ArticlePDF Available

On the Efficacy of Victim-Offender-Mediation in Cases of Partnership Violence in Austria, or: Men Don’t Get Better, But Women Get Stronger: Is it Still True?

  • Institute for the Sociology of Law and Criminology


KeywordsRestorative justice-Victim-offender mediation-Domestic violence-Violence against women
Christa Pelikan
Institute for Sociology of Law and Criminology, Vienna
On the efficacy of Victim-Offender-Mediation in cases of partnership
violence in Austria, or:
Men don’t get better, but women get stronger: Is it still true?
Outcomes of an empirical study
Introduction: What this study has shown
Put in a nutshell, the core finding of this study reads thus: The efficacy of VOM in cases
partnership violence is to a large part due to the empowerment of the women victims, but
partly, albeit to a smaller percentage, also due to an inner change, to insight and following
from that a change of behaviour on the side of the male perpetrators. These achievements
cannot be understood except as part of a comprehensive societal change a change of
collective mentalities, or in other words: change of expectations.1 regarding the use of
violence in intimate partnerships.
The research presented is to be perceived against the background of another study carried out
about 10 years ago; its title was: ‘The efficacy of criminal law interventions in cases of
partnership violence: Comparing The Criminal Trial and Victim-Offender Mediation (out of
court offence compensation – ATA)’. The result of this first study had evoked my provocative
summarising statement that ‘Men don’t get better, but women get stronger’, In other words: it
was the women whose claim to a partnership free of violence had been reinforced and
confirmed by the VOM intervention, while a deep-reaching inner change of the men had
happened only very rarely. Now, ten years later the quantitative part of the new study, i.e. the
results from the questionnaire sent out to women victims of partnership violence provides
empirical evidence that it has been possible to contribute to the prevention of violence both by
way of an empowerment of women, but also by an effect towards a change of attitude of
perpetrators. What has happened within this time span, between 1998/99 and 2008? The
qualitative part of this research was to shed light on this question. We were able to trace the
processes that led up to such an inner change as observed in the course of the VOM
procedure and as related by the women.
This study is therefore not least also about social change and about the repercussions of the
women’s movement and the effect of legislation and its implementation seen through the
observation-slit of VOM applied to cases of partnership violence. The broad societal change,
the change of collective mentalities enhancing the potential effect VOM was able to produce
is not the whole story though. There is definitely a specific, independent contribution of VOM
to achieving a change of attitudes and of behaviour. It consists of the (semi)-official
confirmation of the empowerment of already strong women and it consists in bringing home
1 The term ‘expectations’ used as a sociological category indicating people’s ‘mutual expectation’ of behaviour –
thus constituting the social space where people’ actions take place.
to the men that they are responsible for having violated the rightful claim of a woman to live
in a partnership without violence.
The most prominent finding regarding the VOM-experience as analysed by the qualitative
research in this study lies with the fact that we can trace the way this impact on the minds of
men is brought about. The working elements of such a restorative process: recognition and
empowerment now use the fertile ground that has been prepared by the change of collective
mentalities. Mediators could reach a perpetrator and bring about insight and inner change.
Apart from these core results of the study, produced in a complementary way by quantitative
and qualitative research, we will see additional achievements of VOM produced and
displayed in the course of the procedure.
Our attention will also be drawn to a few problematic points regarding the design and the
practice of the Austrian brand of VOM.
1. What I have done: The research steps performed.
The study consisted of two main parts:
+ a quantitative study, using a questionnaire that was sent out by post to every woman that has
been a victim of partnership violence dealt with by way of an Außergerichtlicher Tatausgleich
(Out-of-court offence compensation) (ATA) by and large corresponding the term Victim-
offender-mediation (VOM)) in the course of the year 2006. The time that has elapsed since
the ATA has taken place was therefore between 1 ½ and 2 years. Posting was administered
via the central registration of cases at the Vienna bureau of NeuStart. It was accompanied by a
letter drafted by the researchers and explaining the purpose of the study and the questionnaire
the women were asked to complete.
The completed questionnaires were to be sent directly to the research institute, the answers
entered via SSPS and data analysis was effected. (About 900 questionnaires had been sent
out, quite a high percentage had not been delivered. With the return quote a little more than
20%, there were finally 162 questionnaires to be processed.)
+ the qualitative study consisted of observations of ATA procedures, of single/individual talks
as well as ‘mediation’ sessions proper, i.e. ‘Ausgleichsgespräche’, most of them taking place
with two mediators and the two parties present. I had consciously refrained from tape-
recording this session, and was only putting down notes as accurately as possible. Detailed
protocols resulted from this step.
Following that, I asked the woman whether she would be prepared to talk to me about her
experience with the ATA-procedure some time afterwards and at a place of her choice.
These interviews were also recorded and transcribed - not linguistically, but focussing on
I have altogether observed 33 VOM sessions and I have conducted 21 interviews.
These materials were interpreted by a team of three researchers: Birgitt Haller of the Institute
for Conflict Research and Andrea Kretschmann and myself both from the Institute for
Sociology of Law and Criminology.
Our analysis started with looking at single cases, followed by comparing cases and by
contrasting cases alongside different aspects or variables. Since this study was a repetition of
the earlier one we focussed on one of the main findings of the first study, namely the effect of
an empowerment of women in the course of VOM. Another aspect that came to the fore was
socio-cultural milieus and their potential bearing on men’s and women’s modes of interaction
and of their reaction to the ‘offer’ of VOM.2
2. The criminal policy context of the Austrian ATA
I have to make a few remarks that will serve to explicate the wider context in which the
Austrian ATA becomes effective and I will give a short description of the way, or the method
VOM in those cases is practised. I will in other words talk about: What is the Austrian ATA
and which is the scope of its application where partnership violence is at stake, or: what is the
type of referrals made?
2.1. The procedure
In cases of partnership violence very often though not always, a procedure called 'mixed
double' (borrowed from the language of tennis) is applied. The work of the mediators, in
Austria they are experienced social workers, starts out with asking the alleged offender and -
often simultaneously - the victim whether they are willing to participate in the VOM-effort. It
is the social workers who explain that the state prosecutors have decided to hand over the case
to the VOM-bureau and thus offer them the chance to find a solution to try for compensation,
for restoration and for a meaningful settlement.
The state prosecutors, as is the usual practice with ‘diversionary’ mediation, act as gate-
keepers. If both parties agree, they are asked to the VOM-premises, in Austria the bureau of
the ATA. There the male social worker talks with the man alone, a female mediator takes care
of the woman. In these 'single talks' they ask the parties about their concrete experience of the
incidence that was reported - or led to the police being called. Previous incidences and the
whole state of the relationship are further explored, and also, last not least, the expectations
concerning an agreement, the content of material and non-material compensation, the
intentions and concrete proposals of the offender to make good on one hand and the victim's
demands and wishes concerning the future of the relationship on the other, i.e. either the
conditions for separation or for staying together. In Vienna these single separate talks usually
take place at the same time, but in different rooms. When both partners have finished, the four
of them: the partners and two mediators get together for the mediation session proper, the 'talk
of the four' (Vierergespräch). In Salzburg on the other hand, some time might elapse between
these first ‘single’ sessions and the following mediation sessions to give the partner the
opportunity to think, to ponder, and to enlist legal or psychological counsel. They also use to
have the individual talks performed by both a male and a female mediator and they use the
‘talk of the four’ more sparingly.
In most of the other places the session with four participants is the core element of the whole
procedure. Its course follows a rather sophisticated and elaborated professional design that
aims at bringing into effect the two main working principles of mediation: recognition and
At the beginning of this session the two mediators are facing each other, while the two
partners remain also on opposite sides, each sitting next to his/her mediator. The mediators
tell each other what they have heard during the previous single talks: the story of the
2 Originally the relevant variables had been derived from a model or flow-chart depicting the diachronic course
of events, but also the various forces of influence that came to bear upon the use, or the mobilisation of the
agencies of law and of the mediation procedure, and on their preventive and "peace-making" effects on the lives
of men and women.
relationship, the story of suffering violence and of acting violent, of threatening, hitting,
constraining the other's freedom; they tell and make heard what man and woman have done,
what they have seen, what they have felt. The partners are asked to listen without interfering,
and only afterwards they have the opportunity to comment, to correct, and to modify the
rendering of their story by the mediator. This is also the beginning of the immediate exchange
of the partners - about their perceptions, and their expectations. It might be interrupted by the
mediators, whenever they deem it advisable, for a so-called ‘reflecting team’: in front of the
partners the two mediators exchange their ideas and also their apprehensions and feelings
about the ongoing process, including assumptions, doubts and hunches about the state of
mind, the fears, and the tensions between the partners and about their chances to come to an
agreement and to live up to it.
