The Duluth Model Rises & falls

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The Duluth Model spreads to the community

As the domestic violence industry grew, the Duluth Model took a greater and greater hold on the theoretical practices of domestic violence agencies.  As it took this greater hold, the ideas of domestic violence being only about men beating women spread farther.

As funding grew for domestic violence agencies, the funding for trainings grew correspondingly.

The 1994 federal Violence Against Women Act started pouring about one billion dollars per year into domestic violence endeavors.

A part of that money was spent on trainings given to the court systems, judges, police, lawyers and domestic violence workers.  The message the workshops broadcast was founded on the Duluth Model ideology that women were the vast majority of domestic violence victims and men were only a tiny minority.

More and more, the ideas of the Duluth Model became the standard.  It was presented as fact that domestic violence is pretty much only about women being abused by men.  That ideology is now set firmly in place.

The early work of the activists has focused exclusively on abused women and now the theoretical framework that guided their work is firmly planted in an ideology that focuses on female victims but ignores the needs of male victims and the actions of female perpetrators.  Now these ideas have been spread successfully into our community agencies and public institutions.

Opposing Voices to the Duluth Model — Researchers

Murray Straus, Richard Gelles, and Susan Steinmetz are early researchers on issues of domestic violence.

This group published a book in 1982 that ran counter to the feminist ideology.  The book, Behind Closed Doors, said clearly that domestic violence was a two-way street with both men and women responsible as perpetrators and victims.  The response was swift and powerful.  Upon publication, Straus, Gelles and Steinmetz were immediately seen as enemies. Prior to their findings that there is gender symmetry in domestic violence, they had been praised and held in high esteem as instrumental in the early research on domestic violence.

But once they found data that contradicted the feminist belief that men were the only perpetrators and women the only victims, things changed drastically.

At that point, they lost their glow and became villains to those who supported the ideas of women as the only victims of domestic violence.  Death threats and other avenues of intimidation were used to try to silence them.  Murray Straus, Ph.D., describes his struggle with intimidation and explains his own reluctance to publish his results that went counter to the feminist domestic violence ideology:

Researchers who have an ideological commitment to the idea that men are almost always the sole perpetrator often conceal evidence that contradicts this belief. Among researchers not committed to that ideology, many (including me and some of my colleagues) have withheld results showing gender symmetry to avoid becoming victims of the vitriolic denunciations and ostracism.

Thus, many researchers have published only the data on male perpetrators or female victims, deliberately omitting the data on female perpetrators and male victims.17

In essence, these researchers were being bullied. In fact, Straus published a paper in 2006 that describes not only the intimidation they suffered but also chronicles the specific ways that the feminist researchers made certain that their own data only produced the desired results that reflected the ideology that women were the primary victims of domestic violence.18

The research by Straus, Gelles, Steinmetz, and many others which clearly shows that men are victims has been available through journal articles for years.19

Some activists have drawn from the statistics and findings and tried to use this information to change the system to encourage existing services to include focus on male victims of domestic violence.  When activists make such attempts, they are usually met with the same results most every time:  the domestic violence industry claims that the peer-reviewed research is inaccurate and cites numbers from their own clinical settings, hospital settings, and emergency rooms.

The numbers they cite are very different from the research numbers and clearly show that domestic violence is indeed primarily a “men beat women” problem.  So who is correct?  The quick answer is BOTH.  The research numbers from scientists such as Strauss, Gelles, and Steinmetz are correct from their perspective and from the populations they studied.

These numbers were usually drawn from the general population and reflect the “average” person or family.

But how about the domestic violence agencies numbers?  Well, they are correct also, but one must note that the sample they draw from is very biased.  They draw from a population that has been utilizing services specifically built for women who were abused.

It is little wonder that they would therefore be more likely to show greater numbers of female victims.  Imagine a hospital that was built specifically for the treatment of Caucasian diabetics.  When they look at their own numbers and stats they would assuredly say that the majority of victims of diabetes are white!  Since their services are built to serve whites, that is exactly what their stats will show.

One would also assume that they would be teaching in the community about whites and diabetes and also do Public Service Announcements for whites who might have diabetes.

The same thing happens within the domestic violence industry.  The entire system was originally built for women.  The name of the law the Violence Against Women Act makes that very clear.

It is little wonder that the statistics they compile and the research done within the domestic violence industry on their own populations would reflect that women were the primary victims.  You see this idea filter down to the clinical level where almost every group for domestic violence victims in Maryland is for women only.

The treatment groups are almost always built for male perpetrators and female victims.

The overwhelming majority of public service announcements on domestic violence are focused on female victims.  When you solicit for a certain type of victim, it is no surprise that your statistics, trainings and treatment will center around that particular type of client.

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Opposing Voices to the Duluth Model — Clinicians

While the peer-reviewed research has been noting male victims for years, the clinical side of the equation has now started getting noticed.   In 2007, the American Psychiatric Association published an article in the August issue of Psychiatric News titled: “Men Shouldn’t be Overlooked as Victims of Partner Violence.”20  The article cited some of the research findings about women being more likely then men in relationship to initiate domestic violence and focused on issues of reciprocal interpersonal violence versus nonreciprocal violence. Here is a quote from the article:

Regarding perpetration of violence, more women than men (25 percent versus 11 percent) were responsible. In fact, 71 percent of the instigators in nonreciprocal partner violence were women.

And another:

As for physical injury due to intimate partner violence, it was more likely to occur when the violence was reciprocal than nonreciprocal. And while injury was more likely when violence was perpetrated by men, in relationships with reciprocal violence it was the men who were injured more often (25 percent of the time) than were women (20 percent of the time). “This is important as violence perpetrated by women is often seen as not serious,” Whitaker and his group stressed.

The word is getting out that both men and women are perpetrators and victims of domestic violence.

Opposing Voices to the Duluth Model — The Courts

The courts are also starting to take notice of the discrimination that men face in the domestic violence industry.  In the Woods et. al. vs California case in 2008, a Superior Court in Sacramento, ruled that male domestic violence victims had been unconstitutionally denied services.  The court held that state laws violated men’s equal protection rights by excluding male victims from state-funded domestic violence services.  The court found: “domestic violence is a serious problem for both women and men” and that “men experience significant levels of domestic violence as victims.”21  The court also found a percentage of state-funded programs deny men services they are entitled to receive.

Then, in October 2009, a West Virginia judge struck down state rules for regulating domestic violence shelters because they operate “on the premise that only men can be batterers and only women can be victims” and “exclude adult and adolescent males from their statutory right to safety and security free from domestic violence based only on their gender.”22

The Duluth Model of Domestic Violence

Written by nfl-tom4 Author Tom Golden LCSW

Tom Golden, LCSW is an author and psychotherapist who has been writing on issues concerning men, boys, and gynocentrism for many years.  Tom has written three books, Swallowed by a Snake: The Gift of the Masculine Side of Healing, The Way Men Heal, and Understanding the Unique World of Boys.  He has a blog at Menaregood.com and also has a youtube channel menaregood.