Case 29

To show the value of Domestic Violence Perpetrator Programmes (DVPPs) in dealing with the cause of the problem


1. To show how Domestic Violence Perpetrator Programmes, in association with a support

service for partners, can successfully manage ongoing risk in a relationship


  • DVPP – Domestic Violence Perpetrator Programme
  • ISS – Independent Support Service, part of DVPP
  • Contacts all partners, relevant ex-partners, and new partners of every DVPP participant
  • MARAC – Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference

Narrative Case

Zoe and Ben had approached Relate couples’ counselling agency, saying they were having difficulties in their relationship but wanted to stay together. During the screening process, it became clear that Ben was violent and abusive to Zoe. Ben was referred to a DVPP (1). The ISS contacted Zoe (2) Both were assessed using a risk assessment tool. Ben’s account was significantly minimised in comparison to Zoe’s (3). While on the DVPP Ben began talking about various controlling behaviours he was continuing to use, as well as past abuse against Zoe. It became apparent that Ben was extremely jealous and controlling (4). During the session on sexual abuse he talked about coercing Zoe into sex and sexual acts. Ben seemed unaware that this was abusive and continued to show no understanding that this was unacceptable. The DVPP worker, the ISS worker and their manager identified a much higher risk than previously assessed. The ISS met with Zoe and carefully discussed the things which Ben had mentioned in group. Zoe had felt too ashamed of what had happened (5) to mention the sexual abuse previously and was very upset, but confirmed that Ben was regularly abusive and continued to be so. She admitted she was very scared of Ben and he’d recently started saying that he’d never let her go. She agreed that it would be a good idea to involve other agencies through a Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) (6) and the ISS worker helped her to start planning for her safety. Ben found out that he had been referred to a MARAC without his knowledge and threatened Zoe (7). He then aggressively confronted the DVPP workers. However, by the time he did this, Zoe had phoned the ISS worker saying she wanted to leave. The jealous and controlling behaviours, coupled with Ben’s statement about not letting Zoe leave, led the DVPP and ISS workers to believe there was a high risk of violence or even homicide. The ISS worker arranged a refuge place for Zoe immediately (8). The DVPP worker knew that Ben was likely to be angry and upset when he discovered that Zoe had left and rang to offer extra support. They talked to him about letting go and helped him plan strategies to keep him from harming himself, Zoe or others. Ben remains a high risk to Zoe and any future partners, but by focusing support on him the DVPP was able to contain the risk he posed at this critical time.

Learning Points

  1. Careful selection of participants into a Domestic Violence Perpetrators’ Programme (DVPP)  is essential.
  2. Support for partners, relevant ex-partners, and new partners (ISS), with advocacy, information about the programme and their partners’ attendance, is an integral part of any DVPP
  3. Many men on DVPPs do not initially realise the extent and severity of the abuse which they are inflicting on their partners.
  4. Coercive control is a form of abuse, which is not physical or sexual, but rather emotional and psychological.
  5. Victims are often reluctant to admit they are being sexually abused because they are ashamed.
  6. Many different sectors are involved in preventing, detecting and treating domestic violence (police, social services, health, education, probation and housing). Often communication between the sectors is poor, and the contribution that health professionals could make has not been developed and fostered. A MARAC is a way of ensuring good communication.
  7. Victims of domestic violence are vulnerable while treatment of the perpetrator is ongoing, and support for them is very important
  8. Refugees are an important part of domestic abuse services, especially if there is a risk of homicide or serious injury. Adequate funding for refuges must be ring-fenced.


Background information

There has been a failure in the past decade to adequately address the subject of violence against women, with the focus largely on women as victims. There has been growing interest in the involvement of men as perpetrators or potential perpetrators, but conclusive evidence of the effectiveness of perpetrator programmes is still lacking. An evaluation tool has been developed, and programmes must be properly accredited. It is very important that focusing on men does not overshadow work with women and girls. In the UK, funding for Refuges is under threat unless they are shown to accept male victims, who form only a very small proportion of those affected, and are at low risk of violence.


  1. Jewkes R, Flood M, Lang J. From work with men and boys to changes of social norms and reduction of inequities in gender relations: a conceptual shift in prevention of violence against women and girls. Lancet 2014. Published online Nov 21.
  2. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Domestic violence and abuse: how health services, social care and the organisations they work with can respond effectively. NICE, 2014

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