CoWAP Core Principles:
The creation and development of the Core Principles for Working with Abusive Partners is the product of the collaboration between leading New York domestic violence and social services communities . These principles are a work in progress, reflecting the values and beliefs of the CoWAP membership as a guide in the work done with abusive partners.
Working with abusive partners is a means to social change and essential to reducing domestic violence. Individual and social changes are distinct, but inseparable goals that should be pursued concurrently.
Safety for survivors and children is always the first priority. Safety looks different for different people and therefore safety assessments should be nuanced, holistic and ongoing. Service providers should ensure that intervention does not do ‘more harm than good’ to an individual or family.
Respect for all parties should be demonstrated in all interactions. Service providers should model respect and compassion in their efforts to enhance clients' capacity and opportunity for change.
The voices and needs of survivors, abusive partners and children must be considered in all interventions. It is the responsibility of service providers and systems to ensure that survivors’ self-determination is respected and supported.
Differential assessment is required in order to identify the specific needs of all parties involved: abusive partners, survivors and children. Interventions should be based on a comprehensive assessment of all of the factors contributing to the abusive behavior as well as the needs of all affected parties.
An appropriate range of interventions should be designed and implemented by professionals with domestic violence expertise. Abusive partners should be referred to interventions based on their individual needs. These interventions may include, but are not limited to, education on gender roles and domestic violence, treatment of trauma or other mental health issues, treatment for substance abuse, criminal justice intervention, parenting education, and other forms of intervention.
Abusive partners must be held accountable for their behavior. There are many mechanisms and contexts in which an abusive partner may be held accountable. This includes but is not limited to the criminal justice system, which should apply and enforce consequences consistently across all demographic groups. It also includes social service systems, family systems, community systems, religious institutions, and individual interactions. Identifying, challenging and addressing victim-blaming is one critical tool in holding abusive partners accountable.
Interventions should be available and accessible to all abusive partners who request them. This includes abusive heterosexual men and women, abusive partners in same-sex relationships, teens and the elderly, whether there is criminal justice involvement or not.
Efforts at changing abusive behavior on the part of the abuser should be encouraged and supported. Service providers can and should provide support and accountability simultaneously. Understanding the factors that contribute to abusive behavior does not imply excusing or justifying the behavior.
Cultural competence/sensitivity and appropriate language is critical to effective interventions. Professionals can be aware of the role that cultural and religious traditions, mores and values play in the dynamics of an abusive relationship and how they inform behavior, and at the same time not accept cultural or religious factors as a justification for abusive behavior.
All systems involved with abusive partners should work collaboratively. Increasing opportunities for communication and collaboration across disciplines will help improve accessibility of services and accountability of both abusive partners and service providers.
Intervention services should have in place effective systems for evaluation. Ongoing evaluation will allow service providers to build an evidence base for effective practice, and to be transparent and accountable to the public and the domestic violence community.