The „distancing effect“ (or ‘alienation effect’) achieved by hearing one's own and the partner's
story told by another person, this ‘changing of lenses’, promotes „re-cognition“ - (literally,
getting to know again) of one's own standing, and re-cognition of one's own needs and
interests, beyond those of a formal legal position, or standpoint. Having found understanding
and en-cognition and validation (an attempt at translating the German 'Anerkennung’ or
‘Würdigung’) proves a prerequisite for empowerment - empowerment that aims at balancing
existing power imbalances, and thus lends support to the weaker party.
The core elements, or working principles of any mediation process: recognition and
empowerment are thus displayed in a particularly strong way by the professional setting
designed and applied. To investigate the effect these arrangements that characterize the VOM-
intervention, are apt to produce on the lives of men and women was the goal of the research
I will come back to this in the course of explicating the results of the qualitative study.
2.2. The referrals
The situation regarding the referrals in Austria is marked by two features: one concerns the
criminal justice system (CJS), the other the whole array or panoply of reactions available in
cases of domestic/partnership violence.
Firstly: Criminal law reactions have to concur with the principle of legality. This implies that
any criminal act, as defined by the Criminal Code that comes to the notice of the police has to
be passed on to the state prosecutor. There exists no margin of discretion for the police. The
state prosecutor is then the one to exercise discretion as to the further dealing to be followed:
referral to ATA as a type of diversion or one of the other modes of reaction: dropping the
charge ‘a limine’, or making up an indictment, or another diversionary measures (the array
consisting of a fine, a term of probation with or without probation assistance, community
service or an order/obligation to undergo therapy or training.)
Secondly: The Austrian Protection Against Domestic Violence Act 1997 (as amended) 1999.
This law has become effective both as providing immediate protection and relief, and – even
more soexerting a symbolic effect. In the last instance it has been changing perceptions of
violence and changing the perception of remedies available to victims of partnership violence.
Regarding the referrals to VOM its usage results in a wider range of cases being brought to
the attention of the state prosecutors, cases where an imminent threat, albeit only a minor
assault had instigated the interference of the police. The police, after assessing the imminence
and the seriousness of the threat wielded by the aggressor, decides independently of the
explicit and expressed wishes and demands of the woman (the person endangered) – whether
the aggressor (Gefährder) has to leave the premises immediately, on the spot! Special
provisions are foreseen concerning the keys to the living quarters to be delivered to the
police, the possibility to fetch things (clothing, toilet articles) necessary for daily life;
checking up after three days by the police. And the police notifies the state prosecutor in case
there is evidence of a criminal act committed. (I’ll not refer in more detail the other provisions
relating to a civil law restraining order that might be issued as a continuation of the eviction
and barring order by the police.)
In the context of my paper the decisive effect of the astoundingly successful implementation
of this piece of legislation is important insofar it impacts on the type of crimes that arrive at
the ATA bureaus. We can observe that amongst the cases that are laid before the state
prosecutors there are also those where the assault or the threat that is at stake is of a less
severe nature and there is quite a substantial percentage of cases where we do find mutual
accusations of assault or threat and the state prosecutor has to deal with the two ‘aggressors’.
There is also a substantial percentage (36%) of cases where and this is already one of the
results of the questionnaire-study the violent act was the first one to occur within the
By and large we see that the referral practice of the state prosecutors proves well informed
and adequate. But I really want to stress that due to the combined particularities of the
Austrian situation, the principle of legality and the Protection against Domestic Violence Act,
the profile of the cases referred to VOM might be different from that in most other countries.
To be more precise: In Austria we face the favourable situation that also first and comparably
minor incidents appear before the state prosecutors – and part of these are referred to VOM.
As regards these cases that the state prosecutors exercise discretion upon, it seems that they
have in the course of about 10 years developed a good understanding and a kind of
knowledgeable routine that results in a spectrum of cases well suited to be handled by VOM
and that is – I repeat – highly amenable to this kind of intervention.
3. What effects are achieved by VOM: The results of the quantitative (questionnaire)
The results of the quantitative study provide quite detailed information about the perception of
the ATA and of its effects by the women who have been victims of partnership violence;
(about 20% of them have been involved as both victims and offenders, i.e. mutual
accusations formed the basis of the state prosecutors’ referral of the cases.)
The core concept guiding the study has been the empowerment of women achieved through
the restorative justice process. This specific effect of empowerment had been identified as the
most prominent result of a previous study performed by the Institute for Sociology of Law
and Criminology, comparing the effects of the penal process on the one hand, and VOM on
the other in cases of partnership violence. As already explicated, I had at that time coined the
slightly provocative sentence: Men don’t get better, but women get stronger!’ Now, ten years
later I wanted to, firstly, investigate whether this statement can be confirmed by quantitative
data and, secondly, whether changes have occurred in the course of ten years, regarding the
type of referrals and the handling of cases, as well as regarding the reactions and the
experiences of the women affected by partnership violence.
3.1. Characteristics of respondents and of cases
I want to first present a few data regarding the characteristics of the women who had sent
back the questionnaire:
A severe drawback characterising the material is due to the fact that no translation neither into
the Serbian, Croatian or Bosnian language, nor into Turkish could be afforded a
considerable segment of the clients of the ATA have therefore remained outside the reach of
the questionnaire. But also within the group of the respondents the percentage of women with
higher education is beyond that within the population in general.3 Another specific
characteristic of the respondents relates to the so-called ‘Gewaltgeschichte’, the length of time
marked by incidences of violence, experienced by a woman: I have already mentioned that
36% of the women responding said that the violence that had been reported was the first
incidence they had experienced. Another 3% reported a short period of incidences of violence
after which they had turned to the police. This points to a preference of the state prosecutors
to refer those cases to VOM. It points also to the fact that there exists a considerable number
of women that appeal to the police and the agencies of the criminal law quite quickly and
not only after long-lasting suffering.
Another feature of the ATA-clients: more than one third have experienced an eviction and
barring order. i.e. the man as the one that had exerted threat and/or violence was sent off the
premises and had to stay away for 10 days; another quarter of the respondents had obtained an
additional, court ordered, temporary injunction keeping the man away for three weeks
altogether. 4 Almost half of the women had been contacted by the ‘Intervention Centre’ (Now:
‘Centre for the prevention and protection from violence’) as a consequence of the police
intervention according the Protection Against Domestic Violence Act.
Taking a closer look at the correlations calculated we could see that each of these variables
taken separately is of little relevance as concerns the efficacy of the VOM procedure,
especially its contribution to promoting a partnership free of violence. Taken together though,
they are indicators of certain constellations that prove more or less amenable to interventions
attempting to successfully prevent further violence.
3.2. The quality of the VOM-process:
The most pronounced result in this respect: Women are listened to, they find understanding
and support; only between 14% und 22% answered negatively, i.e. indicating that they found
little or no understanding.
And sometimes, in about 14% of all cases something happened to the men!
We had a series of three questions dedicated to their role in the process the way it was
perceived by the women:
1/ Was the behaviour of your (ex)partner, his having committed an offence, being taken
serious by the mediators/social workers?
3 But I have to point out that it is the women with higher education that are more critical toward the ATA than
those with only elementary education.
4 Since July 1, 2009 the term for the barring order lasts for two weeks, the court injunction up to six months.
This did indeed happen in all but 19% of the cases, where it was taken serious to a very small
extent only, or even not at all (once more: this is the perception and the recollection of the
2/ Did your (ex)partner understand in which way and to what extent he had hurt and harmed
you - including emotional harm and suffering?
This occurred in 57% of the cases, in 38% rather not, and in 5% not at all!
3/ Did you have the impression that your (ex)partner was feeling sincere remorse for what he
had done to you?
According to the women, remorse was seen and felt in only 40% of the men.
We could further find that in our research these three variables, focussing on the perception of
the offender by the women had quite high correlations with long-term process outcomes, as
shown by the answers to the question assembled in the section on what happened further on,
i.e. in the course of the one and a half to two years following the VOM-intervention .
