Discrediting Duluth

Duluth Power Wheel

The Duluth Power Wheel (note the pronouns)

Remarkably, at the time of writing, the Wikipedia entry on the Duluth Model is accurate. There is no saying how long this may persist but I borrow its words liberally here.

The Duluth Model is a programme, or intervention methodology, developed to reduce domestic violence against women. It is named after Duluth, Minnesota, the city where it was developed. The program was largely founded by Ellen Pence and Michael Paymar.

The Duluth Model is the most common batterer intervention program used in most countries, particularly in the United States, Canada and the UK. It is based on feminist theory positing that domestic violence is the result of patriarchal ideology in which men are encouraged and expected to control their partners. 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. Men’s violence against women is not viewed in that philosophy as merely an individual pathology, but as arising from a socially constructed masculinity in which the control and oppression of women is regarded as an entitlement. The Duluth Model, in common with standard feminist theory, is that traditional masculinity is essentially toxic. The feminist/Duluth view of domestic violence is summarised by this quote from a Woman’s Aid web site,

“Domestic violence against women by men is caused by the misuse of power and control within a context of male privilege. Male privilege operates on an individual and societal level to maintain a situation of male dominance, where men have power over women and children. Domestic violence by men against women can be seen as a consequence of the inequalities between men and women, rooted in patriarchal traditions that encourage men to believe they are entitled to power and control over their partners.”

This view of domestic violence therefore offers support for the feminist view that all men, not just some aberrant men, are basically oppressors of women – the only distinction being that most men get away with it. This perspective is exemplified by Vera Baird, feminist Police and Crime Commissioner of Northumbria, who, speaking at the “feminism in London” conference in 2011, said,

It was essentially the Refuge Movement that first counted the figures and demonstrated that domestic violence was not something that was done by a few cruel and unusual men.

This perspective, that men are inherently violent to women, is presented in this Uni-Global video. The video denies that individual acts of abuse are truly individual, but instead insists that all individual acts of abuse are merely the symptoms of systemic ‘gendered violence’. Without any empirical evidence, ‘gendered violence’ is presented as entirely men’s violence to women. The spurious argument is that men are automatically abusive to women because men have greater “social prestige, power  and resources”. The video is as concise a summary of feminism as you will find anywhere. It tells us that, “men are aggressive beings with no contact with their emotions, highly competitive and unable to control their impulses, especially sexual ones”. The use of a girly voice in the video is intended to disarm us. It defies us to be so nasty as to fail to fall into line with the call to ‘end violence against women’. The entire exercise is psychological manipulation divorced from reality. In truth, as the data on this site demonstrates, partner violence is not gendered at all. It can be in either direction.

Given that Duluth is a manifestation of empirically unjustified feminism, it is not surprising that, “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“.

In fact, whilst Michael Paymar appears to still back the model, Ellen Pence, the other originator of Duluth, has essentially recanted, writing in Some Thoughts on Philosophy,

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 staff remained undaunted by the difference between 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 armor. 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 coworkers. Eventually, we realized that we were finding what we had already predetermined to find.”

In the UK, Bates, Graham‐Kevan and Archer in Aggressive Behaviour, Volume 9999, pages 1–14 (2013), conclude,

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.

Commenting on earlier work by Graham-Kevan, the highly respected authority on PV, Murray Straus, wrote in 2007, in the context of explaining the concealment and distortion of evidence supporting gender symmetry in PV,

I believe that the predominant cause has been the efforts of feminists to conceal, deny and distort the evidence. Moreover these efforts include intimidation and threats, and have been carried out not only by feminist advocates and service providers, but also by feminist researchers who have let their ideological commitments overrule their scientific commitments.

It says something about the grip feminism has upon society at large, and the political processes in particular, that such hard hitting condemnations, by a leading authority – and a man calling himself a feminist to boot – has had no impact on halting the dominance of Duluth based perpetrator programmes.

