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Domestic Violence: tHIS Side of Violence-Constructive Criticism of the DULUTH Model

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Even though October is over and with it Domestic Violence Awareness Month, it is important that we remember that domestic violence happens every day throughout the year. To that end, here is the last blog in our Domestic Violence series. We are so happy to have Selena Bush, a licensed clinical social worker, as our guest blogger today. As a professional who has worked with the perpetrators of domestic violence, she gives us her view.

There has been much improvement regarding laws, services, and awareness of domestic violence since the 1980’s when professionals and advocates worked to establish legal change. In 1994 the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was passed to ensure legal protection for the victims of domestic violence and increase community programs for victims. Some of programs offered through community agencies are to perpetrators of domestic violence. However, one of the main services offered needs improvement.

One of the most widely utilized programs in the country for perpetrators of domestic violence is a program that utilizes the DULUTH Model. The DULUTH Model was developed in Duluth, Minnesota in 1981 by the Domestic Abuse Intervention Program (DAIP). The program was designed for community agencies to work with law enforcement and the court system to address domestic violence with the goal to end violence against women. It is a 26 week curriculum where the majority of offenders are court ordered to attend group classes for an hour and a half at a cost per class to the offender. The program includes homework the offenders have to complete on their own and bring back to the class for credit to complete the program. However, having worked with this model, I can attest that the program is in need of improvement.  

While the program takes into consideration the economic, cultural, and personal history of the victim there is no indication that it takes into consideration the poverty level, education level, culture, religion, sexual preference, mental health, and substance abuse issues of the offender. Not to mention the history the offender may also have had with experiencing violence. IT IS A PROGRAM NOT TREATMENT FOR THE OFFENDER. Any issues the offender may have that could contribute to issues with violence are not addressed through the program. Many of the individuals I worked with were poverty level, minority laborers who had little to no reading or writing skills. These issues were not taken into consideration throughout the time they were in the program. It would be more beneficial if it were structured in a way that individuals with limitations could fully participate in the program by assisting them with addressing additional issues that could possibly contribute to domestic violence. One way to do this would be to screen the offenders and guide them toward other resources to help any other issues they may have that does require treatment or other programs.

Although, there are claims regarding the success of the DULUTH Model, research also exists that criticizes recidivism rates and gaps in the program. The model has been successful in connecting law enforcement and courts with community services. The DAIP mission is worthy and the DULUTH Model provides much needed education to the other side of violence that desperately needs to be addressed. However, additional unbiased research is still needed to improve the model and provide updates to the curriculum to address these major gaps.

My aim in writing this blog is to bring awareness of one of the most widely used models in this country to help end domestic violence. I encourage anyone reading this article to research information regarding this model here: I also encourage readers to look into research that challenges the model and calls for changes in the approach and the curriculum. It is important to address the other side of domestic violence and increase competent services for the offenders so as to help victims.  I strongly encourage people who are offenders or who know an offender to seek help before services become something that is court ordered.

Selena Bush is a licensed clinical social worker who graduated with a Master of Social Work degree in 2011 from the University of Texas at El Paso with a concentration in social work in the U.S-Mexico border region. She majored in Psychology and Gender & Women's Studies at SUNY Potsdam and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree. During her graduate studies she interned with the Center Against Family Violence (CAFV) in El Paso where she learned and taught the DULUTH Model to offenders of domestic violence through the center’s Battery Intervention and Prevention Program. She continues to address relationship issues through her in office and telehealth private practice by providing therapy services in New York and Texas.