This can be regarded as the key section of the questionnaire and the quantitative study:
3.3. What happens afterwards
We do have quite impressive figures to show there:
At the time when the questionnaire was completed about 40 percent of the respondents were
separated from their partners and had no further contact at all; 28% had separated but did have
contact – mostly for reasons of parenthood. And almost a third were still living together. (We
have to add though that a majority of partners were already separated or in the process of
separation at the time VOM took place (32% and 26% respectively)
VOM had contributed to bringing about separation in almost half of those cases, at least to
some degree: (65% of these women said that they felt more self-assured and stronger as a
result of the ATA-process and thus empowered to follow through with the separation, for 55%
the process had contributed to convince them that separation was the best thing for them to
Now: of those having still having contact or living together, two thirds lived free of violence
in their relation with the (Ex)Partner, little less than one third had experienced further
incidences of violence – 15% repeatedly.
Expressed as simple ‚absolute numbers’ it is 28 women, 13 of them having used the category
‚repeatedly’. As a percentage of all responding women we can state that 17% experienced
further violence, 8% repeated incidences. There VOM had failed to achieve the intended
effect! It is difficult to gauge the importance and meaning of this numbers. We are not in the
situation to draw any comparison yet. We have no specific recidivism rates for those cases
that went to court and ended with a type of sentence, a fine or imprisonment, conditional or
unconditional. We neither know about the effect on recidivism or ‘real life’ occurrence of
more violence within a certain time-span, for cases that were dealt with by another
diversionary measure, e.g. an order for anti-violence-training.
But we do know the ‘official’ recidivism rate of suspects that went through VOM in a case of
partnership violence. (based on another study my colleagues at the IRKS did investigating
recidivism of different types of clients of NeuStart: VOM, community service and probation)
This rate amounts to 11%. It is self-evident that the figures of my study, based on the
statements of the women victims, are closer to every-day life-reality. But then to argue
further the difference between 11% and 17% appears small. It would imply that altogether
about two thirds of the relapses, i.e. the re-occurrences of violence become known to the
police. This drastic reduction of the usual dark-figure amounting to twice to three times that
of the factual offences, would then figure as another remarkable achievement of the VOM
procedure. A considerable percentage of the women who went through VOM have notified
the police following an incidence of violence. We have to consider though that these women
have already found their way to the police once and have thus shown that they are able to
overcome doubts and apprehensions.
3.4. The contribution of VOM: empowerment and change
And finally, getting still closer to the ‘heart’ of this study, the contribution of VOM to the
empowerment of women, we can report the following: Of those that had experienced NO
further violence from their (ex-)partner, 80% contended that VOM had contributed to this
effect in 40% of those cases even to a substantial degree. This contribution was brought
about by way of direct or indirect empowerment: direct empowerment implying the increased
capacity to state one’s demands and claims for a life without violence, or the increased
capacity to handle conflicts through communication, i.e. by talking and deliberating and by an
enhanced capacity to insist on one’s demands and one’s claim to live free of violence.
Indirect empowerment is pointing to ATA as an impetus to seek further support and help.
In addition, 40% of those women whose partnership continued or who had still contact with
an ex-partner and who had experienced no further violence stated that their partner had
changed as a result of going through the ATA. (Another quarter said that such change had
happened but did not perceive any influence of VOM.) We have altogether notice of 22 men
that changed as a consequence of the VOM-process; these are about 14% of all cases not
much, one could still say. To arrive at a conclusion whether it is a lot or a ‘quantité
négligeable’ we have to become once more clear about our concepts of VOM as a criminal
law intervention and of our perceptions of what this effort is about. I will come back to these
pressing questions at the end of this paper.
We have also asked whether in the cases where violence continues this was due to the ATA-
intervention because it showed the perpetrator that his acts were not really taken serious,
‘just talking about it’, expressing void excuses, or because he wanted to demonstrate that he is
not much impressed by this kind of action. There were five cases where such an effect was
indicated and I looked more closely at each single of these questionnaires; to arrive after
careful consideration at the conclusion that there is no empirical evidence to be found for this
‘carte blanche’-hypothesis.
3.5. Variables influencing the effect of VOM or: Which conditions are favourable for VOM
becoming effective?
The correlations calculated to provide an answer to that question allow us to arrive at the
following conclusions: Regarding the process-related variables that indicate the quality of the
process, we can see that the men/offender-related variables have the most visible influence on
the effect of VOM, regarding its contribution to end the relationship or to continue without
further violence. Where the offence has been taken serious, provoking insight and remorse
there the ATA has more often contributed to a life free of violence.
But it can also be shown that receiving understanding and support in the course of the
procedure which, in fact, applies to the vast majority of the women, affects the VOM-outcome
in a positive way, i.e. in those cases the continuation of violence occurs more rarely and these
women say more often that they have experienced direct or indirect empowerment through
As concerns the so-called ‘situative’ variables, those which refer to characteristics of the
situation surrounding the incidence of violence: its history, the way the notification of the
police was brought about, the intervention and assistance by other agencies or persons, e.g.
lawyers, they all remain of little marked influence. Taking into view the socio-demographic
variables of educational attainment and the variable of ‘the history of violence’ within a
partnership, we can discern the following constellation: low educational attainment and
longstanding violence ‘results’ more often in ongoing violence; but lower class women are
also those, who have a good chance to see a change effected through the ATA regarding the
behaviour of the man.
It is the academics that most often leave the relationship independently of the ATA
intervention – and they more often regard this experience as useless – a waste of time!
All of these constellations that can be constructed from the quantitative study were
represented as concrete cases and stories within my qualitative material.
4. What happens inside the VOM-procedure: the results of the qualitative study
In this place I want once more to start with an introductory chapter, that is to provide a more
general description of the situation, people coming to the ATA-bureaus, face:
4.1. A description of the ‘atmospheric’ conditions that characterise the practice of the
Austrian ATA.
I have already mentioned that the parties are invited by a letter that contains basic information
on the ATA as well as a proposal for an interview date. Of, course, people get the opportunity
to negotiate the dates proposed by phone, but where no reaction occurs, the party is expected
to show up at the bureau of NeuStart - mostly quite spacious premises (albeit in Vienna rather
drab and bald looking). The whole procedure up to this point, as well as the physical
environment is that of a bureaucratic governmental agency, even a court as was confirmed
in the interviews. Most women added though that once they were approached by the social
workers they realised that this is indeed something different.
Also as a researcher I could feel the repercussion of this bureaucratic atmosphere and of being
part of a governmental agency people submit to. It had its advantages though. Nobody refused
to let me sit during the sessions as an observer (I joined the mediators when they went to the
waiting room to welcome the parties and asked their permission to be present as a scientific
observer after I had been introduced or introduced myself) And only one woman did not
want to be interviewed (a lawyer by the way). But quite a number of those that had given me
contact numbers to approach them, could never be reached by phone.
What I want to convey is the special spirit that prevails in the whole ATA endeavour, the light
that is shed over this procedure. People appear before the ATA because it is introduced as
some branch of the CJS. They do come with a mixture of curiosity, fear, distrust and hope.
Mostly they feel relieved as soon as they realise that these are social workers, that approach
them in a friendly respectful manner.
But then in the course of the process more clearly towards its closure they are again
confronted with quite a lot of legal-technical details to which most of them react as is the
usual way: nodding and asserting that everything is clear whilst it is visible to the trained
observer that it is not at all! The mediators themselves feel these tensions, but they themselves
submit to those conditions and obligations and mostly just want to have done with them
quickly. Few make a conscious effort to ‘translate’ into everyday language what these
requirements are about and what are the relevant implications for the parties.
I myself have become more aware and more clear about these particularities of the setting of
the Austrian ATA in the course of the seminar with the Finnish colleagues in November 2008:
In Finland, mediation is done by volunteer mediators, assisted by a staff of professionals, that
provides advice and supervision. As one participant of this seminar stated: “using volunteer
mediators should guarantee that regarding the process and the outcome of mediation the
power remains with the parties involved.” Within the Austrian model the social work
component is more pronounced. And it might well be that the difference in terms, catches this
in a significant way: it is ‘’clients’ in Austria and it is ‘customers’ in Finland.
4.2. A typology of cases
In presenting the results of the qualitative research I’ll follow the main lines of the previous
study and proceed to discussing the ‘new’ typology of cases that has emerged from our
analysis of the cases we have observed now.
In 1999 this typology was the following:
* VOM as reinforcement of change (what I had called ‘Katharsis’-cases, meaning cases where
the violent incidence in itself had triggered change);
Here we found two sub-types:
+ VOM reinforcing change as a mutual effort
+ VOM as a reinforcement of change enforced by the woman
* VOM as the beginning of reformation (a rather rare event)
* VOM supporting separation
* VOM at its limits. i.e. cases where VOM had proved a futile effort and violence had
occurred again.
