Posts Tagged ‘women in hisotry’

Ellen Pence, Ph.D.

October 11, 2013

The Pioneer for the Battered Women’s Movement
April 15 1948- January 6, 2012

ellenpenceEllen Pence, one of the most important pioneer for the women’s battered movement, began her activism in the 1960s with the antiwar, civil rights, feminist, and housing movements. By 1975, she became highly active in the battered women’s movement, and for the remainder of her life, that’s where she devoted her activism.

She began her work in her home state of Minnesota, where she worked as an advocate for battered women’s shelters. Through that work, she and a group of fellow activists organized the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project, commonly known as the “Duluth Model” (named after their location, Duluth, MN).

Prior to the creation of the Duluth Model, “arrests for domestic assaults rarely took place, cases were unlikely to be prosecuted, and there were few consequences for violent offenders. While Pence supported the safety shelters provided, she knew they were just band aids”. Pence and her supporters faced many obstacles from institutional forces, because the issues at hand were so deeply embedded in the culture, and many believed there was not a lot one could change because domestic assault cases are “unlike other criminal behavior” and “they argued that the personal nature of an intimate relationship made it difficult to intervene, unless the injuries were egregious. They claimed that domestic assault victims were different—these women were uncooperative and they recant. These same detractors added that battered women frequently provoked their abusive partner in what they called “domestic disputes””.

Pence did not allow the opposition to stop her cause. She visited countless women in hospitals and battered women’s shelters whose faces were split open from boyfriends, raped by husbands, and strangled into unconsciousness. She knew these women did not have to be subjected to this violence and fear, especially from loved ones, and she knew it could change with the intervention of the state and government.

Pence created the Duluth model to accomplish many things dealing with battered women. Some of its functions include:

  • Interventions of offenders
  • Power of the state (arrests and prosecution)
  • Monitoring offenders probation
  • Counseling
  • Emergency housing, restraining orders, and information on safety for victims
  • Community response
  • Protecting children involved

The Power and Control Wheel- now translated into over 40 languages, illustrates the dynamics of violence and abusive relationships, versus non-violence and equality.

With everything set up by Pence and the other activists, there was finally a system in place in America to properly deal with domestic abuse, and “the most remarkable thing about the Duluth Model is that it works. It makes safety for women and their children, gives some men the incentive to change their behavior, and identifies others who pose a continuing threat to women, law enforcement, and the community.” Even though Pence believed that the criminal justice system was essential to holding the offenders of domestic violence accountable, she was also aware that there needed to be an institutional change dealing with “imprisonment that often disproportionately affected men of color”.

In 2007, Pence and colleagues compiled a plan that was composed of 30 years of their research and work with battered women. The plan they came up with was the Blueprint of Safety, or as Pence called it “the Duluth Model on steroids”. The Blueprint of Safety was established based on six principles, and its aim was to protect a woman from the risk of death within domestic violence. In 1998, she also became the executive director of the Praxis International, an organization founded by Pence to eliminate violence against women.

Pence worked up until her death. On January 6, 2012, Pence lost her battle with breast cancer and passed away, but she has left lasting models and a copious amount of work and knowledge that will continue to fight for her cause.



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