Minnesota’s ‘Duluth Model’

Minnesota’s ‘Duluth Model’


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Minnesota’s ‘Duluth Model’: a Coordinated Community Response to Domestic Violence: Recognised by the Future Policy Gold Award in 2014, Minnesota’s ‘Duluth Model’ for a ‘Coordinated Community Response to Domestic Violence’ implements laws and policies that protect survivors from further acts of violence and hold offenders accountable for their criminal behaviour. It was first introduced in 1981 in the city of Duluth to ensure the implementation of the State of Minnesota’s Domestic Abuse Act. With regular evaluation, adaptation to changing circumstances and new information gathered as laws and policies are implemented, the approach has gained international recognition and inspired law and policy-making, and has transferred across the USA and beyond.

At a Glance
Download a short summary of the ‘Duluth Model’ from our Future Policy Award brochure here.

  • The ‘Coordinated Community Response’ (‘Duluth Model’) is a strategy for the effective implementation of intimate partner violence laws as developed by the Duluth Domestic Abuse Intervention Project (DAIP) in the 1980s.
  • The developers found that when different members of the community coordinated their efforts to protect survivors and hold perpetrators accountable, these efforts were more successful.
  • It rests upon a shared, gendered understanding of intimate partner violence and has inspired policy-making and implementation around the world.
  • It is adaptable to different contexts and evaluation and review mechanisms are an integral part of the policy.
Policy Reference

Coordinated Community Response to Domestic Violence, 1981 (the ‘Duluth Model’) [In English]

Connected Laws and Policies

Minnesota Domestic Abuse Act, 1978 [in English]

Duluth Blueprint for Safety, 2015 [in English]

Selection as Future-Just Policy

The Duluth Model of Coordinated Community Response constitutes a ground-breaking advancement in the understanding of intimate partner violence and requirements for the successful implementation of legislation in this field. It is grounded in a theory of intimate partner violence based on power and control and applies a survivor-centred strategy. The programmes use the full extent of the community’s legal system to protect survivors, hold perpetrators accountable, and enforce the community’s intolerance of intimate partner violence.

With several decades of practice and learning associated with it, the model is not rigid, but provides space for ‘updates’ and adaptation to different (national/cultural) contexts. Coordinated Community Response has already been widely recognised and recommended as a ‘best practice’ at the international level, and has been implemented and integrated in the development of intimate partner violence policy and legislation in countries around the world.

Future-Just Policy Scorecard

Our “Best Policies” are those which meet the Future-Just Lawmaking Principles and recognise that interrelated challenges require interconnected solutions. The World Future Council’s unique research and analysis ensures that important universal standards of sustainability and equity, human rights and freedoms, and respect for the environment are coherently considered by policy-makers.

   Sustainable use of resources

  • The model helps all actors involved in response to intimate partner violence to work more efficiently.

   Equity and poverty eradication

  • The Coordinated Community Response to Domestic Violence applies a survivor-centred strategy.
  • The policy recognises that violence against women is a form of discrimination against women and a violation of their human rights.

   Precautionary approach 

  • Community contact with all relevant individuals and agencies promotes attitudinal shifts, challenging of gender stereotypes, and raising awareness of violence against women and children as a consequence of gender inequality.
  • Outreach raises awareness of intimate partner violence in the community and brings in survivors and abusers voluntarily.
  • Court-ordered non-violence courses help abusive partners to look more closely at their actions, intentions, and beliefs and the effect their action had.

   Public participation, access to information and justice

  • Violence against women is addressed through a comprehensive approach with involvement of the entire community.
  • The model prioritises the voice and experiences of women who experience violence throughout the creation, implementation, and evaluation of the policies and procedures.
  • Ongoing discussions between criminal and civil justice agencies, community members and survivors close gaps and improve the community’s response to violence.
  • Courts and law enforcement agencies work cooperatively with victim advocacy programmes and provide survivors with the broadest possible access to legal information.