The new typology already reflects the changes that have occurred. Now we see:
* VOM as reinforcement of change and as further empowerment of strong women
* VOM as an impetus for the offender to trigger insight and change (‘the beginning of
* VOM as supporting separation
* VOM failing because of the partners being deeply and indissolubly entangled in a fight
around divorce and separation
* VOM remaining futile because the partners are evading a real contestation and effort at
* VOM as comprehensive social work intervention.
For each of these types I will in the following present the summarising statements,
characterising them as they appeared in the interpretation of the qualitative material and I
will add some quotations from the protocols and the interview transcriptions.
4.3. VOM as a reinforcement of change and as further empowerment of strong women
In 1999 I had written the following paragraph:
Another way of looking at these findings might be to admit that what I have to tell, is
probably not the success story of VOM usually announced: Not much is going on in the way
of healing, or re-integrating, of visible effects of special/individual prevention. Nevertheless I
will contend: VOM is apt to fulfil, or to promote, what - according to German sociologist
Niklas Luhmann is the core function of law: the affirmation of the norm. Affirmation of the
norm means affirmation of the rightful, i.e. legally supported claim of the victim (in civil law
it is the complainant). In this legal-theoretical understanding, the victim is at the centre. It is
about her we are talking; it is her suffering, her fears, her apprehensions, her anger, and her
reaction to the acts of the perpetrator that are taken care of by the VOM-agencies.
Change in the way of long lasting preventive effects does, as we have seen in this research,
stem from the resolution of the woman, the victim: to bear no longer, to change the situation,
and - in the most dramatic cases - to end the relationship, to leave the partner using violence.
The perpetrator either joins her in this effort to find new ways of communication and of living
together, or the realisation of the danger to lose wife and family results in a sincere and strong
effort to really change his ways.
In some rare cases, and probably more often with a young offender, VOM can spark off
insight, self confrontation and the beginning of reform.
I have already mentioned that several changes have occurred in the course of the last ten
years: A major change has occurred regarding the ‘reinforcement cases’. They still constitute
the largest group of cases observed in the qualitative study, but they are of a different brand
The contribution of the partners to a new way of communicating, and even more so the
contribution of the women appears now even more pronounced than 10 years ago. Strong
women from all social strata of society have made an impressive show. Several times it
became obvious that the decisive steps have already been taken by the partners in the
aftermath of the violent act; the VOM intervention was indeed no more than the ‘official’, or
‘semi-official’ confirmation of a change toward a partnership free of violence. This is not to
say that this confirmation was redundant and needless; rather the interviews with the women
have confirmed the importance of this step.
The dynamics of these cases show some similarities: several times men and women had
separated after the incidence – but then the women had decided to ‘give him another chance’.
One couple had started family therapy and the woman told me in the interview: ‘Well, yes, we
had already done a lot, therefore not so much was left to work out in the course of the ATA –
otherwise we would probably have needed more sessions.‘
A typical case in this category was that auf Frau Aytekin 5
Frau Aytekin and her husband are Turkish, both have been living for quite a long time in
Austria, although she is born in Bulgaria. They have two children together, age four and
seven; Herr Aytekin is out of work and Frau Aytekin stays at home with the children. The
police report mentions a dispute and him knocking her to the ground. After a period of
5 All names used here and in the report are fictional – as well as the (first) names of the social workers
mentioned; in some cases I have also changed a few characteristics of the persons and situations.
separation Frau Aytekin had left to stay with her relatives in Bulgaria they are now
together again; an aunt and uncle have assisted them in overcoming their difficulties. In the
course of the separate (single) talk with Frau Aytekin she tells that the notification of the
police was done originally by the medical doctor she had attended because her arm had hurt
and she wanted ‘an ointment or something the like’. The doctor had told her that it was his
duty to inform the police. She wanted to ‘take back’ the notification of the police and was
informed that this is not possible according to Austrian law.
Discrepancies regarding the role of man and woman and regarding the ‘life-style’ surface: The
family and especially the mother of Herr Aytekin is a conservative Muslima, wearing the
kerchief and for some time young Frau Aytekin did so too – but she felt that this did not really
agree with her feeling and her life-style and finally her own mother supported her decision to
do without the kerchief. ‘there will remain nothing of your own self if you just do what others
expect you to do’ she had told her. Herr Aytekin had, in fact, not really liked her wearing it, on
the other hand he had been jealous because at her workplace she was working next to other
men. To refrain from bouts of jealousy was therefore one of her conditions for coming back
and live with him again. In the course of the single talk she says that they are now able to talk
whenever problems arise that’s what they have learned through this experience. Nothing is
left to be clarified here at the ATA, Frau Aytekin repeats: they can rely on aunt and uncle and
they now get along very well. She takes care of the family budget, Herr Aytekin receiving an
allowance from her hands. The situation regarding work is tough though. She would like to
find a job or even better, get access to some training, e.g. a computer course. She has been
told that this might be too difficult.
It proves quite easy to arrive at an agreement in the course of the mediation session.
According to the story of Herr Aytekin as told by Hannes, the male social worker, Herr
Aytekin accepts responsibility for the injury he has caused. He says that their relationship is
now better than it has ever been. Frau Aytekin emphases once more the fact that this was the
first time her husband had used physical violence; she knows that he feels sorry for that. But
she confirms also her resolution: ‘I want to never again experience something like that!’
When I visited Frau Aytekin for the interview in her home, it became visible that although
money seems short, her living conditions are quite satisfactory; the most pressing problem
remains that of further qualification. The ATA experience was altogether satisfactory for
herself and for her husband. She was glad that they got this chance to find closure outside a
criminal procedure. She tells me that afterwards she felt ‘talked out’, and means by this
expression that she was able to find relief through telling her story. And in her opinion it was
also good for her husband to find another opportunity to talk about what he had done,
although he had expressed his regret immediately after the incidence.
My personal reflections after this interview were the following:
This is the story of a young woman trying to find her place between the different cultures and
the respective sets of expectations. She is clear-sighted and level-headed and she has
obviously a lot of ‘social intelligence’. The couple has received support from relatives and
they have been able to arrive at new arrangements for their life together most important:
they have learned to talk with each other whenever problems emerge. VOM did no more than
provide additional reinforcement for this way and for the resolution of Frau Aytekin to never
again suffer violence.
Within this category I have also placed a case that was ‘successfully’ closed; but when I
contacted the woman and after several difficulties could talk to her, she told, that another
incidence of violence had occurred: she had to leave to joint apartment and her partner – they
have a little daughter together will have to face trial. She had been full of hope after the
ATA: they appeared to have made a strong effort to better handle mutual bouts of jealousy,
they had received encouragement and mental support for this effort. The young man had
expressed his regret for what he had done, and asked her forgiveness; and so had she for the
injuries she had caused him (although they had not resulted in a formal registration by the
police.) It had been a most moving session and everybody present felt confident that these two
people will be able handle their life together refraining from violence. Both of them expressed
their conviction that this was highly desirable and that it was possible. Also now, after the
renewed violence, Frau Fuernsinn was strongly positive about her experience of VOM. She
praised the effect the design of the mixed double, especially the mirroring of stories had on
her: ‘In the beginning it was a bit strange to hear one’s own story told by somebody else. But
then you could look at it as if you were your own bystander; it felt as if a second ‘I’ was
standing next to you.’ It was her ex-partner whom she accused of having put on a mask
(theatre mask) in order to attain the appreciation of the mediators and gain the resulting
discharge of prosecution. They have separated for good but retain contact because of their
child. She says that she tries hard to keep up a reasonable basis of communication for the sake
of the child. She is determined to follow through with her plans for the future to finish her
training as a psychiatric nurse. She hopes that the criminal procedure and the punishment he is
expected to receive will teach her ex-partner a lesson.
All of the cases in this group conveyed the impression that the women were very sure about
their rightful claim to a partnership free of violence and especially the young women regarded
the interventions and reactions of the agencies of the CJS as a matter of course: that’s how
things ought to be! I got the impression that also the medical doctor notifying the police in the
case of Frau Aytekin found her calm approval. Most of the women in this category had taken
the lead in the aftermath of the event: they had left and they had made efforts to arrive at a
new way of communication within the partnership. This happened several times after the first
incidence of violence but in three cases of this type after long-lasting and repeated violence.
Frau Manhardt, the one that had started family therapy together with her husband said that for
quite some time she had experienced the spiralling of violence from the side of her partner
(‘It had happened already several times, but for a long period I regarded each incidence as
non-intentional: it had just happened to him. Therefore I did not want to turn to the police.
