A programme for perpetrators of domestic violence and abuse

In our work with adults, we understand domestic violence to be:

actual or threatened physical, sexual, mental, emotional or financial abuse perpetrated against a person (usually, but not always, by a man against a woman) within the context of a current or previous intimate relationship.

This page provides answers to some of the questions most commonly asked by our clients. They may be of relevance to your circumstances wherever you live. Click on the questions for the answers.

  • Have I committed domestic violence?

  • What are the most common excuses?

  • Why is your programme a year long or more?

  • What is the programme assessment?

  • And what's the individual counselling?

  • And what happens in the groupwork?

  • How do you know if it works?

  • When they've finished, do clients stay involved with Ahimsa?

If you have done any of the following, you have committed an act of domestic violence.

Have you slapped, punched, kicked, pushed or shoved, threatened or thrown things at your partner?

Have you:

    Called them names?
  • Have you smashed or damaged their property?
  • Have you isolated your partner from family and friends?
  • Have you made him/her afraid of you?

Do you:

  • Feel that he/she deserved it?
  • Feel that he/she provoked it?
  • Feel that you can't help it?
  • Feel that everyone has the right to control their partner?

These are all excuses. Domestic violence is inexcusable.

  • "When I get angry, I just lose control."
  • "I didn't really hit him/her, he/she moved and bruises so easily."
  • "I don't know what he/she's going on about. He/she fell, I never laid a hand on them."
  • "I just get fed up with all the arguments."
  • "He/she never listens to me or does anything I say."
  • "It was because I was drunk at the time; it never happens otherwise."
  • "I have a short temper, always have had."
  • "He/she doesn't seem to realise that I have needs and my frustration builds if I don't have sex."
  • "He/she shouldn't lead me on and break promises."
  • "I'm the only one who can sort out the money and pay bills."

Our belief, firmly rooted in research findings and experience, is that domestic violence is caused by a belief system that runs deeper than programmes concerned solely with "anger management" or "temper control" would deal with.

We are frequently taught that violence is a successful strategy to get what we want. Every Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone film supports and underpins that belief.

Many abusers believe that within an intimate relationship, they are automatically entitled to, for example, sexual services, domestic chores or access to whatever money is available.

Ahimsa challenges that faulty belief system and when it has taken an abuser thirty or forty years to arrive at what they believe, it takes more than a few weeks to replace it with something more socially acceptable.

We do two/three introductory assessment sessions (usually one hour per week over two/three weeks) to establish several factors:

  • motive - is he/she trying to win you back or gain access to his children?
  • lethality - how dangerous is he/she?
  • amenability - are the chances of change realistic at this time?
  • responsibility - who does he/she blame for the violence?
  • risk - is the violence likely to continue?

We also begin to gather information about his partners, ensuring that all at risk from him are at least offered a service in an attempt to maximise their safety.

Individual counselling normally consists of ten or twelve one hour sessions at weekly intervals over three months.

The initial task is to challenge the denial and minimisation that normally accompanies each incidence of domestic violence. Counsellors will set and review homework assignments and monitor the safety plans agreed to protect those most at risk.

The process enhances the clients' motivation to change, helps them to assume personal responsibility for the results of their behaviour and introduces them to a vocabulary for their own (often unidentified) feelings.

Groupwork is semi-structured and facilitated by two experienced workers. The intervention guides abuser towards victim empathy. Group members progressively challenge and provide support for each other. Partner's experiences are explored through role play and various exercises with individual, pair and full group work.

The group also explores other forms of abuse and coercion, including psychological, sexual and financial abuse.

Once the groupwork has finished, quite a high proportion of clients volunteer to do it again.

We have particpated in study conducted by the Centre for Social Policy, based in Dartington, Devon. They have interviewed a variety of ex-clients and (where safe to do so) their partners or ex-partners in an attempt to determine the difference our intervention has made.

We used to think that a client had to complete the entire programme before we could consider them to be "successful". The researchers are emphatic that our workers are capable of making a dramatic impact on clients and their relationships, even if they dropped out before completion.

The results of the rearch have been published by the research team and are available upon request. Ahimsa is currently participating in Respectís Perpetrator Programme Evaluation Research Programme, a four year research project to examine the effects on womenís safety from the participation of their partners in well established programmes.

We encourage clients to take their new perspective into their communities to challenge the socio-cultural norms which support and institutionalise sexism, foster violence and dehumanise men.

Some clients want to go through the groupwork element of the programme twice. Others are actively encouraged to. Therefore many clients have a weekly involvement with our project for over two years.

Some ex-clients undergo counselling training and act as volunteer workers. Others participate by, for example, joining our board of trustees.

We encourage ex-clients to stay in touch with each other and we are currently planning to run a voluntary post-programme group for programme completers to provide ongoing support for sustained change.

Ahimsa is a charity registered in England and Wales (No. 328598) and a Company Limited by Guarantee (No. 2455838) © 1996