    Good governance and human security

  • The policy criminalises violence against women and charges police, prosecutors, and judicial officers with specific duties to enforce the laws in a non-discriminatory manner.
  • There is an independent agency in charge of coordination and monitoring, evaluation and further development of agreed policies.
  • Clear indications exist for the police as to how they should respond in cases of intimate partner violence (Duluth Police Pocket Card used to document domestic violence arrests/incidents).
  • Safety of women and children supersedes fathers’ custody rights (supervised visitation and exchanges).
  • The model provides an appropriate response to abuse, such as consistently holding abusers accountable (mandatory arrest and sanctions) while including short-term and long term assistance for survivors.

  Integration and interrelationship

  • The model demonstrates a comprehensive approach based on the 4 Ps (protection of victims, provision of support services, prosecution of perpetrators, and prevention of violence).
  • It is modified according to observations during monitoring and evaluation.
  • A common community understanding of domestic violence is developed.

  Common but differentiated responsibilities

  • This is a flexible model which can be applied across different cultural contexts and used as tool for developing intervention programmes .
  • Whereas the ability to find resources for all aspects of the Duluth Model (shelters, services, ongoing training) can be challenging for communities, its core principles of a Coordinated Community Response are relevant and applicable to a diverse range of settings and locations.

In 1978, the Minnesota legislature enacted the Domestic Abuse Act, which criminalised intimate partner violence. It also enacted a Domestic Violence Arrest Law allowing police officers to arrest an individual, without a warrant, if there is probable cause to believe that the individual has committed domestic abuse. Officers are also required to provide survivors of intimate partner violence with notice of their legal rights. Police departments are obliged by the law to develop policies and protocols for dealing with intimate partner violence and police officers must assist survivors in obtaining medical treatment.

Duluth was one of the first cities in Minnesota to take steps to implement this legislation. The Duluth Domestic Abuse Intervention Project (‘DAIP’) was created and organised to work in a collaborative manner with different agencies to evaluate and change the agencies’ current written policies and form a multi-disciplinary approach to protecting women from intimate partner violence. These agencies included the 911 emergency phone line, police, sheriff’s and prosecutor’s offices, probation, the criminal and civil courts, the local women’s shelter, mental health agencies, and the DAIP, which coordinated the efforts.

What set the Duluth Model apart from other attempts to implement intimate partner violence laws was a willingness to experiment with new practices. Sustained negotiations took place between activists, law enforcement agencies, the justice system and human service providers, which led to a comprehensive overhaul of the police, court and human service systems’ responses to cases of intimate partner violence.

By involving survivors of intimate partner violence in the process, the “Power and Control Wheel” was developed as a tool to understand patterns of abusive behaviour, including acts and threats of physical and sexual violence. It has been translated into 22 languages and over 30 cultural contexts for use around the world. Men’s intervention programmes, which concentrate on providing group facilitated exercises that challenge men’s perceptions of entitlement to control and dominance, also became part of the Model.


The aim of the Duluth Model is to implement legislation to combat intimate partner violence by encouraging the community to take collective, communal responsibility. Those that intervene must do so in ways that take into account the context of the violence and how it is experienced by the survivor. While the safety of survivors of intimate partner violence is paramount, the Model also recognises that perpetrators can take responsibility for their own violence with a communal supportive framework.

Methods of Implementation

In order to achieve an effective coordinated response, a number of connected policies must be agreed and implemented. The safety and well-being of the survivor is ensured through an effective police response, emergency orders for protection, access to emergency shelter, crisis intervention services, follow-up services, services for children, employment, financial and housing assistance, and health care.

Provisions for an effective and coordinated justice system response must also be considered, and include aspects such as an appropriate and timely police response, appropriate prosecution and judicial response, and a coordination of information between the legal actors and the victim advocates.

