„Do perpetrator programmes work?“ – Improving quality assurance in perpetrator work

Author: Berta Vall Castelló

The effectiveness of work with men who use violence is a much-debated topic. Quality assurance is crucial for responsible and safe perpetrator work. But how can perpetrator programmes still make sure that they are offering safe, impactful and innovative interventions?

What does successful perpetrator work look like? No more arrests? The man saying he is no longer violent? The partner feeling safe? All of the above and more? Without a shared definition, there is no shared way of measuring the outcome of perpetrator programmes. Depending on which definition and methods an evaluation uses, the results differ and cannot be compared to give an overview. Additionally, each perpetrator programme exists in its own context. Does the programme accept men from the criminal justice system? Does the programme collaborate with all other relevant organisations, e.g. victim support services? What is the approach used in the intervention? All these factors have an impact on the effectiveness of a programme and good evaluation procedures must account for these contexts.

Despite numerous problems, perpetrator programmes of course still attempt to evaluate their work and show their effectiveness. However, most evaluation procedures have flawed methodology. They e.g. only rely on men’s accounts or lack an evaluation of the process of change throughout the programme.

The IMPACT Toolkit

In 2013, a group of European researchers and perpetrator programmes came together for the EU-funded Project IMPACT to address these frustrations. They knew that to increase survivor safety, perpetrator programmes had to improve the quality of their monitoring and evaluation processes.

Their answer to the problem: the IMPACT Toolkit. With this toolkit, they presented answers to the issues they had seen in other evaluation tools:

  • It standardises methodology & areas of enquiry for all programmes, leading to comparable data across the world.
  • It goes beyond mere evaluation and offers programmes a chance to reflect on their procedures and structures, by e.g. increasing the pressure to collaborate with victim support services.
  • It offers programmes a chance to increase their quality with qualitative input from both perpetrators and their partners.

Access to comparable data across all programmes enables WWP EN to gather information on what does and does not work in perpetrator work, which in turn allows for evidence-based innovation and the opportunity to develop an intervention model based on best practice from across the world. However, it also helps programmes within a country compare their results and make informed choices. Organisations in six countries across Europe already use the toolkit and programmes in Canada and Australia will soon start using it.

How does it work?

The IMPACT Toolkit consists five questionnaires administered individually with both the perpetrators and the (ex-)partners. Additionally, WWP EN offers an online platform to document the answers and the option to receive individualised reports on the outcomes from the programme using IMPACT.

These questionnaires are always filled out at the same times: At intake (T0) or first partner contact, at the beginning of the programme (T1), halfway through the programme (T2), at the end of the programme (T3) and 6 months after the completion of the programme (T4).

Since perpetrators and their (ex-)partners both fill out the questionnaires, programmes can see changes in perpetrator behaviour, as well as the impact these changes have on the (ex-)partners and children. Introducing the questionnaires at several points throughout the intervention enables programmes to analyse reasons for high dropout rates, long-term changes, as well as the process of change (e.g. when does the programme start having a positive impact on the (ex-)partners’ or children’s lives).

With the help of the toolkit, programmes can analyse results in the following areas

  • Behaviour change, e.g. violence happens less often or is less severe, how do these changes affect the (ex-)partner
  • Safety and wellbeing, e.g. how (un)safe does the (ex-)partner feel and why
  • Change for children, e.g. how are the children behaving, are they feeling safer
  • Expectations & hopes, e.g. what are the expectations towards the programme, are they being met
  • Increased responsibility for violence, e.g. why does the perpetrator think he becomes violent, does this change, what are the reasons to come to the programme

The IMPACT Toolkit offers programmes the chance to develop a coordinated, reliable and structured evaluation procedure, which includes the valuable feedback from those affected by the violence and provides easy to read reports targeted at funders and governments.

Find out more about frontline experience of using the IMPACT Toolkit in our interview with CAM and Una Casa per L’Uomo in Italy.

Results

We are still in the process of cross-country analysis of IMPACT results. However, we will share some exclusive insights here:

  1. Men in perpetrator programmes acknowledge lower frequency of emotional, physical and sexual abusive behaviour at the beginning of the programme than their (ex-) partners.
  2. Early motivation to join the programme, refer to the relationship but also to improving parenting. Fewer men are motivated by the wish to stop their own behaviour.
  3. At the end of the programme, there was a statistically significant reduction of physical and emotional abuse according to both the men in treatment and their (ex-)partners.
  4. Men in treatment and their (ex-) partners views converged more at the end of the programme for all of the abusive behaviours.
  5. Even if abusive behaviours decrease throughout the programme, it doesn’t mean that the impact of the man’s behaviour on his family, e.g. feeling depressed, does.

These are some promising but still very preliminary results from our analyses. In 2021, WWP EN will start conducting analyses with higher numbers of respondents across countries. With these results, we will be able to give much more detailed insights, e.g. how motivation affects the programme outcome, which elements affect outcome most and how a man’s increased awareness of the impacts on the (ex-) partners and children affects programme outcomes.

References

Babcock, J. C., Green, C. E., & Robie, C. (2004). Does batterers’ treatmentwork? A meta-analytic review of domestic violence treatment.ClinicalPsychology Review, 23, 1023–1053. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2002.07.001

Lilley-Walker, S. J., Hester, M., & Turner, W. (2016). Evaluation of European Domestic Violence Perpetrator Programmes Toward a Model for Designing and Reporting Evaluations Related to Perpetrator Treatment Interventions. International journal of offender therapy and comparative criminology, 62(4), 868-884. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0306624X16673853

Westmarland, N & Kelly, L. (2012). Why Extending Measurements of 'Success' in Domestic Violence Perpetrator Programmes Matters for Social Work. British Journal of Social Work 43(6), 1092-1110. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/bjsw/bcs049

Last changed: 24.06.2022