In 1980, American activist and feminist Ellen Pence founded a new program to protect women from domestic violence in Duluth, Minnesota called the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project (DAIP). . Based on an interagency approach in which police, probation services, courts, social services, and women’s advocacy projects work together to try and protect victims from abuse is taking place by rehabilitating perpetrators, it soon becomes the blueprint for addressing domestic violence across the United States.
In just a few years, similar initiatives, known as the Domestic Violence Handler Program (DVPP), also emerged and became the leading method of addressing domestic violence in the UK. Great Britain. Today, most domestic abusers in the UK are being given the option to join the DVPP rather than being dealt with through the criminal justice system.
Proponents of these programs argue that since many perpetrators are not even reported to the police, let alone taken to the docks and convicted, these initiatives help make many men violent. force to take responsibility for their actions and keep more women safe. Furthermore, they emphasize that these programs are not a substitute for criminal justice sanctions.
However, after speaking with victims, probation officers, and even people who run DVPPs, I believe that often these programs achieve little beyond helping violent men avoid have to go to jail.
I met Davey – a man who completed a 12-week domestic violence intervention program as an alternative to a possible three-month sentence – after approaching the program’s coordinator and asked if any of the attendees were willing to talk to me.
When we sat down at a coffee shop in London, he said he was “nice to have.” [his] side of the story is heard. “
“My wife called the police after I lost my temper and slapped her in the face,” he told me. He claims that there is no real history of domestic abuse in their relationship and that although he occasionally loses his temper and throws objects against the wall, he will never throw anything. what to his wife. He admitted to pushing her, but insisted he never did “anything extreme”.
I asked why then the police were called more than a dozen times during the five years they were together. “The neighbors complained about the noise and she wanted to teach me a lesson and have the police settle the argument,” he replied. He eventually admitted that he had “accidentally” broken his wife’s nose after he once slapped her.
However, he claims that the “course” he took taught him “violence is never the answer and that no man should hit a woman, whatever she does.” he did it to provoke him.”
It’s clear that even after completing the show, he still hasn’t fully mastered his actions. He still has the impression that what he did was not entirely his fault and that it was his wife who “incited” him to violence. And he has openly said that the only thing stopping him from harming a woman again is a sense of patriarchal patriarchy and nothing more.
As we continued to talk, Davey told me something even more disturbing – that he considered it perfectly acceptable to have sex with his wife while she was asleep, despite the crime of rape. Marital prostitution was criminalized in England and Wales in 1992.
Davey is certainly just one violent man among many who have avoided serving time for his violent acts thanks to a domestic violence program that focuses on “re-education” of perpetrators. instead of making sure they can’t continue to harm women.
Many women who have experienced domestic abuse refuse to endorse such programs, which are often seen as an escape card for their abusers. They are appalled to learn that domestic abusers get “treatment” and “counseling” for their offenses instead of going to jail.
However, supporters of these programs believe they are the perfect solution to the problem of male violence. They appear to believe that, in the absence of a criminal justice system capable of effectively arresting abusers to account and protect victims, focusing all efforts and resources on It’s right to try to recover the culprit.
Even the Family and Children Courts Advocacy and Advocacy Service (CAFCASS) of the UK, is tasked with independent advice to family courts on what is safe for children and in the best interests of the family. in their best interest, order abusive men in custody and approach disputes with spouses and former DVPP partners. While CAFCASS claims perpetrators attending these two- to two-and-a-half hours long meetings for six months can make a “real difference” to the lives of all involved, including children , those working to end violence against men firmly believe that these programs offer little benefit to children and women, and are only meant to offload the courts and save the authorities money.
Karen Ingala Smith, Executive Director of the NIA Project, a pro-feminist initiative committed to ending male violence, for example, is concerned about the “increasing normalization” of violence against men. program for perpetrators.
“One of the first things I noticed about the CAFCASS information about their DVPP was that it appeared they reported that intimate partner violence and abuse was largely perpetrated by men against female partners and children,” Smith told me. “This immediately raises concerns for me about what hope there is in a program to effectively address the attitudes of male entitlement and control that are the basis of much domestic abuse.”
DVPP defenders often tell me that the main purpose of such programs is to expose perpetrators to what they have done. However, there is a lot of evidence pointing to the ineffectiveness of DVPPs in changing the attitudes of perpetrators.
For example, in 2015, Project Mirabal – a multisite study of programs for domestic violence perpetrators in the UK that included interviews with 64 white British program attendees – for found that many domestic abusers refuse to take full responsibility for their actions even after completing the DVPP. According to the study, before the course, about 90% of the interviewees tried to make excuses for their abuse, and after completing the program, at least three-quarters of the men continued to make excuses.
The project included a survey of 100 women whose partners participated in the DVPP which also showed certain successes of these programs. For example, it found that just over half of the women who responded to the survey said they felt “very safe” after the program, compared with less than one in ten before joining the program (51% vs. %). But of course, this still means that these programs cause nearly half of the women surveyed to live in fear.
Some victims prefer the DVPP route to criminal prosecution because they don’t want their abusive spouse or child’s father to go to jail. They just want them to change and meet their family and parenting responsibilities. But it’s hard to see that attending short, weekly meetings for as little as six months can erase the patriarchal lifestyle that underlies the violent, abusive, and coercive actions of men who abuse you. life and their children. As research shows, domestic violence is not the golden ticket to ending violence against men.
Only prosecution and punishment can deter abusers and truly protect victims. However, authorities in the UK are failing with women who have survived male violence. The rate of reporting domestic abuse to the police is on the rise but only a third of these end in an arrest. Meanwhile, the number of referrals from the police to the prosecution for charges is decreasing. Public authorities are increasingly delegating responsibility for responding to domestic violence and preventing future abuse to DVPPs that cause harm to victims.
DVPPs can have certain uses and advantages, but only if they are accompanied by effective criminal prosecution and punishment measures. If the authorities are serious about tackling male violence, they should stop handing out prison exemption cards to perpetrators just because it’s convenient.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of Al Jazeera.