Security Research

Evaluation of victim-focused programs working with offenders

Project Management: Dr. Birgitt Haller
Implementation: Dr. Birgitt Haller
Justina Kaiser MA
Funded by: Federal Chancellery of Austria, Division for Women and Equality
Federal Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs, Health and Consumer Protection
Completed: December 2018

The study had two focuses: evaluation of the Vienna Anti-Violence Program (BKA, Women´s Section) and of another program which was not defined beforehand (Ministry of Social Affairs). Victim-focused work with offenders is characterized by a close case-related contact between the involved victim protection organisation and the organisation responsible for working with offenders – the integration of the victim is a means of supervising the perpetrator´s behaviour.

The evaluation of the "Vienna Model" examined whether and to what extent participation in an anti-violence training leads to a reduction of violence and dangerousness of men perpetrating intimate partner violence. The actual study (participants 2011-2018) followed the design of a former evaluation of the training (participants 1999-2010) which had been undertaken by a member of staff of the Men´s Counselling Centre Vienna which provides the training.

Men who are interested in participating in the training have to undergo a phase of psychological testing as not all of them qualify for group training. Their average age is 34 years, three out of four are Austrians, one third is married, and about 28 per cent are living alone. Only one out of two is working full-time, more than one thirds are unemployed, and men who have completed an apprenticeship are significantly overrepresented, whereas men who completed secondary school or a university degree are slightly underrepresented. Many of them have risk factors with regard to partner violence: One out of two are both often jealous and have been victimized in their childhood. Eight per cent are drunk every day and nearly half of them admit to becoming aggressive under the influence of alcohol or drugs. As a result of testing, 12 per cent showed an increased risk of relapse. 70 per cent of the men´s partners who were supported by the Vienna Intervention Centre against Violence estimated that their partners were dangerous.

The tested men were clustered: (i) those who only use non-serious violence (55 per cent), (ii) those who use more massive violence as well as threats and emotional violence (40 per cent), and (iii) those who use all forms of violence, are jealous and control their partners (5 per cent). This extremely dangerous group is too small to generalize findings on them, while for the two other groups, we are able to make informed statements.

Half of the men in cluster (i) participated voluntarily, the other half was referred by the justice system, whereas the majority in cluster (ii) participated voluntarily. In cluster (i), one out of three was not only violent against family members but also against others, in cluster (ii) more than every other man victimized others. Most men in cluster (ii) drink too much and too often, one out of five shows borderline symptoms, and a high proportion shows an increased risk of relapse.

The test results of the training participants were able to demonstrate that anti-violence trainings do reduce violence, at least to a certain extent. For instance, 15 per cent admitted that they were still using violence against their partners – before it had been twice that number.

In addition to the analysis of quantitative data, qualitative interviews were conducted: with six (former) partners of men who had completed the training and with two men who had participated successfully. The interviews showed that there are two types of participants: men who are committed and the others who take part because their partners insist and threaten to leave them otherwise. Two men did not commit and did not change their violent behavior substantially, and were left by their partners a few months after the training had ended. The others used to discuss with their partners what had happened in the training units and were in permanent exchange with their partners about lessons learned. They themselves and their partners were very satisfied with the training´s results.

Concerning the other federal states, in only one region victim-focused work with offenders has been practiced for a longer period. The Association for Men´s and Gender-related Issues in Styria has started the implementation of victim-focused work with offenders in 2014 and cooperates with the Women´s Shelter Graz and the Violence Protection Centre Styria. In Styria, the evaluation consisted of interviews with both experts and victims of intimate partner violence.