Looking back I can see that I had suppressed what was already evident. This might work for
some time – but then it turns up again.’) As already said, the effect of VOM consisted in the
reinforcement of the change already set in motion.
4.4. Something new happens
I have also already mentioned that the most impressive effect occurred when and where in the
course of the procedure men were brought to confront themselves with what they had done to
their woman partner. I could observe this happen and I was told in more detail about this
effect in the course of the interview with women.
This process is very beautifully described by Frau Kriegler:
“Listening to his story (in the course of the talk of the four) I learned and realised things I
had not known... I had the feeling that my husband only then - in the course of his single talk
- realised that he cannot contend any longer that what had happened in reality was not as
stated in the files and that it was not he himself and only he himself responsible – that’s what I
heard. I am sure that this was a topic in this talk, because afterwards and later at home as
well, the whole story as told from his side had become different. I guess what had happened!
Of course, I was not present, but I know my husband pretty well – his tendency not to use the
‘I’-form but talking about ‘one’ that does things or perceives them as such. I guess that the
social worker he was with had told him: ‘no: it is not ‘one’ it is ‘you’ something like
To give a bit of the background of this case: Frau Kriegler went to the police after already the
hospital she called upon had informed the police about the injuries her husband had caused.
This was the first experience of this kind for her, it was dramatic and it had traumatizing
consequences for her. She had attended a trauma-therapy in the aftermath and she said that
she did not want to talk about the incidence in more detail at the ATA. In addition to going to
the police, she had used the emergency hotline for women and there she had received valuable
support. She had realised that her husband had tried to belittle the event – and to suppress all
memory of it.
Frau Kriegler had explained the previous history of the incidence: She is a consultant with a
heavy and stressful workload, theirs is a patchwork family with four children to care for. A
year ago she had therefore taken a sabbatical to find time to reflect on her situation and to find
new and less strenuous life- and work-arrangements. Her husband was not ready to follow her
considerations and when she insisted on discussing – although he wanted to go to sleep he
flipped out and got violent.
In the course of the mirroring of stories, David, the social worker relates that Herr Kriegler
has taken responsibility for what he had done to his wife, and he feels regret. He does
understand that his wife still feels shaken and panics at the slightest shove. David adds that he
would like to ask Herr Kriegler to clearly specify the act of violence he is responsible for and
Herr Kriegler speaks out: “What I have done is still with me and I feel deep remorse. I hope
that this will not darken our future together forever.”
The social workers then address what has already been talked about in the single sessions: in
which way the harm Frau Kriegler has experienced could be compensated by Herr Kriegler:
Beate, the female social worker, had told Frau Kriegler: “He ought to do something positive
to set against the negative you have suffered“. Regular smart money is deemed inappropriate
by the woman. She tells her husband that she wants him to think creatively about doing
something or giving something to her. “You ought to know what I am longing for deep in my
heart. Not smart money as prescribed formally. It should be something you have thought
I have already quoted above the words Frau Kriegler had found to explain what she had felt
had happened in the course of the VOM-procedure.
My comment ran thus: It was a piece of luck that in this case that illustrates the potential of
VOM to produce inner change of a batterer, the woman had a high capacity for analysing
what had happened, for reflecting on it and for relating the processes eloquently. My
observation and the transcript of the interview contribute in a complementary manner to
convey the story of a man going from ‘one must not’ to ‘I have done this’. On the basis of this
cognition he arrives at the feeling of remorse and the readiness to compensate for the harm by
doing something good and beneficial to his wife as an act of restorative justice, one could
This kind of inner change appears especially impressive in the case of a couple from central
Asia, Frau Yumkella and Herr Saled. They are in possession of Austrian citizenship and Herr
Saled has been living in Austria for many years and he speaks German well. He is in
employment. Frau Yumkella has joined him in Austria a few years ago, they have two
children together and were expecting the third at the time the ATA took place. It was Frau
Yumkella who had turned to the police after her husband used violence; she had consulted her
brother who lived in Germany and he had supported her steps. She had complained in the
course of a first session at the ATA (where I was not present) that this had not been the first
time, violence had occurred, that her husband treated her badly, that he was demanding that
she got up and cooked for him when he returned late at midnight and that he was verbally
abusing her. As a result of the first session it was decided that: firstly, Frau Yumkella should
get the opportunity to attend a language course to learn German and secondly, Herr Saled was
to fulfil the imposition already made by the Child Welfare Office of Vienna to get counselling
by the ‘Men’s Helpdesk against violence’. It is important to mention that the child welfare
office had become active as a consequence of the intervention of the police according to the
‘Protection Against Domestic Violence Act’. The barring order that had been imposed
originally had been lifted on that condition. During the single talk with Frau Yumkella, I
observed, she told Karin, the social worker, that the situation had changed thoroughly; now
she felt well treated and respected. She attends the language course and Herr Saled does
himself some cooking when she is away, and, most important, no more violence had taken
place. She said that this was at least partly due to her husband receiving counselling from the
‘Men’s Helpdesk’, albeit the counsellor was not available any more and Herr Saled had
interrupted his visits.
Karin emphasises the importance of reacting and calling help from outside in case violence
would happen again, Frau Yumkella assents and underlines how important it has been for her
to find help from outside.
There is some irritation on the side of the male social worker who has been talking to Herr
Saled concerning the interruption of the session with the counsellor, but then it can be
clarified on the spot that the interruption was indeed caused by the counsellor being abroad
for some time. During the ‘talk of the four’ Herr Saled confirms that he got valuable help
from the counsellor. This man had given him good advice how to ‘remain cool’ and more
generally how to behave differently as husband and as father. Herr Saled seems very pleased
with himself and the new way of life that has opened before him. He mentions the social
worker of the child welfare office and the help he and his family had received from her.
I had arranged for an interview with Frau Yumkella at her apartment and it was planned to be
performed in English. I was received very kindly, and could talk for some time – in German
to the little girl, Sarah. Frau Yumkella’s English proved very poor though and only some very
basic and simple communication ensued. Notwithstanding these restriction, I learned that she
still experiences a life free of violence, and that her husband had undergone a complete
change. Concerning the ATA and more specifically the ‘talk of the four’ she said: “so good! It
was so good for me – a good experience that we could go there and talk. The attitude change
was a good thing: when he realised that it is good for us.”
I learned also that the child welfare office had promised to find them a bigger flat – when the
third child is born; they keep regular contact and ‘Frau H. is very nice’, I am told.
What’s impressive about this story is the illustration of the potential of networking. The
police, the child welfare office, the ATA and the Men’s Help-desk’ all contribute to bring
home to Herr Saled that his violent behaviour is not to be accepted – but also: that a change of
attitude and behaviour is to bring him both material and psychological advantages. His
compliance with the counselling imposition changes his family life for the better, he gets the
love and respect of his wife and his children and this compliance will is also rewarded with
the very tangible assistance he receives from the youth welfare agency.
VOM in this case appears as one link within a chain of intervening agencies. As such it plays
well its role as reinforcement of the requirement to abstain from violence.
This case is therefore apt to show also the intertwining of the big structural changes that have
taken place and that became most strongly manifest in the enforcement of the Protection from
Domestic Violence Act and the power of the ATA intervention enfolding on this background
together with the more specific effects of counselling for men.
We have to mention that there are also cases where no longer lasting effect of VOM could be
discerned although a change of attitude has become visible and tangible in the VOM-session.
Once more we are confronted with the fact that it proves difficult for such an inner change to
stand the test of everyday life and the ordinary and often harsh circumstances people live in,
especially the influence of peers still adhering to a traditional understanding of gender
relationships marked by the ‘natural’ domination of men. This collapse of a newly acquired
insight did happen in the case of Frau Fuernsinn but also in the case of a young woman from
Moldova where mutual injuries had occurred in the past, but where Herr Prager seemed to
have understood that he should contribute to a relationship based on mutual respect. When I
talked to Frau Prager some weeks later it became evident that he had fallen back into his old
attitudes and although no further violence had occurred, this was according her understanding
only because he exercised restraint in order to avoid another confrontation with the agencies
of the criminal justice system. Examples like that serve to remind us of the limits of the
societal change we have been talking about. It is definitely not all-encompassing.
Notwithstanding this observation I would like to contend that the movement toward
something new and different appears inevitable.
4.5. The limits of VOM
Another interesting finding of the qualitative study is the different features the cases that have
to be termed failures display.
