International experiences

The first program to work with perpetrators of violence “Emerge” was founded in 1977 in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. From then until today dozens of different programs have been established and implemented mainly in the United States, Canada, Australia and Europe. On the European scene such programs emerged in the late 1980s.

So, for example, Sweden has 16 different programs and within the closed system, whereas in the UK there is a developed network of over 200 organizations and institutions that implement programs for perpetrators. Specialized treatments for perpetrators of violence were developed In Norway since the 1980s.

Institutions and organizations that operate programs for perpetrators bear a great responsibility for all persons affected by violence. Standards for working with perpetrators of violence are necessary primarily to ensure the safety of the victims, but also to maintain an appropriate quality of work.

Thus, in the context of The European Commission’s Daphne II Programme to combat violence against children, young people and women, established a project “Work with perpetrators of domestic violence in Europe.” This project lasted two years from 2006 to 2008. The most important goal of the project was to increase the safety of victims of domestic violence through the development of a European exchange of good practice. One of the most important goals was to define standards for work with perpetrators, monitoring and to make recommendations for the development of these standards.

Bearing in mind that the programs of treatment of offenders in different countries of Europe have different objectives, legal frameworks, funding and other aspects of the work, these recommendations do not provide detailed guidance in working with this population. The intention is to offer a framework for developing specific standards for responsible and quality work, such as the list of the preconditions to be fulfilled by all perpetrators prior to entering the treatment, as well as the main principles to develop responsible and successful programs., such as:

  • “Contact and support partner (victim). To ensure the safety of victims, it is necessary that they are informed of the objectives of working with their partners, with the limitations that exist in the work, and support and security of the victim. Women should be advised if the partners leave the treatment or if there is risk to her and her children. Also, it is necessary to make clear that the contact with the therapist is voluntary and has nothing to do with her “responsibility.

  • The protection of children. It should be pointed out that children are always victims, whether they are directly or indirectly affected by domestic violence, and that their safety must be a priority in dealing with the perpetrators. When a child is at risk, specific measures and concrete steps must be immediately taken, in the context of the legislative possibilities and obligations of the country concerned, which means that they must be part of the curriculum to work with perpetrators.

  • Assumptions and attitudes in dealing with offenders. Work with the perpetrators is based on the belief that change is possible and that perpetrators are able to take full responsibility for their actions. One of the basic assumptions in work with perpetrators of violence is that violence is chosen behavior and therefore it is important that the offender gains the insight that he has chosen behavior which is violent.

  • Risk assessment. This is a very important principle of working with offenders, because it allows initiation of appropriate measures for the protection of victims. All existing information should be included in the risk assessment, in addition to the assessment of the perpetrators themselves, such as the police and court reports, victim statements, reports and other social service work.

  • Qualified professional staff. For quality work with perpetrators, professional staff working on treatments must have the appropriate specific training to work with this population as well as an understanding of the phenomenon of violence and knowledge of group work. Professional staff must have a proper understanding of own views and experiences with violence, be aware of ethical dilemmas, as well as to be committed to gender equality and nonviolent behavior.

  • Quality assurance, documentation and evaluation. This principle should be an integral part of any program to work with perpetrators of violence. Measures should include regular team meetings and supervision, continuous operation and data analysis as well as internal and external evaluation of program results.


Leading international strategy documents identify the work with perpetrators of violence as a necessary precondition for solving the problem of domestic violence in intimate relationships.

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, CEDAW is the most comprehensive international instrument for the protection of women against all forms of discrimination and is binding on all signatories. The Convention was adopted and opened for accession to the resolution of the UN General Assembly on 18 September 1979, and is binding for all signatory States, which include the Republic of Serbia. Rehabilitation programs for perpetrators of domestic violence are part of the necessary measures to combat domestic violence, which were adopted as a general recommendation No.19 – Violence against women at the eleventh session of the UN CEDAW Committee in 1992.

At the Fourth World Conference of the United Nations on Women held in Beijing in 1995, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for action was adopted. The platform supports the operation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and other relevant strategies and resolutions, and it is practically “program of empowerment of women”. This document established groups of priority activities, with a special section devoted to the fight against violence against women. The declaration expressed the view that domestic violence is a result of gender inequality, unequal distribution of power and domination of men over women. The separate Strategic aim D.1. highlighted the measures to be taken by the Government to influence the prevention and eradication of violence against women. The paragraph 124 (d) lists the following measures:

“Adopt and / or implement and periodically review and analyze legislation to ensure its effectiveness in eradicating violence against women, emphasizing the prevention of violence and the prosecution of perpetrators. Take measures to protect women subjected to violence; provide access to just and effective remedies, including damages, compensation and rehabilitation of victims, and the rehabilitation of offenders. “

In addition, paragraph 125 lists the measures adopted by central government and local authorities, community organizations, non-governmental organizations, educational institutions, public and private sectors, companies and mass media. Paragraph 125 (i) lists the measures directed to programs for perpetrators of violence:

“Provide, fund and encourage programs for counseling and rehabilitation for perpetrators of violence and promote research to increase efforts related to such counseling and rehabilitation to prevent recurrence.”

The latest international legal document related to prevention, protection and support of victims of domestic violence is a Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, CAHVIO. The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence was opened for signature at the Conference of Ministers of the Council of Europe in Istanbul in May 2011, and the Republic of Serbia signed the Convention in Strasbourg on 4 April 2012.

In addition to the comprehensive protection of victims of domestic violence, this Convention in Chapter III – Prevention, Article 16 requires Member States to launch and support the launch of the program, but also to support all existing programs aimed at perpetrators of domestic violence. However, it is left to the States Parties to determine their own way of conducting these types of programs.

“Article 16 – The programs of preventive interventions and programs to work with perpetrators of violence

1. Members shall take the necessary legislative or other measures to establish and support programs that aim to perpetrators of domestic violence learn and adopt a non-violent behavior in interpersonal relationships in preventing further violence and changing patterns of violent behavior.

2. States shall take the necessary legislative or other measures for the establishment and support of programs for work with offenders, particularly sex offenders, aimed at preventing re-offending.

3. When taking measures referred to in paragraph 1 and 2, Member States shall ensure that the safety, support for victims and their human rights are of paramount importance and, as appropriate, the establishment and implementation of these programs is in close cooperation with specialized support services for victims. “

In addition to binding documents and strategies there are a number of directives and recommendations regarding the rate of work with perpetrators of domestic violence and intimate relationship. The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in 1990 adopted a Recommendation on social measures concerning violence within the family (Recommendation No. R (90) 2 of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers to member states on social measures concerning violence within the family), which among other things proposed that member states within the framework of specific measures include the measures for perpetrators. This recommendation states that the assistance measures provided to the perpetrators of violence should be encouraged after a court process, that they can not be a substitute for the judicial process. These measures may include self-help groups and psychotherapy both in prison and outside of it.

In addition to the Recommendation on social measures, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe has adopted a Recommendation (2002) 5 on the protection of women against violence, which was passed in April 2002 (Recommendation Rec (2002) 5 of the Committee of Ministers to member States on the protection of women against violence). This recommendation sets out concrete measures that States should take and which relate to intervention programs for perpetrators of violence. Intervention programs should enable them to adopt non-violent forms of behavior, through the acceptance of responsibility for the violent act, teaching them to control their behavior and to avoid certain critical situations.