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Battered Men - The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence
Batterer Treatment Programs

The Faulty Duluth Model

The "Duluth Model"
Power and Control Wheel
A version for female perpetrators.

Domestic violence is a people problem, not a gender issue. Women are hurt by not getting the batterer treatment they need.

© 1998 by Bert H. Hoff


The "Duluth Model Power and Control Wheel" attributes domestic violence to male oppression of women. This is gender-polarizing, as we point out in the MenWeb article What's Wrong with the "Duluth Model"?. MenWeb has expanded on a model Tom Graves has developed, one he calls an inverted model, designed for female perpetrators and homosexual male perpetrators of domestic violence.

Duluth Model power and control wheel

Duluth Model power and control wheel.
Revised for female perpetrators

Note: We present this for your information, not for use. I strongly urge you to "go to the source," where Tom Grave's model is presented more fully. For example, for brevity I have omitted the original model (for male perpetrators) and the gender-neutral model, both of which are essential to working with this material.

Criticisms of the Duluth Wheel Approach

The programme has been reasonably successful - certainly more successful than the previous 'lock-'em-up-and-throw-away-the-key' approach - but its methodology suffers from a number of serious flaws.

  1. It assumes that violence is, in essence, 'male'.
  2. There is an implicit refusal - and in practice generally an explicit refusal - to acknowledge any violence done to men, especially by women.
  3. All responsibility for reducing violence and for creating co-operation is assigned to men - which in effect denies women any power to change their own circumstances, and consequently keeps them trapped in a subordinate 'victim' role.
  4. The methodology is intended to create responsible attitudes by challenging existing behaviour: yet programmes are often presented to men by women in a blaming, punitive environment, which is immediately counter-productive.
(See full model for elaboration on each of these points.)


Suggested Revisions

These problems are addressed in the following suggested revision of the Duluth Wheel methodology.

  1. Violence by both sexes is included in the discussion, by stating that the different gendered forms of violence are opposite sides of the same coin. Violence is acknowledged to be a human problem with some socially-mediated gender-overtones, rather than a gender-problem as such.
  2. The problem of evasion of responsibility by attempting to shift blame to 'the other' is resolved by stating that each person only has responsibility for their own behaviour, but it includes behaviour which may invite abuse by others, as well that which is abusive of others. ...
  3. Wherever practicable, programmes should be facilitated by peers of the participants - people of the same sex, race and socio-economic group. ...
(Again, see the original model for full exploration of these ideas.)

Revised Duluth methodology - procedure

(excerpts, to highlight differences from the original, gender-polarizing Duluth Model focus on male oppression of women. See the original model for the full set of procedures and instructions for use.)

State that feelings are not in question: feelings such as anger, sadness, love and joy arise from the fact of being human. It is not that people have a 'right' to their feelings, but that feelings must in themselves be acknowledged as fact. To deny one's feelings usually causes damage, to self and often also to others. What is in question is each participant's response to their feelings ...

State that responsibility for feelings, and especially for fear, is personal, not social: no-one has a 'right' not to be afraid, or to not experience feelings such as embarrassment or shame. (Note that there may be considerable resistance to this concept, especially from women.) Demonstrate by example - such as by reference to participants' experience of learning childhood skills, such as riding a bicycle - that fear is reduced only by facing it: others may - and where practicable, generally should - be responsible about others' fears, but cannot be responsible for them: this distinction needs to be explained, preferably by practical example. Attempting to offload responsibility for fear to others is not only counter-productive, but is usually a form of abuse. Since fear often leads to 'pre-emptive strikes' against imagined threats, it is a common source of violence: it is participants' responsibility to learn to distinguish clearly between real and imagined threats, and to respond appropriately to each. (Again, women may have considerable difficulty with these concepts, particularly because feminist theory rarely makes any distinction between real and imagined threats, and generally requires responsibility for fear to be taken by 'the other' rather than the self.)

State that violence is generally learned behaviour, and that no-one is being blamed for what they have been taught in the past. ...

Introduce the revised Duluth Wheel 'map'. Invite participants to look first at the 'gender-neutral' version, to discuss violence in generic terms. Move the discussion slowly from the abstract to the concrete, and from discussion of others' behaviour towards discussion of participants' own behaviour. At an appropriate point, invite participants to personalise this by looking at both gender-specific versions of the model - both the 'violence to females' version, and the 'violence to males' version. ...

Both versions of the table must be fully explored ... Because of gender-stereotyping and other reasons, it is generally easiest for both sexes to begin with the 'violence to females' version: men expect to be made responsible for their own violence, and initially have difficulty understanding their responsibilities in reducing violence done to them; whilst women often understand the latter, but may have considerable difficulty in perceiving and accepting their own violent behaviours.