The cases that have to be assessed as failures appear different as well: it is less women that
lack the resources to realise their claim of a partnership free of violence, rather it is now cases
of a an indissoluble entanglement. Ten yeas ago it was women living in a situation of
dependency and helplessness, with no resources that could be used to start a spiral of
empowerment to counteract the spiral of violence that marked their partnership. Even when
and where the VOM process had instilled a glimpse of hope for a better life this could not
stand the test of the ingrained habits and the drabness of daily routines. This time it is an
inextricable entanglement and a relentless fight that characterises these cases and that kind of
spills out into the ATA procedure and hinders the rationale of this procedure to take hold and
to enfold its potential. The partners are unable to adapt to the requirements of the VOM
procedure: to get truly engaged into one’s own story and in that of the other. Instead, the fight
continues using the mediators as just an other auditory for presenting and devolving one’s
This very fact could also be read as an indication that the cases of the real helpless women are
not referred to the ATA any more; it could also be interpreted as an indication that women that
experience partnership violence do now have better access to resources and to agencies that
provide assistance.
I will not pay special attention to the cases I have categorised as either futile because the
partners are evading a real contestation and effort at confrontation.
And I have also left out the very few (2) cases of my ‘sample’ that illustrate VOM as
contributing to dealing with separation; they are indeed very special constellations. Albeit the
case of Frau Marhold provides valuable insights into the VOM-dynamics.
4.6. VOM as comprehensive social work intervention
Finally we have observed a type of cases that can be judged a particularity of the Austrian
approach to VOM in general and to VOM in cases of partnership violence more specifically.
The intervention of the mediators in those cases goes beyond dealing with an incidence of
violence; in fact, it altogether transcends the focus on violence and takes into view the whole
of the relational dynamics. Pre-empting the interpretation of cases belonging into this
category I want to contend that this diffusion of focus does not imply any factual neglect of
the necessity to insist on the ban of violence. As an optimal outcome a complete re-building of
the relationship takes place and this comprises as a matter of course the renouncement of
In the course of the ATA procedure these cases can appear very intense, very gripping. In one
of them the relationship between a young woman and a man many years her senior was at
stake: they have a child together but do not live together. The relation was marked by fights,
by jealousy, by stark discrepancies in life-styles and what they respectively deemed a good
and right way of living. And there were also bouts of violence coming from both partners. At
the beginning of the single talk, Frau Laskiewicz had declared her resolution to end the
relationship but in the course of the session it became obvious that there was still love and a
strong bond that held her. On the other hand, Herr Brendl had felt badly treated by his partner
who for him was especially important because he was still mentally ravaged by the tragic loss
of an older son of a previous relationship. The talk of the four consisted for a long time of
mutual accusations and complaints about the faults, the neglects and the deficiencies of the
other, about the disappointments he/she had caused. Herr Brendl more and more closed up
under the attacks of Frau Laskiewiecz. Then Alice, the social worker who in this case was
responsible for Herr Brendl (the male social worker not available) turned to the man and
asked: “May I speak for yourself?” He nodded. Alice stood up, went besides Herr Brendl,
knelt down, her head now at the same level as his and she started to talk, addressing Frau
Laskiewicz: “I have felt very miserable after the death of my son and it was you who gave me
support and something to lean on. I now want you to ask your forgiveness for what I have
done to you and I want us to stop digging into the past. I want us to try something new
together – and together with our boy. Maybe we can do this.” When she ended, there was an
endless, a complete silence (I did not even dare to turn the page of my writing pad) Frau
Laskiewicz was close to tears, then uttered: “I can’t say anything”. Alice (still as Herr
Brendl): It’s not necessary for you to say anything”
Then Alice went back to her place and asked Frau Laskiewicz: Can you imagine him
thinking this way sometimes?” She nodded. Alice again: “How do you feel now?” ‘Shit’,
uttered Frau Laskiewicz with a lot of feeling.
Alice: “It hurts to see what things have come to?” a nod again. Alice turning to Herrn
Brendl: “It’s hurtful for you as well?” “Yes” he answered, “very much so!”
From there they were now able to make an arrangement for going to a carnival event together
with their child; and the mediators arranged for another meeting after a period of observation.
I have been told that they have decided to live together again and they are trying to ‘live’ the
new way that Alice had been talking about.
When after a longer period of time I conducted the interview with Frau Laskiewicz she told
that they are still together, Herr Brendl is abstaining from drinking alcohol (one of her
complaints!) – there was no further violence. But, she thinks that they are not communicating
the way they should due to his behaviour of avoiding discussions, on the other hand it
transpires that she feels bouts of jealousy whenever he stays out ‘unaccountably’.
Also in this case, the reality-test proves hard to pass, and it is difficult to transfer the stunning
upswing that happened in the course of VOM to the harshness of everyday life.
Only in passing I will mention the case of Herr and Frau Banicevic. They are both migrants
from Bosnia, Frau Banicevic has come to Austria together with her family when she was very
young and has become a registered nurse. Her husband had stayed during the war on the
Balkans, he is highly traumatised, suicidal and he has acquired a drug problem. There was one
incidence of violence that occurred in a phase of his intense difficulties separation was a
threat pending for quite some time afterwards. The VOM procedure provided a forum
especially for Frau Banicevic to relate her story and that of her husband, to talk about her
resolution to support his efforts to find a way out of the drug habit, to go on together. It was a
story of the horrors of war, of courage and of love. Not much was necessary on the side of the
mediators – just to listen, together consider additional support for Herr Banicevic and to give
further encouragement. The rejection of violence stood out strongly in the narration of Frau
Banicevic and in the rendering of the story by Herr Banicevic as well.
Observing this session and talking to Frau Banicevic made the beneficial effect of the kind of
reaction to partnership violence that VOM provided stand out clearly and convincingly.
Looking at both quantitative and qualitative results as complementary findings and perceiving
them as complementary we can take into perspective the wider societal background. Both
stories of the empowerment of women and stories of an inner change of men happen against
the foil of a change of horizons of societal expectations, of a new collective mentality. The
expectation of keeping violence out of intimate relationships has become a matter of course
and has acquired wider acceptance within (Austrian) society. It is an acceptance that is not
reserved for ‘official’ declarations to the outside world only. The term change of mentalities,
or a rebuild of mentalities therefore appears indeed the more appropriate term. We do not only
hear about men having changed their attitude from women that have answered the respective
questions in the quantitative study but we have also seen and heard these men in the course of
our observations. Both parts of the research provide also evidence of a considerable number
of perpetrators that have experienced an eviction and/or a barring order according the
’Protection against Domestic Violence Act’. In the interviews we have heard repeatedly the
statement: This was a kind of ‘halt’-sign! It has made him think about what he was doing to
me’ It became obvious that the very concrete and very tangible intervention of the police in
the course of the eviction has made an impact on the consciousness of the public, it has found
a place within the array of police reactions as they are commonly known and perceived and: it
produces an effect. For women endangered and threatened in the realm of an intimate
relationship it has become a common sense-strategy to call the police and to have the batterer
and ‘threatenersent off the premises for several days at least. It is, as already said an
effective strategy. The effect is both an immediate and factual one and a symbolic one that
carries the message: this must not happen!
Against this background the VOM intervention is apt to effectuate then the next decisive step:
these men are induced to move from: ‘Violence must not happen within an intimate
relationship’ towards the insight: ‘I have been acting violently. I have physically and
emotionally hurt my partner.’
As an effect of VOM two major changes take place. There is the empowerment of women, -
mainly as a reinforcement of changes that have already been brought on the way. In other
words: the resourcefulness of women seems to have increased and in other words once
more: the increase of resources available has resulted in a generic adaptation of expectations –
of what is regarded a rightful, a self-evident claim.
And we see also that men do change sometimes and as an effect of participating in the
New horizons of expectations have become transformed into new horizons of opportunities
and the social workers of the ATA help to realise those opportunities at the individual level
making women stronger and men better.
Benjamin, J. (1988): The Bonds of Love: Psychoanalysis, Feminism, and the Problem of
Domination, New York, Pantheon Books.
Birklbauer, A. (2004): Reform der Diversion? Vorgesehene und diskutierte Änderungen,
ZUBTIL E-ZINE, 11.08.2004.
Braithwaite, J. (1989): Crime, Shame and Reintegration, Cambridge, Cambridge University
Buchholz, M.B., Lamott, F., Mörtl, K. (2008): Tat-Sachen. Narrative von Sexualstraftätern,
Gießen, Psychosozial-Verlag.
