Stopping the Cycle of Abuse

If you are a victim of domestic violence, you must respond appropriately to protect yourself. However, the nature of that response will depend on your situation. Some domestic violence victims, for instance, will need help breaking free and leaving an abusive relationship.

But others may wish to continue the relationship. Their primary goal is to stop the cycle of abuse through intervention. They want to get help for the abuser and form a positive relationship going forward.

It can be difficult to break the cycle of abuse. However, targeted intervention programs and other methods have proven to be effective at keeping families together.

Whether intervention is a viable solution will depend on:

  • The victim’s wishes
  • The abuser’s willingness and commitment to participate and make changes
  • The individual and community resources available to provide support.

Typically, community-based programs are designed to provide the necessary services for both the abused and the batterer to get help.

For instance, services are available in North Carolina that offer abuser treatment and operate batterer intervention programs. A full list of these services can be found on the website of the North Carolina Council for Women.

How Does Domestic Violence Intervention Work?

A variety of different models and treatment methods are used to help break the cycle of abuse and allow a batterer and victim to form a more healthy relationship.

One of the most common approaches taken is called the Duluth Model. It is modeled after the response of a small community in Minnesota that was an innovator in taking steps to end domestic violence.

The Duluth Model has several primary goals, including:

  • Placing accountability for abuse on the offender and removing the blame from the victim.
  • Keeping victims safe and holding abusers accountable through shared policies and procedures designed to meet both goals.
  • Prioritizing the experience of battered women in creating procedures for responding to domestic violence.
  • Recognizing that battering is a pattern of actions intended to control or dominate an intimate partner.
  • Offering opportunities for batterers to change through participation in educational groups.
  • Encouraging ongoing discussions between criminal and civil justice groups, members of the community and victims to better respond in cases of domestic violence.

The Duluth model recognizes that abusers maintain their control over victims through coercion, isolation, intimidation and periodic acts of violence.

The model attempts to overcome abuse by helping batterers to develop critical thinking skills centering around eight themes:

  • Non-violence
  • Behavior that is not threatening or intimidating
  • Respect
  • Trust and support
  • Accountability and honesty
  • Sexual respect
  • Partnership
  • Negotiation and fairness.

The Duluth Model involves offering classes on each of these issues to batterers. Depending on the length of the course program, two to three sessions may be focused on each subject.

Is Intervention Effective?

The Duluth Model is just one of many different methods of intervening to teach a batterer better methods of interacting and communicating and helping to break the cycle of abuse.

The Emerge Curriculum in Quincy, Massachusetts and the Amend Program taught in Colorado also provide in-depth services to abusers over a long period of time.

The Emerge Curriculum lasts for no less than 48 weeks and at least 24 to 32 weeks because of a belief that the abuser’s treatment must last this long to break through the “façade of compliance” that many abusers demonstrate.

The Amend Program, on the other hand, can last anywhere from 36 weeks to five years.

The necessary treatment for an abuser will depend upon:

  • The history of abuse
  • The driving reasons behind the abuse
  • The willingness to make behavioral changes for the long-term.

These programs can be effective if the abuser is committed and the community and education program provide the necessary support.

Abuse victims are never responsible for the success or failure of an abuser to seek treatment. Their first steps should always be to protect themselves. If a dangerous situation arises or if there is an escalating pattern of abuse in the home they should seek assistance from community organizations, law enforcement and the courts.

The Abuser Must Be the One to Change

If you are a domestic violence victim, you must remember that the abuse is not your fault and that it is impossible to make an abuser change – even with an intervention.

Unless the batterer is willing and committed to participating in an intervention program and making changes, it will be difficult for efforts to stop the cycle of abuse to be successful. Counseling or education is often required by courts for abusers, and educational efforts and behavior-modification techniques can be effective in stopping the cycle of abuse. However, no one can be forced to change.

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