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The Duluth Wheel domestic-violence re-education programme a revised methodology for generic use

  There is never an excuse for any act of violence, by anyone to anyone: yet violence exists. There is never  an excuse for crime of any kind: yet crime exists. Both remain issues that must be resolved, at both a  personal and a societal level.

  Strictly speaking, violence – or any criminal behaviour – is a choice. In practice, however, it is generally  not so much a choice as habitual learned behaviour – in other words a non-choice or evasion of choice. If  violence is learned behaviour, it can therefore be unlearned, and alternative, more constructive, behaviours  learnt in its place. This philosophy forms the background to all non-punitive approaches to the problem of  violence.

  The Duluth Wheel

  The Duluth Wheel map of violent and non-violent behaviour is one well-known example of such a  methodology. It was devised by the Duluth Domestic Abuse Intervention Project, Duluth, Minnesota,  USA, as the core of a ‘perpetrator’ programme to help men convicted of domestic assault to modify their  behaviour away from violence and towards mutual co-operation with others. The programme is intended  to be facilitated by a group of peers who use the Wheel’s ‘map’ to help participants identify their own  violent behaviours, who consistently remind participants of their responsibility for reducing violence, and  who model alternative behaviours and alternative solutions to conflict.

  The ‘map’ divides violence and abuse into eight categories: coercion and threats; intimidation; economic  abuse; gender-privilege; isolation; using children; minimising, denying and blaming. The respective target  behaviour for each category is: negotiation and fairness; non-threatening behaviour; economic partnership;  respect; shared responsibility; trust and support; responsible parenting; honesty and accountability.

  Need for revision

  The programme has been somewhat more successful than previous punishment-centred approaches, but  its methodology suffers from a number of serious flaws which inherently limit its validity and usefulness. In  particular, it is unusable for resolving anything other than explicit male-on-female domestic violence - a  relatively small proportion of the whole - and even for this its rigidly gendered approach is rarely  constructive in practice. These structural problems in the Duluth methodology are addressed in a critique  and revision section here. Guidelines and procedures for practical work based on the revised model are  also presented, together with a detailed commentary on each section of the revised model, and a  discussion on common perceptions of the problem of violence and abuse.

Tom Graves is a writer and researcher on skills-education, particularly the development of judgement and awareness in intuitive skills.



Violence resolution: revised procedure for Duluth-based programmes Gender-neutral version of revised Duluth model Combined (both-gender) version of revised Duluth model       
Downloadable archive-file containing complete revision and commentary 


Domestic violence is an unpleasant problem affecting significant numbers of people in every country throughout the world, and remains one of the most difficult and politically sensitive of social issues to manage. The 'Duluth' model has been adopted by many states worldwide as a core part of their policy for resolution and reduction of domestic violence, and was originally developed by members of the Duluth Domestic Abuse Intervention Project in Duluth, Minnesota, in the late 1980s. Their aim was to provide a methodology for 're-education' of perpetrators of domestic violence, to assist them in changing their behaviour to prevent further violence.

The problem with Duluth is that although it is probably better than nothing - and certainly more constructive than punishment-based strategies - it does not work well, and in some cases has demonstrably been worse than useless. Yet re-education strategies have been used with great success elsewhere, particularly in therapeutic and self-development environments. I was asked by a number of people, particularly those working with male victims and in the resolution of lesbian violence, to assess the Duluth model's design, and to suggest potential improvements.

From my previous work on the use of wyrd as a model for self-development and self-empowerment, it was immediately obvious that the original model was severely hampered by its rigid insistence on a gendered concept of violence, defined as something done only by men, and only to women. That concept conforms to 'politically correct' stereotypes, but, as the model of wyrd indicates (see, for example, the chapters on Fear and Power or Blame and Responsibility in 'Wyrd Allies'), it is neither accurate nor useful in practice. I restructured the model to remove its arbitrary assumptions about gender, and also showed that there is no advantage in distinguishing between nominal 'perpetrators' and nominal 'victims', since in reality most people are both, and the intended assertive behaviour for both is identical.

The revision includes two versions of the model: a combined version, showing both women and men in identical terms as 'victims', and a gender-neutral version, which is mainly useful for understanding violence and abuse in a wider social context. I also added two new sections to the overall model, to cover issues which were not addressed in the original, and developed a revised procedure for working with the new model. Since the concept of wyrd will be unfamiliar to most people working in the field, I avoided using the term anywhere in the text; but the 'empowerment' and 'self-responsibility' aspects of wyrd, as described in Positively Wyrd and Wyrd Allies, are used extensively throughout the revised model and methodology.

The entire revision, including a detailed commentary on each section of the revised model, is contained within a self-contained archive-file (newduluth.zip, v1.1, 94Kb), which includes all .HTM files and graphics for installation as a self-contained web-site within a single directory. This is available for free download and general distribution, subject to the copyright restrictions stated in its index.htm file.

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