Engler, S., Krais, B. (2004) (Hrsg.): Das kulturelle Kapital und die Macht der
Klassenstrukturen. Sozialstrukturelle Verschiebungen und Wandlungsprozesse des Habitus.
Weinheim und München, Juventa.
Fonagy, P. et al. (2006): Affektregulierung, Mentalisierung und die Entwicklung des Selbst,
Stuttgart, Klett-Cotta.
Gerhardt, U. (1991). Typenbildung. In Flick, U. et al. (Hrsg.), Handbuch qualitative
Sozialforschung. Grundlagen, Konzepte, Methoden und Anwendungen. München,
Psychologie Unions Verlag.
Hoenisch, B., Pelikan, C. (1999): Die Wirkungsweisen strafrechtlicher Interventionen bei
Gewaltstraftaten in Paarbeziehungen. Der Strafprozess und der Außergerichtliche
Tatausgleich, Forschungsbericht des Instituts für Rechts- und Kriminalsoziologie, Wien.
Hofinger, V., Neumann, A. (2008): Legalbiografien von NeuStart Klienten. Legalbewährung
nach Außergerichtlichem Tatausgleich, Gemeinnütziger Leistung und Bewährungshilfe,
Forschungsbericht des Instituts für Rechts- und Kriminalsoziologie, Wien.
Janzen, C., Karliczek, K. (2000): Täter und Opfer im Schlichtungsprozess. In Gutsche, G.,
Rössner, D. (Hrsg.): Täter-Opfer-Ausgleich. Beiträge zur Theorie, Empirie und Praxis, Bonn-
Bad Godesberg, Forum Verlag, 159-183.
Mead, G.H. (1968): Geist, Identität und Gesellschaft aus der Sicht des Sozialbehaviorismus.
Frankfurt am Main, Suhrkamp.
Messmer, H. (1996): Unrechtsaufarbeitung im Täter-Opfer-Ausgleich.
Sozialwissenschaftliche Analysen zur außergerichtlichen Verfahrenspraxis bei Jugendlichen.
Bonn-Bad Godesberg, Forum Verlag.
Morris, A. Maxwell, G. (2001): Implementing restorative justice: what works? In: Morris, A.
Maxwell, G. (eds.) Restorative Justice for Juveniles: Conferencing, Mediation and Circles,
Oxford, Hart Publishing.
Pelikan, C., Hanak, G., Pelikan, J. & Schandl, H. (1996): Familienmediation.
Forschungsbericht des Instituts für Rechts- und Kriminalsoziologie, Wien.
Pelikan, C. (1999) Über Mediationsverfahren. In: Pelikan, C. (Hrsg.) Mediationsverfahren.
Horizonte, Grenzen, Innensichten, Baden-Baden, Nomos, 12-29.
Rainwater, L. (1971): Behind Ghetto Walls. Black Families in a Federal Slum,
Harmondsworth, Penguin Books.
Taubner, S. (2008): Entsteht Einsicht im Täter-Opfer-Ausgleich? Eine empirische Studie am
Beispiel adoleszenter Gewaltstraftäter, Monatsschrift für Kriminologie und Strafrechtsreform,
91, 281-294.
The International Encyclopedia of Philosophy: George Herbert Mead;
Vester, M. et al. (2001): Soziale Milieus im gesellschaftlichen Strukturwandel. Zwischen
Integration und Ausgrenzung, 2. Aufl., Frankfurt/Main, Suhrkamp.
Williams, B. (2007): Empathy for victims, offending and attitudes. In: Mackay, R. et al. (eds.)
Images of Restorative Justice Theory, Frankfurt, Verlag für Polizeiwissenschaft, 225-234.
Luhmann, N. (1993): Das Recht der Gesellschaft. Frankfurt/Main,
Pelikan, C. (2000): Victim Oender Mediation in Domestic Violence Cases.
A Research Report. United Nations Congress: Ancillary Meeting, Vienna,
Pelikan, C. (2002): Victim-Offender-Mediation in Domestic Violence Cases – A Comparison
of the Effects of Criminal Law Intervention: the Penal Process and Mediation. Doing
Qualitative Research, Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social
Research [On-line Journal], 3(1)
Pelikan, C., Haller B. and Smutny, P. (2006):
Pelikan, Christa and Haller, Birgitt and Smutny, Petra
Title: . "The Austrian Protection against Domestic Violence Act. 1996"
Publication Info: In,Crime Policy in Europe, Council of Europe, Stragbourg: Council
of Europe Publishing pp.37-46
Date: 2006
"The Austrian Protection against Domestic Violence Act came into
force on 1 May 1997. "It is a body of special "targeted" legislation,
comprising new or reformed sections of different realms of
legislation, civil law - more specifically the Enforc ...
Article #: 7291
Go to complete summary
Author(s): Pelikan, Christa
. Victim-Offender-Mediation in Domestic Violence Cases-A
Comparison of the Effects of Criminal Law Intervention: the Penal
Process and Mediation. Doing Qualitative Research
Publication Info: Forum Qualitative Social Research. 3(1).
Date: 2002
Research on the efficacy of criminal law intervention involves social
processes and due to its nature, the processes require the use of
qualitative methods. It is about processes of change, about
development, or fixation and about the influence, vari ...
Article #: 541
Go to complete summary
Pelikan, Christa
Title: . Victim-Offender Mediation in Domestic Violence Cases - A
Research Report.
Publication Info:
Paper presented at the United Nations Crime Congress, Ancillary
Meeting on Implementing Restorative Justice in the International
Context. Vienna, Austria, 10-17 April.
Date: 2000
In this paper, Pelikan examines the results of empirical research into
the issue of victim-offender mediation in domestic violence cases,
with emphasis on the situation in Austria. She begins by
summarizing the critique of mediation in such cases. Af ...
Article #: 1666
Go to complete summary
Outcomes of an Empirical study
Comment: the title as stated is fine, I was wondering about the spelling?!
‘Restorative justice’ ‘Victim-offender mediation’ ‘domestic violence’ ‘violence against
Hoenisch, B., Pelikan, C. (1999): Die Wirkungsweisen strafrechtlicher Interventionen bei
Gewaltstraftaten in Paarbeziehungen. Der Strafprozess und der Außergerichtliche
Tatausgleich, Forschungsbericht des Instituts für Rechts- und Kriminalsoziologie, Wien.
Hofinger, V., Neumann, A. (2008): Legalbiografien von NeuStart Klienten. Legalbewährung
nach Außergerichtlichem Tatausgleich, Gemeinnütziger Leistung und Bewährungshilfe,
Forschungsbericht des Instituts für Rechts- und Kriminalsoziologie, Wien.
Luhmann, N. (1993): Das Recht der Gesellschaft. Frankfurt/Main, Suhrkamp.
Pelikan, C. (2000): Victim Offender Mediation in Domestic Violence Cases. A Research
Report. United Nations Congress: Ancillary Meeting, Vienna, Austria
Pelikan, C. (2002): Victim-Offender-Mediation in Domestic Violence Cases – A Comparison
of the Effects of Criminal Law Intervention: the Penal Process and Mediation. Doing
Qualitative Research, Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social
Research [On-line Journal], 3(1)
Pelikan, C., Haller, B. and Smutny, P. (2006): The Austrian Protection Against Domestic
Violence Act 1996. in: Council of Europe, Crime Policy in Europe, Strasbourg: Council of
Europe Publishing, 37-46.
Pelikan, C., Koss, C. and Kinnunen, A. (2009): Listening to each Other, wondering about each
other, learning from each other. The Vienna seminar on VOM. Newsletter of the European
Forum for Restorative Justice, 10 (1), 4-7.
Comment: the old list of references (which was taken from the long German version) has to
be replaced by this one that now finds its corresponding citations in the body.
Insert in: line 120:
Since 2008 this practice is used more frequently in all Austria, as well as an observation
period after a first agreement has been reached.
... This research is not easily generalizable due to different methodologies, different types of RJ programs (e.g., conferencing, VOMs, circles, and hybrid programs), and the use of RJ in different programs and jurisdictions. In the case of DFV, some studies have found RJ programs effectively address concerns of victim safety, encourage victims to have their stories heard by the offender and justice system, and empower victims to make decisions for their needs and those of their children and other dependents (Coker, 1999;Dissel, 2003;Hargovan, 2010;Kingi et al., 2008;Pelikan, 2010;Pennell & Burford, 2000). Some RJ programs have also demonstrated decreases in FDV following participation in RJ (Mills et al., 2019;Pennell & Burford, 2000). ...
