of the new peer-reviewed academic journal, Partner Abuse, published by Springer Publishing Company. The conference was presented by the California Alliance for Families & Children and co-sponsored by The Family Violence Treatment & Education Association. Some of you may remember that I also wrote extensively about the 2008 conference–to learn more, click here.