Ellen Pence was a scholar who started working actively on social issues since her teen years when she concentrated on the antiwar, civil rights, feminist and other social issues. After earning her bachelor’s degree at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, Minnesota, she dedicated her life to find and initiate innovative solutions for a diversity of social problems. She concentrated on the domestic violence and the variety of issues connected with it. Being an administrator to four women’s programs, she helped the opening of Harriet Tubman Shelter and she managed, with a small group of activists, to develop and implement the Duluth Domestic Abuse Intervention project (DDAIP), first in Minnesota, then adopted in all fifty states. Its effectiveness was appreciated abroad and many other countries’ movements were interested in adopting or have already adopted the project.
Ellen Pence was born April 15th 1948 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. As she writes in her work, Safety for Battered Women in a Textually Mediated Legal System, Chapter 5, that when she was a little child, she lived with her “mother, three sisters, and brother on Winnetka Road in New Hope, Minnesota. Winnetka was a dirt road. It separated the houses built for returning soldiers and their families after World War II from the fields of corn, soybeans, and hay that spread beyond that point for as far as I could see.” (p. 91) She describes their house where they had a telephone with a red card and only three emergency numbers for fire, ambulance and police. She made a comparison with the times that followed, when the 911 was established. She described the contrast between the communications at that time when the authority man was answering directly to the caller, speaking with warmness and intimacy, while solving the issues with their help and the help of the community, and nowadays when one dials 911 and goes through a number of dispatchers. According to Ellen Pence, this way of
communication makes hard for the victims of domestic violence to express clearly their complaints and part of them fall away on the way to the court. The change of great importance that was done due to the insistence of the Battered women movement was every investigation on such occasion to be reported and investigated individually. It was the Battered women’s movement that insisted that cases to be coded with a different code and to enter the system separately. Each entry of such case is an individual version of lived experience. The significance of such reporting would be understood later when discussing the next group of changes that occurred in the actions of the law enforcement officers.
The legal system, on its side, is a bureaucratic institution that organizes itself in a bureaucratic way based on documents. The relationship between the institutions and the citizens who are related to a crime is realized through creating a case. The case files usually contain documents that are important to the institutions and seldom verbatim transcripts describing the case are included. From all said above about the processing of a case, from its initial moment till the out coming results in court, it became obvious that a development of integrated project which will include all stakeholders in the process was very necessary.
The Duluth project started in 1978 when In 1978 Cindy Landfried, shot and killed her husband after three years of brutal abuse by him. A local grand jury decided that they would not indict Cindy Landfried who was nineteen years old for murder. Cindy's case inspired a passionate public discussion on the responsibility of community services to involve in the cases and stop domestic violence. Activists from across the United States had meeting to find a city that would accept to introduce a proactive intervention plan in the sphere of domestic abuse.
The workers of the Duluth’s shelter succeeded to convince the group that Duluth would be the best town for an experimental project to be introduced. Ellen Pence admitted that the judges in Duluth were more convinced to take part in the project than their colleagues in the other towns. (Pence, E., MacMahon, M., 1997) The Domestic Abuse Intervention Project (DAIP) was born.
“Duluth became the first local jurisdiction in America to adopt a mandatory arrest policy for misdemeanor assaults -- the criminal charge filed in most domestic violence cases. But the arrest policy alone is not what makes Duluth's perhaps the most imitated intervention program in the country. Its purpose is to make every agent of the justice system -- police, prosecutors, probation officers, judges -- deliver the same message: domestic violence is a crime that a community will not tolerate.” (Hoffman, J., 1992)
The center of the project’s activity was occupied by DAIP which coordinated the action of all organizations that were supposed to act according to the project.
As Mary Haviland, a New York City domestic-abuse specialist admiringly described it as "an organizing miracle." (Ibid), the project worked like a well lubricated mechanism.
According to the project, the offender who acts in this way for the first time is usually arrested for overnight. In case he pleads guilty, the punishment will be till thirty days in jail, then put in probation. As a final, the offender goes through twenty six weeks batterer’s program.
The main concept of the project was the safety of the victim of such abuse. Nowadays the women that looked for help from the Duluth’s legal system received protection and the offenders
were held accountable.
In his article, Jan Hoffman cited Ellen Pence that according to her estimations “one among every nineteen men in Duluth had been through the program. During the same period, not one Duluth woman died from a domestic homicide. Given the rate of Duluth's domestic homicides in the 70's, says Pence, "there are at least five women alive today that would have otherwise been killed." (Ibid)
The commitment of Ellen Pence to the domestic abuse is not coincidental she had an aunt who was shot and killed, a sister who was battered by her former husband and a neighbor who fled from her partner that battered her leaving her child-little son, with Pence who had to raise him.
Two very significant changes were accepted in the legislation that helped the project to be successful. The first was that a “probable cause” (blood, wounds, etc.) became a reason enough for the offender to be arrested instead of the previous requirement - the police officer to witness the action of violence. The second was the non-drop of the charges if the victim refused to cooperate, nevertheless the reasons for that action. Nowadays, not only the physical abuse is qualified as battering but many actions (psychical or verbal) are also considered as domestic abuse. “Battering could include physical and sexual abuses, but was definitely not limited only to such brutalities. “ (Pence, E., Dasgupta, S., 2006)
Domestic violence is still one of the serious problems for women throughout the country. As a result, the battered women's movement campaign tirelessly for greater wariness of
the issue, more serious penalties against violators, more preventive actions against potential batterers including the fathers from separating families.
As an answer to this position, a small but loud-voiced countermovement comprised of activists in the fathers' rights movement tried to convince the society that the Battered women movement “is guilty of what I term enemy boundary creep” (Crowley, J., 2009), a concept whereby these men sustain that they have been erroneously targeted. Using forty detailed interviews with fathers' rights activists situated throughout the country, this article informs in details the story that these men suggest as an answer to the question why the Battered women’s movement broadens the scope of its enemies that it is due to their provocative and accusing language and actions..
As a conclusion, it has to be said that Ellen Pence’s work was huge and remarkable. In the last three decades, she wrote and published different papers and books on the issue of violence against women. She co-authored two books – Education Groups for Men Who Batter: The Duluth Model (with Michael Paymar) in 1993 and Co-ordinating Community Response to Domestic Violence: Lessons from Duluth and Beyond (with Melanie Shepard) in 1999.
She dedicated her life to this problem and really gained the gratitude of hundreds of women not only in the United States but all over the world.
Crowley, J., (2009) Fathers’ Rights, Groups, Domestic Violence and Political Counter Mobilization, The Oxford Journals, Social Forces, 88 (2), pp. 723 – 755, doi: 10.1353/sof.0.0276
Hoffman, J., (1992), When Men Hit Women, New York Times Magazine, Web, Retrieved from www.nytimes.com/1992/02/16/magazine/when-men-hit-women
Pence, E., Dasgupta, S.,( 2006), Re-examining “Battering”, Praxis International, Web Retrieved from www.praxisinternational.org/files/proxis/files/ReexaminingBattering.pdf
Pence, E., McMahon, M.,(1997), A Coordinated Community Responses to Domestic Violence, Web. Retrieved from www.files.praxisinternational.org/ccrdv.pdf
Pence, E., (2001), Safety for Battered Women in a Textually Mediated Legal, Studies in Culture, Organizations and Societies, Vol. 7, issue 2, doi: 10.1080/10245280108523558