Facing violence, facing fear

 
What's the point of working with perpetrators? (personal strategy)

- practical experience shows punishment leads to desire for revenge leads to reoffending

- results of taking an empowering approach (example from men's group)

- particularly, violence not so much a choice as that there's always a choice to not be violent (an empowering choice)

- identify where dangerous dependencies lie (e.g. systematic denial of men's feelings)

- distinguish assertion and aggression

- reclaiming power - even in 'violent' situations (e.g. women's soccer) - by facing fear

- taking violence seriously, but with laughter and joy: Naomi Wolf's rape-crisis centre example; mistake as 'mis-take'

 

The following table is derived from the 'Duluth Wheel', developed by the Duluth Domestic Abuse Intervention Project in Duluth, Minnesota. In its original form, its use is now mandatory in many US states: in court-sponsored peer programmes, abusive men are required to assess their behaviour based on each section of the left-hand column, and to model their revised behaviour based on the matching section in the right-hand column.

The only modifications I've made have been to re-lay the original 'twin-wheel' format into two-column table format more appropriate to a book; and to remove the gender, substituting 'your partner', 'they' or 'their' for all occurrences of the original 'she' and 'her'. In accordance with the Angel Factor, the original version was aimed exclusively at men, and was originally believed to apply only to men; but as you'll see, it has almost exactly the same impact - and challenge - when applied to anyone's behaviour.

Before you move on, you may need to make one essential shift in perspective. The Duluth programme works because it's backed by a group of peers, who are under no illusions as to their own 'perfection'. If you're a woman, and you read the next section as if it's written by a man, it's likely to sound only as if you're being blamed: in which case you'll find yourself back in the standard defences of denial, unable to move.

Instead, imagine yourself in amongst a group of your peers - other women, who are under no illusions as to their own 'perfection'. They will, when appropriate, be firm - far more firm and challenging than you'd like - but they will still always be respectful and understanding. No-one will judge you or blame you: yet they will be utterly frank and blunt, and insist that you be fiercely honest with yourself, in your own interest as well as that of others. How would you imagine that? How do these imaginary women - your inner peers - appear to you? Once you have that image in mind, move on...

Because the Wheel's descriptions are so blunt, you're likely to find this the most challenging part of an intentionally challenging book: so read the table slowly, carefully, and with respect for yourself and your own fears. Since it was originally written to describe male stereotypes, a few of the items may sound a little odd at first; yet if you don't immediately see each item describe some aspect of your own behaviour, you will certainly know women, as well as men, for whom it does...

Power and control (destructive)Equality (constructive)
Using coercion and threats
  • making and/or carrying out threats to do something to hurt your partner
  • threatening to leave your partner, to commit suicide, to report your partner to welfare
  • making your partner drop charges
  • making your partner do illegal things
Negotiation and fairness
  • seeking mutually satisfying resolutions to conflict
  • accepting change
  • being willing to compromise
Using intimidation
  • making your partner afraid by using looks, actions, gestures
  • smashing things
  • destroying your partner's property
  • abusing pets
  • displaying weapons
Non-threatening behaviour
  • talking and acting so that your partner feels safe and comfortable expressing themself and doing things
Using economic abuse
  • preventing your partner from getting or keeping a job
  • making your partner ask for money
  • giving your partner an allowance
  • taking your partner's money
  • not letting your partner know about or have access to family income
Economic partnership
  • making money decisions together
  • making sure both partners benefit from financial arrangements
Using emotional abuse
  • putting your partner down
  • making your partner feel bad about themself
  • calling your partner names
  • making your partner think they're crazy
  • playing mind-games
  • humiliating your partner
  • making your partner feel guilty
Respect
  • listening to your partner non-judgmentally
  • being emotionally affirming and understanding
  • valuing opinions
Using gender-privilege
  • treating your partner like a servant
  • making all the big decisions
  • acting like the 'owner of the house'
  • being the one to define male and female roles
Shared responsibility
  • mutually agreeing on a fair distribution of work
  • making family decisions together
Using isolation
  • controlling what your partner does, who they see and talk to, what they read, where they go
  • limiting your partner's outside involvement
  • using jealousy to justify actions
Trust and support
  • supporting your partner's goals in life
  • respecting your partner's right to their own feelings, friends, activities and opinions
Using children
  • making your partner feel guilty about the children
  • using the children to relay messages
  • using visitation to harass your partner
  • threatening to take the children away
Responsible parenting
  • sharing parental responsibilities
  • being a positive non-violent role model for the children
Minimising, denying and blaming
  • making light of the abuse and not taking your partner's concerns about it seriously
  • saying the abuse didn't happen
  • shifting responsibility for abusive behaviour
  • saying your partner caused it
Honesty and accountability

  • accepting responsibility for self
  • acknowledging past use of violence
  • admitting being wrong
  • communicating openly and truthfully

That's it. It's worthwhile spending quite a bit of time looking at that table - using it as a mirror in which to reflect the self...

When you've done that, stop for a moment. In what ways did you see your own behaviour, or that of other women, reflected in the Wheel?

Before we get back into discussion, write down some notes on what you've just seen of yourself. Once again, no-one is judging you, or anyone else: if you found your behaviour described often in the left-hand column, all that means is that you now know to what degree you are human - nothing more than that. And all that the right-hand column suggests is that there are matching alternatives that would be more empowering not just for others, but far more for you. That is your choice, though, and no-one else's...

Because of the 'male' bias of the original, a few of the items may have jarred, or the translation into stereotypical female behaviours may not have been obvious: so I'll add some additional comments under each of the headings.

Using coercion and threats
 

Using intimidation
 

Using economic abuse
 
[note: although, stereotypically, women may seem to do this less than men, 'affirmative action' legislation and blatant gender-bias in employment, supposedly on women's behalf, is effectively creating it at a societal level]

Using emotional abuse
 

Using gender-privilege
 

Using isolation
 

Using children
 

Minimising, denying and blaming