AND CHANGING VIOLENT BEHAVIOR
Per Elis Eliasson
A Report from Manscentrum in Stockholm
of this book has been supported within Operation Kvinnofrid, the
Swedish government’s program focusing on violence against women, in
accordance with commitments made at Beijing in 1995
Manscentrum in Stockholm
Manscentrum – methodological underpinnings
Manscentrum – pillars of its treatment philosophy
2. Violence and its causes
Image of the violent man
Driving forces behind acts of violence
Men and their problem-creating attitudes
Mechanisms of recurring violence
– a vicious circle
Excuses and evasions
Dilemma of the beaten woman
Factors promoting and preventing continued violence
3. A treatment model
Point of entry to therapy
Group-related “greenhouse effect”
Unstructured group therapy
Selection of themes
4. How it might work out
Some typical cases
Welcome to the group!
5. The process of change
Normalities and normalization
6. Aftermath of the violence
7. Summary and discussion
8. Some remarks on treatment outcome
WOMEN AND VIOLENCE
Our intentions with this book are to provide a comprehensible and
practically applicable picture of the complex of problems surrounding
violence in close relationships and to illustrate some possible
solutions to them. Its content is based on the activities of Manscentrum
in Stockholm. Manscentrum is a crisis center for men.
Manscentrum (literally, Man’s Center in English) is, as its name
implies, primarily a resource for men, but over the years women have
also received advice and support, and – in some cases – help with
treatment at the Center. Men make contact with Manscentrum to obtain
assistance with crises and problems that they find difficult to handle
themselves. Violence against women is becoming an increasingly common
reason for men to contact the Center. Currently, it is the largest
individual category of problems with which Manscentrum is concerned.
Battering and abuse of women is usually treated as an acute problem for
the women themselves. Accordingly, help and support are primarily
targeted at the women affected, and also their children. This is
self-evidently right and reasonable in itself, but what it often
overshadows is that violence is actually a man’s problem.
Unfortunately, there seems to be widespread doubt over whether men who
batter are capable of responding to treatment. In our view, this
represents a far too pessimistic view of the problem. Our experience is
that most men can stop being violent, but only provided that they obtain
help in learning how to handle their problems.
We do not make any claim to
provide any comprehensive picture of either problems or solutions. Our
treatment methodology has been developed to meet the needs of the men
who have contacted us at Manscentrum, and there may well be many others
whose problems would require methods different from our own.
Nevertheless, we have had clients with a wide range of problems in
various kinds of personal relationships. Accordingly, we dare to assert
that our approach has considerable general validity.
Working with problems of violence entails being confronted by human
vulnerability. Violence against women has a strong emotional impact upon
all of us. In this book, an attempt is made to shed light on the
emotional, and also the theoretical, traps into which we may fall. The
language we use is couched at the level we try to maintain in our direct
work with the men and women we encounter.
Our impression is that – regardless of whether you are violent
yourself, are exposed to violence, encounter violence among your circle
of acquaintances, or work with the problems of violence – you will end
up being confronted by central questions and problems of a general human
nature. This book is primarily aimed at those of you who have
professional contact with the set of problems associated with violence.
Nevertheless, most people are likely to be able to draw lessons from
men’s work on solving their own violence-related problems.
The writing of this book was
made possible by funding provided by the Swedish Government within the
frame of Operation Kvinnofrid – the designation given to the efforts
made by the Government to fulfil obligations stemming from the
international women’s conference held in Beijing in 1995.
I myself work as a counselor and therapist at Manscentrum, and have
taken responsibility for the writing. My colleagues – Ulf Calvert,
Sten Ekdal, Pelle Jansson and Örjan Rudstedt – have made a
substantial contribution to the outcome, through their reading and
correction of the manuscript, the comments they have made, and the
discussions we have had.
I would also like to express my gratitude to Erik Centerwall, Johan
Cullberg, Carl-Erik Herlitz, Lars Lorentzon, Per Tell and Ingrid
Wermelin for their valuable comments on the original manuscript.
Manscentrum in Stockholm, 1 February 2000.
Per Elis Eliasson
A violent man will usually not wake up until
the consequences are strong enough to make him realize his failure. When
the crisis strikes him there is a good chance of a change in attitudes,
but most violent men also need professional guidance to become free from
remarks on treatment outcome
The benefit for individual men is very obvious. Having the opportunity to
talk to someone about their problems will reduce the emotional stress
that is making their lives miserable. The resolving of problems that,
from the individual man’s point of view, are impossible to handle,
reduces the risk of suicide. Learning new social skills, and being able
to avoid violent behavior, enables the man to start looking at himself
in a more positive way. Being able to handle conflicts without losing
your temper is, in fact, a source of joy. And you avoid ending up as the
scapegoat – no more guilt in being a wife beater, no more police
involvement, and no more legal proceedings. After a while, the man might
be able to face his children and relatives again. Being someone capable
of taking responsibility and accepting accountability creates
For women, no longer having to deal with the threat of being battered by
their men, the change might open opportunities for a new life. There is
no more shame in being battered, no more hiding the bruises, and no more
fear. That the man is taking responsibility should make for a better
Children are saved from being the witness of violence, and even being
beaten themselves. Hopefully, they may look upon their parents with more
respect if violence is no longer in the picture. Children benefit from
the avoidance of divorce or, hopefully, better cooperation between their
parents when divorce cannot be avoided. Their schoolwork is likely to
improve when they no longer have to deal with the fear of violence.
There has been a tendency for fathers to abandon their children when
they leave the woman. Handling crisis lowers the risk of children losing
Whenever society goes through a change in social patterning and economic
structure, there is a risk of problems. People are stuck in old patterns
of life, and adapting to new conditions often requires changed attitudes
and new skills. This is when the services offered by a crisis center
might help people improve their skills in meeting the transformation.
The opportunity of getting help in dealing with crises and family
conflicts makes possible an early intervention to stop violence, maybe
even before it has occurred.