Step 1: Define basic principles, ground-rules and terminology
State the purpose of the programme. To do so, assert that violence and abuse arise from someone’s refusal to be responsible for their own power: the purpose of the programme is therefore to assist participants in becoming responsible for and with their own power, and thus achieve greater satisfaction in their lives without the ‘need’ for violent or abusive behaviour.
The specific meanings of the terms ‘responsibility’, ‘power’, ‘violence’ and ‘abuse’ in the context of the programme should be defined and, where necessary, more fully explained by example.
- Responsibility is “response-ability”.
- ‘Response-ability’ is the ability to respond in the present, especially in a constructive or mutually empowering manner. In particular, ‘response-ability’ includes the acknowledgement of the social duty to create socially and personally appropriate responses to personal feelings, without attempting to offload that responsibility onto others (see ‘Abuse‘ below). As a result, it is essential to distinguish between responsibility and blame: blame is an attempt to evade responsibility in the present by assigning to others exclusive responsibility for the past or future, and as such is generally an act of abuse.
- Power is “the ability to do work, as an expression of personal choice”.
- In this context, the term ‘work’ is entirely open, and includes physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, social and many other forms: to calm a fractious child, for example, or to reclaim hope from despair, is just as much ‘work’ as digging a hole or solving a technical problem. (Ultimately, it also needs to be understood that the words ‘work’ and ‘play’ are synonymous – as can be seen in the ‘work/play’ of children.) Choices are personal, yet everyone has choice: to attempt to override another’s choice by force of any kind – physical, emotional or whatever – is an act of violence.
- Violence is “any attempt to empower the self by disempowering any other”.
- An expanded definition of violence in this context is “any attempt, in any form and by any means, to empower the self, or to provide the illusion of empowering the self, by disempowering any other”. In a simpler though less precise form, any attempt to lift oneself up by putting another down is an act of violence. The ‘other’, in this context, is any person – including self treated as ‘other’ – any animal, any equipment, or the overall environment.
- Abuse is “any attempt to export responsibility to any other without their express consent”.
- In essence, abuse is a lesser form of violence: it is not so much an attempt to disempower the other as an attempt to transfer the (social) requirement for personal responsibility, for personal issues such as fear, to others, without their express permission or consent. Responsibility is often exported through a process of other-blame or, in some circumstances, self-blame. It is the combination of the evasion of personal responsibility and the absence of permission which are the crucial factors here: children generally export responsibility for their safety to adults, for example, but it is usually the adults’ choice to take on that responsibility. Self-abuse arises when the self is treated as ‘other’ – for example, blaming the self in the past for conditions in the present, or as an excuse to evade self-responsibility in the present.
Note that the forms which the violence or abuse may take – physical or non-physical – are not distinguished: it is the fact of violence or abuse, and its impact on the other and/or self, which is considered significant.)
State that power and violence are mutually exclusive, and cannot co-exist: other than at the level of surface appearances, it is not possible to be powerful and violent at the same time. Violence generally arises from a felt sense of powerlessness, combined with a socially-condoned illusion that to be violent ‘is’ powerful. The programme is concerned with assisting participants to find their own power and ability to create constructive responses to any kind of conflict situation.
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: how they respond is solely their choice, but they have both a personal responsibility and a social duty to find choices of response which are neither violent nor abusive, either to others or to themselves. The object of the programme is to help participants assess their choices, and move their behaviours more into line with that responsibility and duty. Within the programme, participants are invited to acknowledge and express fully whatever they feel, but are required to commit themselves to an agreement that they will allow others to do the same; that, whatever they feel, they will not harm any person (including themselves) or any property, including the building in which the programme is held; and to trust that others, including the facilitators, will do the same. If the programme is held in a non-custodial environment, participants are required to commit themselves to calling for help from facilitators and/or other support groups if they consider themselves at risk of being violent with themselves and/or others when outside of the programme.
