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THE KEY TO CHALLENGING PERPETRATORS’ CHOICE TO USE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

“Challenging the mind-set of domestic abusers could save lives”. This is the soundbite for a Project, being piloted in 3 areas, which has just completed its second of three years. This is undoubtedly true, if resources and initiatives are directed to the most dangerous perpetrators – those with the potential to kill. However, the problem with the term ‘mind-set’ is that it evokes images of the perpetrator himself being a victim, when he clearly is not. Therefore it is essential that from the outset, domestic abuse is clearly described as being a ‘choice’ and/or a ‘catastrophic failure of parenting’. There will of course be situational, personal and contextual reasons for such a choice, including alcohol, drugs and mental health issues – most likely all 3. Also the aspirational levers for wanting to change – such as the desire to be a better father – are often genuine.

The Report describes approximately 50% – 75% of those who have completed the 10 month programme as posing a reduced risk. There is clearly a long way to go! Only 1% of perpetrators of domestic abuse receive specialist intervention. Indeed many victim charities doubt the efficacy of perpetrator intervention or therapy, denigrating it as being  a tendency to ‘pathalogise’ the issue.  Also the very reasons which lay behind the decision to choose domestic violence as a means of resolving conflict, also present as barriers to engagement and sustaining change.  It is probably for this reason that the  Executive Summary of the Project’s first Report states “From a moral and rational perspective we must commit to holding perpetrators to account.”

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