Myth: Duluth model

What is the Duluth Model?

The full name is Domestic Abuse Intervention Program (DAIP). It is called ‘Duluth’ after the small town in Minnesota USA where it was developed from 1981 on.

It “Believes that battering is a pattern of actions used to intentionally control or dominate an intimate partner and actively works to change societal conditions that support men’s use of tactics of power and control over women.”1

Men are put on a training program to ‘help them deal with their behaviour’.

The model does not directly blame the individual man. It claims that men are perpetrators who are violent because they have been socialised in a patriarchy that condones male violence, and that women are victims who are violent only in self-defence.

The Duluth model is not the result of academic study. It was created by an independent group with the aim of helping ‘battered’ women. It makes no secret of this bias.


Duluth have developed a ‘wheel’ diagram to illustrate their model.

It is heavily gendered, repeatedly blaming men for their behaviour. The Duluth team are determined to keep it that way. They do offer users the chance to adapt the wheel for their use, but explicitly forbid making it gender-neutral. “Therefore, any requests to make the Power and Control Wheel, or any of its derivatives, gender neutral will not be approved.”

See larger version at Original source

What’s the problem?

The Duluth Model focuses only on female victims of violence (‘battering’) and assumes that the motivation of the male batterer is ‘power and control’ over his victim.

However, this assumption turns out to be wrong! Even one of the originators, Ellen Pence, wrote in 1999 that she realised the mistake once she started to interview men who had been violent, she realised that few had been motivated by ‘power and control’.2

Others have pointed out that this approach cannot explain violence in same-sex relationships. Lesbian relationships have a higher level of violence than heterosexual ones.

Official figures for 2018 show more men than women as victims of force in partner-abuse. 3Partner abuse in detail, England and Wales: year ending March 2018

Where this model (or its assumptions) are used in training courses for police, NHS, social-work etc staff this can lead to a mindset where female are generally seen as victims and males generally as perpetrators instead of looking at the facts.

Elsewhere on this site we link to real stories where children are returned to a violent mother or the man is arrested himself when reporting domestic violence against himself. each of these stories reflects the ‘Duluth’ mindset.

Dispelling this myth

Unfortunately there is no independent evidence which shows the effectiveness of taking this approach. Several studies have been done, with mixed outcomes. Some show a positive effect on those men who complete the program, but others have pointed out that these are the men who want to change. Another study showed that Non-violent Communication programs were more effective than Duluth in reducing re-offending, while few studies have been organised as a randomised control trial.4

Domestic abuse is not gendered.

Murray Straus has been studying the evidence about domestic abuse since the 1960s. he explains how the research shows clearly that partner is symmetrical. “about the same percentage of women hitting their partners as men hitting their partners” .

He also found that “Most partner violence is not in self-defence.”

This 2012 study of several sources of evidence shows that bi-directional partner violence (situational couple violence) covers between 50 and 57% of the cases. Where one partner is violent, but the other does not respond, there are twice as many violent females as violent males.

This fits better with experience: that violence often happens when a heated argument gets out of control, (rather that the male person is trying to impose the patriarchy).

It also fits with a common thread in personal stories from battered men: that they simply ‘took it’ as either it was so ingrained in them that they could not ‘hit a woman’ or they feared that even restraining their batterer might result in themselves being arrested.

Further reading