To explore the tables in the context of 'violence to self' (for example, for both heterosexual and homosexual males, the 'violence to males' table), go through each sector in turn, inviting participants to describe and, if appropriate, act out in role-play examples of the behaviour of past or present intimate partners which would fit in the respective category, and their own responses to and interactions with that behaviour. (Include incidents in which others were manipulated into acting out the violence - such as the other providing false evidence to a court in support of a divorce claim or intervention order.)...

In working through the 'violence to self' table, acknowledge that there are limits to everyone's ability to manage their responses to their feelings, especially under extreme conditions of stress or violent assault of any form. Emphasise, however, that even under the most severe provocation there is still never an excuse for violence, even if it can be labelled 'self-defence': participants' social duty to respond in a non-violent way applies to all circumstances. Participants should be reminded that the only person's behaviour they can change is their own: if others are acting in a violent manner, participants have neither a right nor a responsibility to change it, but only to change their own behaviour as best they can to empower all parties in the incident to reach a non-violent resolution. Emphasise that statements such as "it's all her fault" or "he made me do it" are not acceptable. Remind participants that alternatives to violence are always available ...

Duluth Wheel 'Violence towards males' version

(for: heterosexual females, homosexual males)

Control and abuse (destructive)       Equality (constructive)                

Using coercion and threats            Negotiation and fairness               
- making and/or carrying out threats  - seeking mutually satisfying          
to do something to hurt him           resolutions to conflict                
- threatening to leave him, to        - accepting change                     
commit suicide, to report him to      - being willing to compromise          
- making him drop charges                                                    
- making him do illegal things                                               

Using intimidation                    Non-threatening behaviour              
- making him afraid by using looks,   - talking and acting so that he feels  
actions, gestures                     safe and comfortable expressing        
- smashing things                     himself and doing things               
- destroying his property                                                    
- abusing pets                                                               
- displaying weapons (such as                                                

Using economic abuse                  Economic partnership                   
- preventing him from getting or      - making money decisions together      
keeping a job                         - making sure both partners benefit    
- making him ask for money            from financial arrangements            
- giving him an allowance                                                    
- taking his money                                                           
- not letting him know about or have                                         
access to family income                                                      

Using emotional abuse                 Respect                                
- putting him down                    - listening to him non-judgmentally    
- making him feel bad about himself   - being emotionally affirming and      
- calling him names                   understanding                          
- making him think he's crazy         - valuing opinions                     
- playing mind-games                                                         
- humiliating him                                                            
- making him feel guilty                                                     

Using gender privilege                Shared responsibility                  
- treating him like a servant         - mutually agreeing on a fair          
- making all the big decisions        distribution of work                   
- acting like the 'mistress of the    - making family decisions together     
- being the one to define male and                                           
female roles                                                                 

Using isolation                       Trust and support                      
- controlling what he does, who he    - supporting his goals in life         
sees and talks to, what he reads,     - respecting his right to his own      
where he goes                         feelings, friends, activities and      
- limiting his outside involvement    opinions                               
- using jealousy to justify actions                                          

Using children                        Responsible parenting                  
- making him feel guilty about the    - sharing parental responsibilities    
children                              - being a positive non-violent role    
- using the children to relay         model for the children                 
- using visitation to harass him                                             
- threatening to take the children                                           

Minimising, denying and blaming       Honesty and accountability             
- making light of the abuse and not   - accepting responsibility for self    
taking his concerns about it          - acknowledging past use of violence   
seriously                             - admitting being wrong                
- saying the abuse didn't happen      - communicating openly and truthfully  
- shifting responsibility for                                                
abusive behaviour                                                            
- saying he caused it                                                        

Note: adapted from the original Duluth Wheel by laying out the text out in a tabular rather than circular format, and inverting gender-specific language.

Click here to return to the article on the gender-polarization of the Duluth model.   Click Here to see the original, gender-polarizing "Duluth Model" Power and Control Wheel.

  What's Wrong with the Duluth Model?
     Blame and shame, not help. Ideology, not science. Ignores drinking, drugs, pathology, violence by women. One cause, one solution. Taught by "wounded healers." Gender-polarizing-perpetrates the "battle of the sexes"
  Duluth Model Successfully Challenged
     Programs gets North Carolina regulation mandating Duluth Model set aside
  It's Such Bullshit
     Anger Management for Men is Such Bullshit. It made me suicidal
  It's About Male Oppression of women
     preaches the "Duluth Model."
  Domestic Violations
     Cathy Young. Where there's mutual violence, joint counseling offers the best solution. But it's not allowed.
  Why Women Batter
     "He wasn't sensitive to my needs." "He wasn't listening."