Critics: States Simplistic On Domestic Violence


Amy Dixon, a former probation officer, and Traci Johnson, once an advocate for domestic violence victims, complain that Colorado views domestic violence cases in too-simple terms: offender and victim, right and wrong, black and white. Concluding a series on domestic violence, the Rocky Mountain News says that Johnson and Dixon contend that state officials have so rigidly defined what must happen in treatment that getting to the root of the problem is almost impossible. “Therapy is the last thing on the list,” Dixon said. “It’s not valued. It’s not seen as important.”

The state requires 36 weekly sessions in a tightly constructed curriculum aimed at educating offenders on how society leads men to believe they can and should control women. State officials say the standards offer plenty of flexibility as long as the basics are covered. They say clear, specific statewide standards are necessary to avoid inconsistencies that plagued Colorado’s treatment programs before 2000. Yet research supports a surprising but controversial finding: Women initiate violence in intimate relationships nearly as often or more often than men, even though women tend to end up with the most severe and most frequent injuries. The founder of the treatment model that has been copied around the country says most criminal justice systems, including Colorado’s, are getting it wrong. Ellen Pence, who created the Duluth model named for the Minnesota city where it was first used, says that by treating all cases of domestic violence the same, Colorado and other states let the predatory abusers squeak by, often unscathed.


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