First Advisor

Eric Mankowski

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Systems Science: Psychology


Systems Science




Social work with men -- Oregon -- Portland, Abusive men -- Counseling of, Community psychology -- Oregon -- Portland, Family violence -- Prevention



Physical Description

1 online resource (ix, 464 p.) : 1 ill.


The domestic violence movement has had remarkable success illuminating the scope, prevalence and consequences of battering, but has been more limited in its ability to successfully intervene and prevent abuse of women by their intimate male partners. Surprisingly, there has been little research directed at understanding why intervention strategies with perpetrators are only minimally effective. Studies have focused on assessing the degree to which and for whom individual components such as arrest, prosecution and psycho-educational programs for abusive men are successful, but few explorations have attempted to describe limitations and challenges to the domestic violence intervention 'system as a whole'. Employing a systems approach, a process-oriented evaluation of the domestic violence intervention system in Portland, Oregon was conducted. Ten focus groups were facilitated with key stakeholders in the coordinated community response. Participants included police and probation officers, victim advocates, victim/survivors, batterer intervention program providers, and batterer intervention program participants. The focus group discussions were analyzed using constructivist grounded theory and emergent themes were identified. Based on stakeholder testimony, it appears as though seven interacting features may limit the effectiveness of domestic violence intervention strategies with abusive men: 1) attempting to simultaneously punish and rehabilitate perpetrators, 2) dominance of a "one size fits all" approach, 3) insufficient accountability within the system for abusive men, 4) rampant victim blaming, 5) barriers to effective collaboration, 6) confusion created by complex domestic violence dynamics, and 7) reactivity instead of activism and prevention. These and other findings are discussed in light of their capacity to illuminate fundamental tensions associated with relying so heavily on the criminal justice system to intervene in domestic violence (e.g., the contradictions that surface when attempting to protect and empower victims, the difficulty of balancing consistency with an individually tailored response when sanctioning perpetrators). Despite these and other challenges, complete dismissal of the criminal justice system's role in holding abusive men accountable seems unwise. Instead, it will be important for movement activists, practitioners, and researchers to critically reflect upon its limitations and work to redress and refine its use, while simultaneously developing new strategies that engage a wider range of community resources.


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Portland State University. Systems Science Ph. D. Program

Persistent Identifier