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On the efficacy of victim-offender-mediation in cases of partnership violence in Austria, or: Men don’t get better, but women get stronger: Is it still true? Outcomes of an empirical study

May 11, 2010

from the study by Christa Pelikan:

Put in a nutshell, the core finding of this study reads thus: The efficacy of VOM in cases partnership violence is to a large part due to the empowerment of the women victims, but partly, albeit to a smaller percentage, also due to an inner change, to insight and following from that a change of behaviour on the side of the male perpetrators. These achievements cannot be understood except as part of a comprehensive societal change – a change of collective mentalities, or in other words: change of expectations1 regarding the use of violence in intimate partnerships.

The research presented is to be perceived against the background of another study carried out about 10 years ago; its title was: ‘The efficacy of criminal law interventions in cases of partnership violence: Comparing the Criminal Trial and Victim-Offender Mediation (out of court offence compensation – ATA)’. The result of this first study had evoked my provocative summarising statement that ‘Men don’t get better, but women get stronger’. In other words: it was the women whose claim to a partnership free of violence had been reinforced and confirmed by the VOM intervention, while a deep-reaching inner change of the men had happened only very rarely. Now, ten years later the quantitative part of the new study, i.e. the results from the questionnaire sent out to women victims of partnership violence provides empirical evidence that it has been possible to contribute to the prevention of violence both by way of an empowerment of women, but also by an effect question. We were able to trace the processes that led p to such an inner change – as observed in the course of the VOM procedure and as related by the women.

This study is therefore not least also about social change and about the repercussions of the women’s movement and the effect of legislation and its implementation – seen through the observation-slit of VOM applied to cases of partnership violence. The broad societal change, the change of collective mentalities enhancing the potential effect, VOM was able to produce, is not the whole story though. There is definitely a specific, independent contribution of VOM to achieving a change of attitudes and of behaviour. It consists of the (semi)-official confirmation of the empowerment of already strong women and it consists in bringing home to the men that they are responsible for having violated the rightful claim of a woman to live in a partnership without violence.

The most prominent finding regarding the VOM-experience as analysed by the  qualitative research in this study lies with the fact that we can trace the way this impact on the minds of men is brought about. The working elements of such a restorative process: recognition and empowerment now use the fertile ground that has been prepared by the change of collective mentalities. Mediators could reach a perpetrator and bring about insight and inner change.

Apart from these core results of the study, produced in a complementary way by quantitative and qualitative research, we will see additional achievements of VOM produced and displayed in the course of the procedure.

Our attention will also be drawn to a few problematic points regarding the design and the practice of the Austrian brand of VOM. towards a change of attitude of perpetrators. What has happened within this time span, between 1998/99 and 2008? The qualitative part of this research was to shed light on this.

Read the whole study.

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