A Qualitative Study of the Perspectives of Domestic Violence Survivors on Behavior Change Programs With Perpetrators

Tony McGinn, Brian Taylor, Mary McColgan

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This study investigated the process of change in intimate partner violence (IPV) perpetrators through in-depth interviews with their (ex-)partners. Programs designed to help perpetrators change their behavior, have yet to be endorsed by rigorous evaluation. In this context, this study explored survivors’ perspectives for direction on how these programs might be further developed. Interviews were conducted with 18 IPV survivors, who had recently had the experience of having a (ex-)partner complete a perpetrator program. The study employed iterative data collection and analysis, in keeping with the grounded theory approach to qualitative research. Researchers used secondary coding to enhance study rigor. Lines of enquiry which were relevant to perpetrator program development were identified in an expert review of interim findings, after nine interviews. Survivors described change on a spectrum, from highly significant change, through uncertainty about change, to harmful change. Some survivors described their subscription to new standards of family safety, following the support and time-out they had been afforded during their partners’ treatment. Study findings give us pause to consider what we can realistically hope to achieve through traditionally formatted psycho-educative group-work programs with perpetrators. Survivors described the need for long-term sustained change in perpetrators and genuine feelings of safety for themselves and their children. We discuss the role the current perpetrator programs might play in achieving these aims and point toward the inadequacy of commonly used behavior-counting tools in program evaluations. Based on the current study findings, we suggest that perpetrator programs can become perpetrator centric, and stray from their original conceptualisation as just one part of an integrated response to IPV. We lend support to calls for the use of survivor safety, and well-being measures, in program evaluations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)NP9364–NP9390
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Interpersonal Violence
Issue number17-18
Early online date19 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Sept 2021


  • anything related to domestic violence
  • assessment
  • batterers
  • children exposed to domestic violence
  • domestic violence
  • intervention/treatment


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