29th June 2015
I have been thinking about Duluth a lot recently. For those of you young enough that it was before your time (lucky you!), Duluth is a town in Minnesota where the wonderful Ellen Pence and Michael Paymar developed a model of addressing domestic abuse in a holistic way. It required commitment from the whole community and it became known as the co-ordinated community response.
Part of that model was a project which worked with perpetrators of domestic abuse to challenge their behaviour. So when everyone in the UK was so excited at the start of the integrated domestic abuse programme (Idap) which worked with perpetrators, it sometimes got called the Duluth programme. But the Duluth model was so much more than just working with perpetrators. It brought together a package of help from across the community to keep women safe.
Everyone was responsible for tackling domestic abuse
At its simplest, that meant everyone was responsible for tackling domestic abuse. It meant that we, in voluntary services, would work in partnership with statutory agencies and, essentially, the whole community to improve their response to domestic abuse across the board. We would campaign to make statutory services realise that they needed to get better at supporting women who were experiencing domestic abuse. In short, we would make sure these women’s voices were heard.
One thing that has always stuck with me is a video with a perpetrator from Duluth. He realised he had to confront his behaviour when he felt like the whole community was linking arms and saying: “this isn’t on and we won’t accept it.” That had a real impact on me because it seemed so obvious when I thought about it: why should voluntary services have to solve the issue of domestic abuse on their own? Shouldn’t all services have a part to play in safety?
And that is one of the reasons why I like the Marac model - it made other agencies take some responsibility for doing the right things to protect victims of domestic abuse and their families. I talked about some of the other reasons I like the risk-led approach in my recent blog which many of you were kind enough to respond to (thanks for that, all responses welcome - we need to have the debate). I wrote then how using tools like the Dash checklist to stop the most serious forms of violence is just one part of a risk-led approach that keeps victims and families safe - in the same way that perpetrator projects like Idap were just one part of the Duluth community response model.
Just as Duluth was more than a perpetrator programme, a risk-led approach is so much more than a checklist.
That’s not rocket science. Anyone who lives with domestic abuse long term is impacted by that in some way - you would have to be superhuman not to be. So of course, people need longer term support to build their resilience and aid their recovery. We need to make sure that this help is there too. That’s why I am so delighted that our new strategy addresses wider issues - like the need for a clear pathway of support to move on from the trauma of domestic abuse. Of course, before anyone experiencing domestic abuse can become safe in the long term, we need to reduce the immediate danger they are in – and that’s where tools like the Dash come in. But just as Duluth was more than a perpetrator programme, a risk-led approach is so much more than a checklist.