WHO 13 NEWS – New research from Iowa State University is shedding some light on the dark issue of domestic violence.

Amie Zerling, a clinical psychologist and associate professor at ISU, led the study that looked at 338 men who were convicted of domestic violence from 2018 to 2020. 

They were court-mandated to complete a domestic violence program and were randomly chosen to either do the traditional type of program, the Duluth Model, or the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) based program.

“Anything that comes up as something that interferes with someone’s ability to live consistently with their values, that’s addressed in the ACT program,” Zerling explains. “Whether that’s, you know, history of trauma, being exposed to violence, thoughts or beliefs about oneself or others, where the Duluth model is more specific to you know, where did your thoughts about women come from and let’s change those.”

Zerling did a one-year follow up with the men and their victims. The results showed that a year later, the men who participated in the ACT-based program had fewer violent and nonviolent charges compared to those who did the Duluth Model. Their victims also reported decreased physical and controlling behaviors.

“This program was developed in Iowa for Iowa, and we developed it specifically for the Iowa Department of Corrections,” Zerlins said. “And so based on this data, it seems like we are on the right track here in Iowa for Iowa’s needs and our programming needs.” 

But advocates say not so fast, and are concerned with the short timeframe of the study.

“We’re not sure what’s included in that year,” Tiffany Allison said. “If those participants are still incarcerated, that those participants could still be under community supervision, how long they’ve been living un-incentivized to reoffend. It’s just a lot of factors that go into that.”

After being attacked by her boyfriend in 2009, Allison formed the Soaring Hearts Foundation to advocate for victims of violent crimes. She would like to see a longer study, as well as stricter legislation for those programs.

“Right now, some offenders don’t have to complete all their programming and they can be released to complete that programming within the community where they can time out on their sentence,” Allison said. “And we want to make sure that they are building the skills that they need while they’re still incarcerated under supervision so that the community is safer when they’re released.”

Zerling said they do plan to follow up on criminal charges of the participants in the future, as well as continue their work on these tax-dollar funded programs.

“We are working hard to better the treatment of family violence and you know, rehabilitate people who are in the system so that it can be successful out there,” Zerling said.

If you are suffering from domestic violence, you can call the Iowa Victim Service Call Center at 1-800-770-1650 or you can text ‘IOWAHELP’ to 20121.

For more resources from the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence, click here.