In order to place the survivors’ safety at the centre of the model, the DAIP had to change how people in the legal system and related human service agencies responded in their day-to-day jobs. There were a number of practical changes introduced, such as:

  • Dispatchers, patrol officers, jailers, prosecutors, probation officers and shelter workers are now all guided by interconnected policies which coordinate their work.
  • When police officers investigate an incident, their reports must record information from the survivor about the overall pattern of abuse toward her and her children. Reports indicating a high level of ongoing violence are forwarded to child protection workers and advocates for immediate follow up.
  • Probation officers, in making sentencing recommendations to the court, are provided with information from the police, women’s advocates, jailers, civil court files and the DAIP. They are required to document the full pattern of violence used by the offender for the sentencing judge to consider.
  • A sentencing matrix is used to ensure higher levels of sanctions and surveillance of repeat and dangerous offenders.
  • In cases where survivors have used violence against their abusers, the prosecutor’s office has developed a specialised prosecution policy for charging and prosecuting. This policy confronts survivors’ own use of violence while attempting to minimise the ability of perpetrators to use the criminal court as another weapon of control or intimidation.

The model requires mandatory training for personnel interacting with survivors and on appropriate responses to abusers. Such responses include mandatory arrest and sanctions and abuser treatment services which ensure a perpetrators’ accountability by providing them an opportunity for rehabilitation through court-ordered classes.

Monitoring, evaluation and reviews are an integral part of the Duluth Model. In 2015, the “Duluth Blueprint for Safety” was released. Building on the knowledge and lessons learnt from the past decades, it links the policies of all criminal justice agencies together in a design that relies upon up-to-date research and the experiences of survivors.


The Duluth Model has informed thinking in Minnesota, the U.S. and globally on how to develop interventions by making specific recommendations as to how to go about responding to intimate partner violence. It has influenced and shaped much of the national and state-level policy around perpetrators’ programmes and intimate partner violence work because of its innovative methods and successes.

Ongoing evaluations of the policies have been a critical part of the Duluth Model. Studies have been employed to examine the project’s effectiveness in enhancing survivors’ safety and holding offenders accountable for their behaviour. Research has found that by applying all the components of the Duluth Model, 68% of offenders who pass through Duluth’s criminal justice system and are sent to men’s non-violence classes have not reappeared in the criminal justice system after eight years. Ninety to one hundred men complete the 27-week men’s non-violence class every year. Seven out of 10 men who complete the programme are not arrested again for intimate partner violence.

The Model has been successfully implemented throughout the United States, in the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe, and Australia. Communities worldwide that have adopted components of the Duluth Model have also found significant reduction in re-offence rates.

Not only has the Duluth Model contributed to the practice of multi-agency partnerships in responding to intimate partner violence, it has also theoretically and conceptually changed how people understand intimate partner violence. The “Power and Control Wheel” has been an important development in intimate partner violence programmes.

Potential as a Transferable model

DAIP has offered seminars, training and workshops in numerous countries and has trained staff of intimate partner violence and community agencies in all fifty United States. Similar projects have been implemented in larger communities such as San Diego, Boston, St. Paul, Milwaukee, and Nashville.

Laws and policies based on the principles of Coordinated Community Response and mandating cooperation by state agencies have been adopted in different countries around the world.

As the Coordinated Community Response is not a rigid model, it can be applied and adapted across different cultural contexts giving communities the tools to develop their own interventions. The involvement of each participant in a Coordinated Community Response must be guided by the core principles of intervention designed to protect survivors from further harm. Each actor should also build into their response opportunities to seek input from survivors of intimate partner violence. Such input can help participants ensure that the intervention is adequately responding to women’s needs and assess whether changes should be made in the future.

Additional Resources

Avalon, S. (October 1999) Advocacy and the Battered Women’s Movement.

Network Women’s Program (2002) Bending the Bow: Targeting Women’s Human Rights and Opportunities, Open Society Institute.

Paymar, M. and Barnes, G. “Countering Confusion about the Duluth Model”, Battered Women’s Justice Project.

Pence, E. & Paymar, M. (1993) Domestic Violence Information Manual: The Duluth Domestic Abuse Intervention Project.

Pence, E. & McMahon, M.  (1997) A Coordinated Community Response to Domestic Violence.

Pence, E. & Shepard, M. F. (1999) Coordinating Community Responses to Domestic Violence: Lessons from Duluth and Beyond.

The Duluth Model, ‘Duluth Model Blueprint for Safety’.

End Violence Against Women and Girls, ‘Coordinated Community Response’.

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