The Government recently announced that a pilot scheme will be tried for an intensive programme called 'Drive', an initiative directed at those who are perceived to be the most serious domestic violence offenders.
The implication seems to be that the programme will be directed towards men and of course the point should always be made that there are male as well as female victims, it is not simply a gender issue.
The Drive programme intends to target those who are perceived to be most at risk of reoffending. The course will advance on a one to one basis with appropriate assistance given where necessary to deal with drug, alcohol or mental health problems.
Some of those responsible for abusive behaviour may have earned this from their own background and may need to be challenged and compelled to face the nature of their behaviour and the effect it has on others.
There are “perpetrator programmes “already in place but they can often be very difficult to find unless arranged as part of probation requirements. More often than not they tend to involve group discussion and therapy rather than one to one work. There is a risk that group work does not necessary meet individual needs, and anecdotally there can also be a risk of the members of a group re-enforcing each other’s attitudes and coming away with all the wrong lessons.
I am inclined to the view that a one to one approach is always going to be better than group work for this type of situation. Whether this particular programme will work remains to be seen. People can become extremely entrenched in their attitudes and will sometimes participate in programmes and pay lip service because there is a motive either to satisfy a probation service requirement or to tick a box if they are seeking to gain contact with children.
Like anyone working in this area of the law I have seen many instances where an abusive partner moves from one relationship to the other repeating the pattern and seeking out new partners, without any indication that they have learnt any lessons, or even want to. On the other hand, I have also seen people who have realised that they are going down a wrong track and have been able to reverse the trend.
It is often the case that when matters of this kind are reported in the media there is almost always a hunting down of an extreme case and there is a risk here that we then concentrate on the extremes and sensationalising behaviour when it is so often low key and behind closed doors.