Does the Treatment Fit the Crime? Examining Whether and How Educational Intervention Programs Reflect the Lived Experiences of Women Who Perpetrate Intimate Partner Violence

Poon, Julianne
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University of Guelph

In Canada, the implementation of pro-charging policies and the subsequent increase in women charged for perpetrating in intimate partner violence (IPV) has increased the number of women mandated to attend IPV intervention programs (Fraehlich & Ursel, 2014; Johnson & Dawson, 2011; Tutty, Babins-Wagner & Rothery, 2006; Tutty, Babins-Wagner & Rothery, 2009). Canadian researchers have only recently begun to explore this area and have acknowledged that existing programs that were originally designed to address men’s violence against their partners may not be appropriate for women who typically do not use force to gain power and control (Tutty et al., 2006). The types of IPV used by women, its severity, and its consequences are often gendered and intersect with multiple forms oppression that inform how each woman perceives her use of force. Using Johnson’s (2008) typology of violence which theorizes that different types of IPV exist, this project examines Ontario’s Partner Assault Response (PAR) program to investigate how women interpret their own use of force and whether the program addresses their lived realities. This research draws upon participant observation of three, women-only PAR groups, as well as one-on-one interviews with 19 women participants and three PAR facilitators from a women-centred agency within a large, urban city in Ontario, Canada. Results highlight complex reasons that women engage in IPV and their diverse needs, that are not well addressed by PAR programs designed for men. The results support Johnson’s violent resistance and situational couple violence categories, however there was no evidence of women using coercive controlling violence or separation instigated violence. There was also evidence of women who used force that was not captured within Johnson’s typology and women who were wrongfully accused, charged and court-mandated to the PAR program. The findings suggest that Johnson’s categories require further research and refinement before using it to inform criminal justice programs for women who perpetrate intimate partner violence.

Intimate Partner Violence, Women's Use of Force, Female Perpetrators, Batterer Intervention Programs