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Perpetrator programmes

Last edited: January 22, 2019

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A wide range of programmes for perpetrators exists, ranging from a therapy model to an education model.  The most widely recognised international model for perpetrator programmes however, is the Duluth model, focused on intimate partner violence, which is built around holding perpetrators accountable for their acts of violence.  According to best practices developed from several decades of experience in North America and Europe, in order to be effective, perpetrator programmes must be integrated into an intervention strategy to address violence against women, and must have, as their primary goal, protection and support for victims/survivors.  It is notable that perpetrator programmes are still not universally accepted as a viable response to violence against women based on the contradictory evidence of their effectiveness.

Perpetrator programmes should embody, at a minimum, the following elements:

  • Work to increase the safety of women and their children at risk;
  • Frameworks for assessment and management of risk;
  • Contribute to a coordinated community response to violence against women;
  • Respect the diversity of the community they serve and provide equal access to services;
  • Promote respectful relationships;
  • Treat perpetrators as responsible for their behaviour and for changing it; and
  • Promote actions to support community-wide intolerance of violence.

Source: adapted from Respect Accreditation Standard.

The coordinated community response models in Minnesota, USA have a specific focus on offender accountability that has proved successful based on the strength of the multi-disciplinary approach, resources and services.  Specifically, the Duluth Model offender program has been replicated in all 50 U.S. states and 17 countries and is one of the most widely emulated program models in the world. (Taylor and Barker, 2013; Adams 2003).  Thirty-seven Council of Europe Member States have intervention programs for perpetrators, and many are based on the Duluth Model offender program.  The New Leaf Men’s Intervention Program in Nova Scotia, Canada follows a Duluth Model offender program approach and is part of a CCR. “The priority of New Leaf is to address safety concerns for women and children by providing support services to men who are abusive and violent towards their partner/ex-partner and/or children.” In addition to its group work with batterers, New Leaf also carries out educational programs in the community including public and school-based presentations, media outreach and participation in committees on family violence. (The Advocates for Human Rights, 2016).

An innovative programme being piloted in Mexico involves combining separate ‘re-education’ programmes for female survivors and male perpetrators of intimate partner violence in order to break the cycles of violence and re-victimisation.

Case study: Re-education program for survivors and perpetrators of intimate partner violence (Mexico)


In 2007, Mexico’s Congress passed the General Law of Women’s Access to Lives Free from Violence; one of a series of juridical instruments aimed at eradicating violence against women.  One section of the law requires all state sectors, particularly health, to collaborate in programmes aimed at ‘re-educating’ victims and perpetrators of intimate partner violence (IPV) so that cycles of abuse and re-victimisation are broken.  ‘Re-education’ is defined as a learning process through which perpetrators and survivors develop new abilities and behaviours that enable them to relate to one another, their children, extended families and social networks such that violence is not the principal dynamic in their relationships.  The programme in no way promotes the view that survivors should remain with their partners. 

Programme details

The National Congress requested that experts at the National Institute of Public Health in Mexico take the lead on developing and testing a pilot re-education program. In 2008, a review of national and international literature on best and promising practices was carried out, resulting in a report of findings, enabling the pilot to be based on evidence from different contexts and aiding development of a set of evaluation indicators. 

 A multi-disciplinary team of professionals with extensive experience of working with female survivors of IPV and male perpetrators designed the pilot programme.   Women participants were those in stable physical and emotional condition, and able to incorporate the programme content into their lives; those in crisis situations were referred to other services.  Males participated either voluntarily because they had requested support from an organisation or through mandatory court sentencing.  The public health sector from four states (Colima, Sonora, Yucatán and Zacatecas) designated a staff member to coordinate the programme implementation.  In 2010, funds were granted to replicate the programme in four additional states (Campeche, Querétaro, Tabasco and Veracruz).

State-level multi-disciplinary teams were created to carry out the pilot programme.  Trained facilitators conducted separate group work with female IPV victims and male IPV perpetrators in weekly 2½ hour sessions.  Women were exected to attend a total of 25 sessions, men a total of 24.  Group work focused on gender equality and women’s empowerment using reflective and participatory learning techniques.  Teams were also responsible for designing and implementing information strategies about the campaign, identifying and strengthening networks of civil society organisations serving women survivors of violence to complement programmatic actions, creating a directory of services where men and women not eligible for the programme could seek services, conducting ongoing support sessions for facilitators and other team members, and collecting evaluation data. 


  • As of January 2011, 3,309 people had participated in the programme (62% women; 38% men).
  • On average, across the different states, participants attended four to ten sessions.  Only 18% attended 13 or more sessions.
  • The main reasons for attending included: wanting to improve family relations (50% women; 47% men), wanting to leave a violent relationship (15% women), desire to stop perpetrating violence (12% men), needing someone to talk to (15% women), wanting to re-establish a relationship with partner/children (8% men) and mandatory attendance (5% men). 
  • Evaluation data show that the program generated important changes in the majority of participants:
    • Men identified forms of violence that prior to the programme they did not recognise and were able to develop strategies to avert violence (such as leaving a situation before it became violent).  They became more familiar with concepts such as gender equality and women’s rights and made commitments to put them into practice.   Many requested more spaces for reflection and ways of continuing to reduce violent behavior.
    • Women learned to recognise abusive behaviours and create mechanisms for leaving violent situations, including creating autonomy in their lives and identifying personal, social and institutional resources. 
    • Overall, participants requested that the programme continue, for more audiovisual material to be included, for psychotherapy to be offered, and  for inclusion of programme content in early education curricula so that young people would grow up learning how to practice non-violence.
  • Strenghtening of inter-institutional networks.

Lessons learned

The pilot programme:

  • Demonstrated the importance and feasibility of carrying out innovative work with IPV survivors and perpetrators.
  • Contains elements of cultural change that fosters movement from a traditional patriarchal society to one that prioritises gender equity and equality.
  • Is aimed principally for work with men and women in urban areas.  People living in rural areas were not included in the pilot, but work should be done and adjustments made to the programme to reach indigenous and rural populations. 
  • Has fostered the commitment of diverse political actors and institutions, as well as citizens, towards a process of social change.

Sources: Hijar Medina, M. and Valdez Santiago, R.  (2011) Programa para la Reeducacion de Victimas y de Agresores: Un Estudio Piloto en 8 Estados de la Republica Mexicana, Final Report (available from authors or; Híjar, M. and Valdez Santiago, R. (2010) Programa de Reeducación para Víctimas y Agresores de Violencia de Pareja. Manual para Responsables de Programa [Programme manual], Cuernavaca, México: Instituto Nacional de Salud Pública.  Available in Spanish; For more informaiton, contact: Rosario Valdez Santiago ( ) or Martha Hijar (

For additional information, see the section on perpetrator/batter programes.