State that responsibility for feelings, and especially for fear, is personal, not social: no-one has a ‘right’ to not 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: hence 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. It is acknowledged that participants are likely to have been violent and/or abusive in the past: emphasise that the programme is not concerned with blame or with actions in the past, but with creating an understanding of present behaviour and the development of future behaviour. (It is extremely important that facilitators be open and honest about their own history in this regard.) Participants should, however, be warned that facilitators are under legal obligation to report some kinds of violence and abuse, such as sexual abuse to children, and participants are required to acknowledge and, wherever practicable, act upon their legal responsibilities in all instances of violence and abuse.
Step 2: Introduce the revised Duluth ‘map’
Invite participants to look first at the gender-neutral version, to discuss violence in generic terms. Develop an awareness in participants of how violence operates within the society as a whole. 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 the gender-specific views of the model, as shown on the combined version. (Two variants of this version may be used, one showing the female-as-victims list on the left-hand column, the other showing the males-as-victims on the left, so as make best use of left-to-right visual flow when working with a single-sex group. In all cases, however, all three columns – females-as-victims, non-violence, and males-as-victims – must be present on the materials used, especially if printed copies are to be taken home by participants. If either ‘victim’ column is missing, or if gender-specific language is used in the central column, the altered model will act as ‘minimising, denying and blaming’ abuse against those no longer included in the model, and will greatly exacerbate the risk of the programme acting only as ‘third-party abuse’ rather as violence resolution.) State that, as shown by the gender-neutral version of the model, much the same issues apply in any relationship, whether heterosexual, homosexual, in a work environment, at a social event, or elsewhere.
State that the aim of the programme is to help participants to identify any behaviour of their own which occurs in the respective ‘other-as-victim’ and ‘self-as-victim’ columns, and to develop ways to change their own behaviour to create that shown in the central column. Specifically, the aim is to suggest and experience ways in which their behaviour may be changed from aggressive and/or passive forms – which either are abusive and/or invite abuse – towards forms which are inclusive and assertive, and which are respectful both of others and of self.
The focus must always be on participants’ existing behaviour-patterns and participants’ responsibility to create mutually constructive behaviour. Others’ behaviour may be discussed, but only in the context of participants’ exploring their own response to that behaviour.
Both gender-contexts of the table must be fully explored, together with the problem of provocation. The order in which these issues are addressed is not particularly significant – the typical sequence is shown as Steps 3a, 3b and 3c below – but it must be made clear from the outset that any sequence could be used. Because of gender-stereotyping and other reasons, it is generally easiest for both sexes to begin with the ‘females-as-victims’ column: men expect to be held responsible for their own violence, and initially often have difficulty in understanding their responsibilities in reducing violence done to them; whilst women often understand the latter, but may have considerable difficulty in perceiving and accepting the reality of their own violent behaviours.
Step 3a: Explore resolutions for ‘violence to others’
To explore the model in the context of ‘violence to others’ (for example, for heterosexual males or homosexual females, the ‘females-as-victims’ column), go through each sector in turn, inviting participants to name their own behaviours which would fit in the respective category. Ask them to describe and, if appropriate, act out in role-play examples of this behaviour to past or present intimate partners. (Include ‘third-party’ incidents in which others were manipulated into acting out the violence on participants’ behalf – such as providing false evidence to a court in support of a divorce claim or intervention order.) Note that this may be profoundly disturbing for many women: strong resistance may be expected, masking deeply-concealed fears and suppressed anger, and care should be taken to avoid triggering an explosive reaction and/or emotional collapse.
If attempts are made to avoid responsibility by blaming others – “look, she started it, she hit me first” – bring back the focus to the participant: “yes, we accept that that’s your experience, and we neither agree nor disagree: we’re asking you what you could do to change the situation to something better for both of you if it happens again”. Use the matching sector in the central column of the table to develop alternative behaviours: facilitators should model these behaviours by various means such as role-play, directly involving the participants in each case, and showing how these behaviours are mutually empowering.
