Research – Duluth redesign

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Domestic violence is an unpleasant problem affecting significant numbers of people in every country throughout the world, and remains one of the most difficult and politically sensitive of social issues to manage. The ‘Duluth’ model has been adopted by many states worldwide as a core part of their policy for resolution and reduction of domestic violence, and was originally developed by members of the Duluth Domestic Abuse Intervention Project in Duluth, Minnesota, in the late 1980s. Their aim was to provide a methodology for ‘re-education’ of perpetrators of domestic violence, to assist them in changing their behaviour to prevent further violence.

The problem with Duluth is that although it is perhaps better than nothing, it does not work well, and in too many cases has demonstrably been worse than useless. Yet there is nothing wrong with the core concept of re-education: such strategies have been used with great success elsewhere, particularly in therapeutic and self-development environments. I was asked by a number of people, particularly those working with male victims and in the resolution of lesbian violence, to assess the Duluth model’s design, and to suggest potential improvements.

From my previous work on the use of wyrd as a model for self-development and self-empowerment, it was immediately obvious that the original Duluth model was crippled by its rigid insistence on a gendered concept of violence, defined as something done only by men, and only to women. That concept conforms to ‘politically correct’ stereotypes, but, as the model of wyrd indicates (see, for example, the chapters on Fear and Power or Blame and Responsibility in ‘Wyrd Allies‘), it is neither accurate nor useful in practice. I restructured the model to remove its arbitrary assumptions about gender, and also showed that there is no advantage in distinguishing between nominal ‘perpetrators’ and nominal ‘victims’, since in reality most people are both, and the intended assertive behaviour for both is identical.

The revision includes two versions of the model: a combined version, showing both women and men in identical terms as ‘victims’, and a gender-neutral version, which is mainly useful for understanding violence and abuse in a wider social context. I also added two new sections to the overall model, to cover issues which were not addressed in the original, and developed a revised procedure for working with the new model. Since the concept of wyrd will be unfamiliar to most people working in the field, I avoided using the term anywhere in the text; but the ’empowerment’ and ‘self-responsibility’ aspects of wyrd, as described in Positively Wyrd and Wyrd Allies, are used extensively throughout the revised model and methodology.

The entire revision, including a detailed commentary on each section of the revised model, is contained within a self-contained ZIP archive-file (, v1.1, 94Kb), which includes all .HTM files and graphics for installation as a self-contained web-site within a single directory. This is available for free download and general distribution, subject to the copyright restrictions stated in its index.htm file.

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