Duluth has ignored research linking domestic violence to substance abuse, to psychological problems, such as attachment disorders related to childhood abuse or neglect, or the absence of a history of adequate socialization and training. Many, following Erin Pizzey, regard domestic violence as familial. Others criticize the Duluth model as being overly confrontational rather than therapeutic, ignoring the underlying cause of the abuser’s behaviour in emotional or psychological issues. 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.” Dutton and Nicholls concluded in 2005 that,

Feminist theory of intimate violence is critically reviewed in the light of data from numerous incidence studies reporting levels of violence by female perpetrators higher than those reported for males, particularly in younger age samples…..Results show that the gender disparity in injuries from domestic violence is less than originally portrayed by feminist theory. Studies are also reviewed indicating high levels of unilateral intimate violence by females to both males and females. Males appear to report their own victimization less than females do and to not view female violence against them as a crime. Hence, they differentially under-report being victimized by partners on crime victim surveys. It is concluded that feminist theory is contradicted by these findings and that the call for ‘qualitative’ studies by feminists is really a means of avoiding this conclusion. A case is made for a paradigm having developed amongst family violence activists and researchers that precludes the notion of female violence, trivializes injuries to males and maintains a monolithic view of a complex social problem.”

In truth, deep academic research is hardly necessary to discredit Duluth. All that is necessary is to observe, as many have, that partner abuse is at least as common, and often more common, within lesbian couples (see Incidence by Sexuality).

There is a weight of academic evidence discrediting Duluth and the male control theory of IPV. Indeed this has been the case for decades now. Nevertheless, there are still many dissenting voices. The reasons for this apparent refusal to engage with the empirical evidence has been discussed by Murray Strauss amongst others.

In a discussion piece in The Psychotherapist (A radical reVision of domestic abuse), Sue Parker Hall has opined that, “Domestic violence is a multibillion dollar industry and many have vested interests in the current modus operandi continuing. Yet it is extraordinary that so much money is spent with so little evidence-based research to support these feminist programmes and a wealth of research that refutes its relevance, appropriateness or effectiveness.”

It may be significant to future developments in the UK that in 2014 CAFCASS (the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) moved to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) from its previous home under the Department of Education. The significance of this move lies, potentially, in the recognition within the MoJ that Duluth is a dead model. In their 2014 review of reoffending, the MoJ notes the following in respect of domestic violence,

The most recent systematic review of US evidence indicates that the Duluth Model appears to have no effect on recidivism (Miller, Drake & Nafziger, 2013). However, this review also identified substantial reductions in domestic violence reoffending by offenders who had attended other interventions. These interventions varied widely in their approach (including cognitive behavioural therapy, relationship enhancement and group couples counselling), and the reviewers were therefore unable to make recommendations about specific preferred alternatives to the Duluth Model.”

Nevertheless, at the time of writing (March 2016), all court mandated perpetrator referrals in the UK must be to organisations accredited by RESPECT. This organisation is overtly feminist and therefore only perpetrator programmes conforming to the male control theory, i.e., Duluth, are officially sanctioned. Louise Dixon et al summarise the dominant position of RESPECT in enforcing the feminist paradigm as follows,

“Organisations, such as Respect whose writings are examined in detail in this article, discourage interventions based on a couple’s relationship dynamics, as this is seen as preventing the man from taking responsibility for his actions. Thus, state provision for male domestic violence offenders is dominated by a feminist informed intervention.”

Dixon et al conclude,

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 UK. Indeed, RESPECT’s 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 accreditation standard, which accredits and deems programmes that meet their standards to be “high quality” and “effective” should therefore be abandoned. Instead, attention should be paid to the methodologically-sound evidence base which provides scientific understanding about the causes of IPV that can be translated into effective practice. Only then can professionals work toward the common goal of reducing and eliminating this form of family violence.

Thus major academics join the MoJ in calling for the abandonment of the ineffective, and ideologically ill-conceived, Duluth approach to perpetrator treatment. To these we can add the voice of The Centre for Social Justice.

One has to ask whether the prevailing orthodoxy regarding which perpetrator programmes are approved is motivated more by the desire to maintain a political power position than it is to protect women. Thankfully for all involved it appears that some headway is at last beginning to be made into the harmful feminist stranglehold on the narrative.

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