Defense of the Duluth Model

By Pence, Ellen; Paymar, Michael | Law & Order, February 2004 | Go to article overview

Defense of the Duluth Model


Pence, Ellen, Paymar, Michael, Law & Order


The Duluth Model has been mischaracterized as a counseling program for men who batter. The Duluth Model was designed in 1981 as a coordinated community response of law enforcement, the criminal and civil courts, and human service providers working together to hold offenders accountable for their behaviors and to make communities safer for victims.

The Duluth Model focuses intervention on stopping an offender's use of violence, not fixing the relationship; using the power of the state through arrest and prosecution to place controls on an offender's behavior; providing victims of abuse emergency housing, protection orders and information to increase safety; tracking cases and working with law enforcement, the courts and advocacy programs to ensure interventions conform to agreed-upon policies.

When the Duluth Model began we were faced with a dilemma. What should the state do with offenders arrested under new pro-arrest policies? The options were jail, community service, fines or simply doing nothing, which was the typical response only 25 years ago. We advocated for a combination of probation and counseling that challenged the thinking and behavior of offenders. Our philosophy has always been to offer an opportunity for rehabilitation with a tight system that enforces sanctions for those who continue to batter.

The goal of our counseling program is to help offenders understand that their beliefs about women, men and marriage contribute to their abusive behavior; that violence is intentional and a choice; that most violence is designed to control an intimate partner; that the effects of abusive behavior damage the family and that each abuser has the ability to change.

The counseling program in Duluth uses an educational curriculum that is widely used throughout the United States. The program doesn't advocate divorce. The Duluth curriculum is a cognitive-behavioral counseling program that is very similar to other well-known programs like Emerge, Amend and Choices.

It is important to note that the NIJ research didn't analyze treatment programs. The researchers simply concluded that recidivism and offenders' attitudes about women were basically similar for those offenders who went to counseling versus those placed on probation with the threat of jail.

The NIJ recognized the methodological shortcomings in their own research. …

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