Step 3b: Explore resolutions for ‘violence to self’
To explore the model in the context of ‘violence to self’ (for example, for both heterosexual and homosexual males, the ‘males-as-victims’ column), 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 ‘third-party’ 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.) Note that this may be profoundly disturbing for many men: strong resistance may be expected, masking deeply-concealed fears and suppressed anger, and care should be taken to avoid triggering an explosive reaction and/or emotional collapse.
If attempts are made to take on inappropriate responsibility through self-blame – “he always tells me it’s my fault, so I suppose I must be to blame” – bring back the focus to empowering the participant to find alternatives which are responsible rather than blaming: “yes, we accept that that’s what you were told, and we neither agree nor disagree: we’re asking you what you could do – what power you have – to change the situation to something better for both of you if it happens again”. Use the matching sector in the central column of the table to develop alternative behaviours: facilitators should model these behaviours by various means such as role-play, directly involving the participants in each case, and showing how these behaviours are mutually empowering.
Step 3c: Explore resolutions for provocation to violence
In working through ‘violence to self’, 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. Acknowledge that no-one is likely to succeed in maintaining all of their behaviour within the constraints implied by the central column: to achieve such behaviour under all circumstances is perhaps the most serious and difficult of all human challenges – as is indicated in all spiritual traditions and religions. There thus needs to be awareness, in all circumstances, that violence and abuse are natural and understandable human failings. Emphasise, however, that this human difficulty does not provide an excuse for violence or abuse. Even under the most severe provocation, and even if the behaviour can be labelled ‘self-defence’, there is never an excuse for violence, from anyone, to anyone – or to any ‘other’, including self. Emphasise strongly that participants’ social duty to respond in a non-violent way, as described and modelled in the programme, will apply to all circumstances.
Participants should be reminded that the only person’s behaviour they can change is their own: even if others are acting in a violent manner, participants have neither a right nor a responsibility to change that behaviour, but only to change their own response 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: although to find such may often severely challenge the participants’ beliefs and self-perceptions, a truly non-violent solution to conflict is always empowering, and is often the only powerful solution in any real sense. Considerable resistance to this concept can be expected, both from men and women; considerable help may be required by most participants to learn how to handle this kind of situation, and to fully understand their responsibilities and options for alternative actions.
Step 4: Explore responsibility in abusive/violent interactions
Remind participants that the descriptions of suggested behaviour in the central column of the table (or right-hand column in the gender-neutral version) are identical for all participants and in all circumstances. Whether violence is done by them or to them, participants always have responsibility for changing their own responses as best they can to support the mutual behaviour suggested in the central column of the table.
The model may be explored by alternating sector-by-sector between ‘violence to others’ and ‘violence to self’, or by exploring the whole of one column (i.e. ‘females-as-victims’ or ‘males-as-victims’) and then the other. Both ‘victim’ columns must be fully explored to the same depth; it will also be advisable to go through both columns twice – once in a ‘victim’ context, the other alternating ‘victim’ and ‘abuser’ contexts sector-by-sector – to emphasise the essence of violence and abuse as an interaction.
Step 5 (conclusion): Explore responsibility in social contexts
Explore other contexts in which the same behaviours and same problems occur: with other women, with other men, at work, in sport, with children, with parents or other relatives, with organisations, with state or non-governmental agencies, and with the overall social environment in which participants live. Use the same ‘violence to others’/‘violence to self’ self-analysis; use the central column of the table to model appropriate assertive behaviours in each case.
Participants should be presented with a copy of the model, as a poster, mini-poster or gate-fold pamphlet, to act as a continuous reminder of their responsibility for their own empowerment, and to provide assistance in achieving that responsibility. Emphasise again that the model should never be used to point solely to others’ behaviour – “see, this is what you’re doing to me” – because this would almost certainly be abuse of the other by ‘minimising, denying and blaming’. Within a partner context especially, the model should be used by participants only as a reference to their own behaviours.
Conclude by inviting participants to take on the model as a way of life – a constructive life-challenge, to be shared with others as appropriate.