Can work with perpetrators help national economies?
There are four main pillars in prevention of domestic and gender based violence (GBV): awareness rising, effective prosecution of perpetrators, help and support to victims, and perpetrator programs that help stop violent and abusive behaviours. They need to work hand-in-hand to be effective. The consequences of GBV have been well documented, including physical and mental health, pain and suffering, effects on relationships and families, addictive behaviours, risks for children development. However, there has been less focus on the costs of violence for the individual, family and society. The figures show that domestic violence (DV) is very expensive. The costs are direct (e.g. medical care, victim support, treatment of perpetrators) and indirect (e.g. time out of work, loss of income, criminal procedures costs). There are also hidden costs (e.g. increased school dropout of children, mental health care of children living with DV). Researchers, governments and business leaders are becoming increasingly interested in financial costs to victims and national economies. Studies done in several countries attempted to quantify the single case costs and the aggregated financial costs of domestic violence. The figures are staggering.
In the US, the Center for Disease Control (CDC, 2003) estimated that DV costs the national economy more than €4.6 billion in a single year; in the United Kingdom quantified costs of pain and suffering, victim services and the reduction in economic output were estimated at €28.8 billion per year (2004); in Australia the estimated costs were €5.4 billion (2004), in Canada €3 billion (2004). In New Zealand the national unemployment benefits are approximately the same as the cost of DV. Studies that included costs of lost productivity due to time away from work (e.g. Max and coll. 2004) show higher figures (e.g. €6.6 billion for the US economy, over 7.9 million paid workdays lost per year reported in the CDC 2003 study). At the individual level, health care costs are much higher than for the general population, and notably more than two times higher for victimized women than men (CDC, 2005): €758 where women were the victims and €319 in cases where men were the victims; average medical cost for women victimized by physical DV was €386 compared to €66 for men; mental health services costs for women was €166 compared to €64 for men; productivity losses were €206 for women and €179 for men.
It is important to note that at the time of European wide call for austerity in social services the issue about costs effectiveness of the aforementioned four pillars of dealing with DV is high on decision makers’ agenda. Two questions are crucial: how effective are perpetrator programs in stopping violence and how much can they help reduce the costs of violence. The convincing evidence about effectiveness is still scarce, but the available data show that completing a perpetrator program can reduce the odds of re-arrest for almost two times at 2.4 years after intake (Benett and coll., 2007), and that victims report about two times less partners’ recidivism if they have completed the program (Ajdukovic, 2012). So, the way forward is to make accessible quality perpetrators programs and establish how much they contribute to reducing DV. Imagine the millions of € that could be saved if the perpetrator programs helped reduce the violence for only 1% (e.g. €288 million per year in the UK).
Society for Psychological Assistance (SPA)
WWP Board Member