Full-text available
Restorative justice is an innovative justice response to crime and offending that takes many forms such as victim-offender meetings, family group conferencing and youth justice conferencing, and sentencing or peacemaking circles. While restorative practices are used in a wide variety of contexts such as schools and workplaces to respond to and resolve conflict, restorative justice practices are predominantly used within criminal and youth justice. Key goals of restorative justice include (a) meeting victim needs of participation in justice processes and redress for harms caused to them, (b) asking wrongdoers to be accountable and actively responsible for making amends to victims and other they have harmed, and (c) involving primary and community stakeholders in restorative practices that repair harms to victims, promote offender reintegration, and enhance community safety and well-being. Existing research shows that restorative justice consistently meets most of these goals better than conventional court practices. However, restorative justice also appears to work better in some cases than in others, and also faces several limitations and challenges within its use in criminal justice systems. Limitations include dependence of restorative justice on state justice apparatuses for definitions of harm, and lack of fact-finding mechanisms that render most uses of restorative justice as diversionary or postadjudicative responses to offending. Challenges include lack of agreement on the aims and goals of restorative justice theoretically and in practice, administrative dilution and co-option of restorative aims and goals within increased institutionalization in criminal justice agencies, and uncertainty about the ability of restorative justice to redress harms situated within social-structural forms of violence and oppression such as gendered violence and systemic racism.
... It lists as some of its direct effects the empowering of participants and a decrease in violence rates. However, it is worth highlighting that the model is supported by comprehensive evaluations and monitoring of results collected during decades of experimentation (Pelikan 2002(Pelikan , 2010 2 to reduce and correct the risks and dangers that this practice could present to its stakeholders, especially the victim. ...
Full-text available
The solution of conflicts, cases of violence and harmful offences through alternatives to the penal system has been encouraged by Brazil’s Conselho Nacional de Justiça/National Justice Council (CNJ) since 2010. However, empirical studies that assess the impact of restorative practices when applied to domestic violence cases are sparse because most of them tend to highlight the retributive model’s insufficiency compared to the restorative model. In attempt to break away from that logic, the article analyses the insertion of practices of restorative justice regarding domestic violence by examining empirical studies carried out at the Rio Grande do Sul’s Justice Court, a pioneer in the employment of restorative justice. The study shows that restorative practices for domestic violence are residual, do not disrupt the traditional model and are not understood as restorative by women. Therefore, a broad and serious discussion about the model being implemented in Brazil is needed.
... In short, the maintenance of this prohibition in Spanish domestic law-as can be derived from the SPGV-also deprives GBV victims whose cases could be redirected to restorative justice processes of the benefits such processes can afford in cases of gender violence as well (Burkemper and Balsam 2007, Curtis-Fawley and Daly 2005Drost et al. 2015;Hoyle 1998;Hoyle and Sanders 2000;Pelikan 2010;Stubbs 2002). Favouring a dialogued encounter between victim and offender could result in more meaningful rulings for both. ...
Full-text available
The Spanish Comprehensive Law against Gender Violence of 2004 was a regulatory milestone, leading to action against intimate partner violence and raising awareness amongst criminal justice professionals. Sixteen years after its passage, the Spanish State Pact on Gender Violence, signed in 2017, seeks to update its content, stressing the law’s punitive criminal policy orientation. This paper argues that this approach, based on criminal justice rules, may be obsolete and should be abandoned to make way for a future legal policy that emphasizes prevention and extra-criminal protection of victims. This conclusion is supported by the evolution of feminist legal theory, the paradigm shift in the international approach to fighting gender violence, the application issues the law faces and the shortcomings of its approach. Consequently, it is suggested that a system more focused on victim protection than prosecution be adopted, based on a set of civil and administrative protection mechanisms, which are lacking under current Spanish domestic law.
... Feminists have long identified that masculine hegemony disempowers women and others identified as feminine (Chancer, 2019), and they avail of political-economic-social transformations to change norms in different countries (Fulu & Miedema, 2016). In Austria, where restorative programs for IPV are widespread, Christa Pelikan (2010) concludes that the process promoted women's empowerment and increasingly supported positive change in men. She attributes the men's progress to societal changes, national legislation, policing practices, and the restorative process helping the couple validate the abuse as wrong. ...
Full-text available
Now is the time to rethink reliance on legal intervention to end intimate partner violence (IPV). Arrest, incarceration, and family separation have fallen disproportionately on people who are Black or Brown, immigrant, LGBTQ, or impoverished. Restorative approaches bring together the persons harmed, persons causing harm, their family or community networks, or combinations of these stakeholders. Based on a U.S. national study, this article examines: What influences programs to adopt a restorative approach to ending IPV? How do programs safeguard their original vision for social change? What principles guide the programs in carrying out their work in safe and productive ways?
... Feminists have long identified that masculine hegemony disempowers women and others identified as feminine, and they avail of political-economic transformations to change norms in different countries (Budgeon, 2014;Fulu & Miedema, 2016). In Austria where restorative programs for IPV are widespread, Christa Pelikan (2010) concludes that the process promoted women's empowerment and increasingly supported positive change in men. She attributes the men's progress to societal changes, national legislation and policing practices, and the restorative process helping the couple validate the abuse as wrong. ...
Full-text available
Now is the time to rethink reliance on legal intervention to end intimate partner violence (IPV). Arrest, incarceration, and family separation have fallen disproportionately on people who are Black or Brown, impoverished, or immigrant, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ). Restorative approaches bring together the persons harmed, persons causing harm, their family or community networks, or combinations of these stakeholders. Based on a U.S. national study, this article examines: What influences programs to adopt a restorative approach to ending IPV? How do programs safeguard their original vision for social change? What principles guide the programs in carrying out their work in safe and productive ways?
Full-text available
Some victims benefit from communication with offenders after a crime, at least some of the time, but gaps in the evidence about restorative justice practices make it hard for victims to decide whether to take part. This article examines whether and how specific components of victim–offender communication led to changes in victim self-concept. The question was addressed through thematic analysis of interview data from 40 victims of a range of crime types, including serious sexual and violent offences. Interviews were conducted before and after victims attempted communication with the offender. Participants described 10 routes to change in their sense of agency and of being a “good” person (moral self-image); some of these routes supported previous literature, others shed new light on old theories, or were previously undocumented. Together, these routes enabled victims to distance themselves from a “victim” identity, thereby mirroring the commonly cited restorative justice objective of separating the “deed from the doer,” to instead separate the “deed from the done-to.” To the extent possible given the nature of the study, cases of negative and absent changes are also discussed. In an area replete with theories but lacking in empirical research, this study contributes new evidence and a conceptual clarity that could be used to enhance future studies. Most importantly, it can help victims make informed decisions about communicating with the offender, help them identify and articulate their objectives, and manage their expectations.
Background: Restorative justice emerges as a theoretical-practical approach to the criminal legal system, in which the reparation of damage of the victim is a central point. However, the growing empirical production referring to the effects of this approach on victims is sometimes shown to be weakened or dispersed, focusing mainly on their satisfaction. Objective: The present work intended to systematically evaluate the empirical production of the restorative justice field, to aggregate and examine information in the literature regarding the psychological impacts on victims who participated in restorative practices. Methods: A search was made using electronic databases to identify quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-method studies, published between January 2000 and December 2020 that reported psychological impacts on real victims of crimes, who participated in mediations/conferences victim-offender. Results: 35 studies were identified as focusing on the psychological impacts on victims resulting from restorative practices. These studies have shown effects on post-traumatic symptomatology, on the emotions and emotional needs resulted from victimization, as well as on the victims' perceptions of their offenders. Conclusions: The present research showed that restorative justice practices have a positive psychological impact on victims, who are frequently forgotten in conventional justice, and that some of these impacts persist over time.
Feminism and prison abolitionism are not theoretically or politically homogenous, and yet in their mainstream versions they are often situated at polar ends of the debate on how to respond to domestic and sexualised violence. The disproportionately gendered nature of sexualised and interpersonal violence has largely centralised such abuses in feminist movements. However, histories of abolitionism – particularly in continental Europe – have largely failed to address the severity of this violence and its impacts. In this article, we highlight the implications of so‐called ‘carceral’ feminism on ending sexualised and interpersonal violence, while addressing key – and reasonable – critiques of abolitionism. Our central argument is that criminal justice has failed to significantly reduce and/or end sexualised or interpersonal violence. As such, we explore feminist‐centred, restorative, and transformative alternatives, not only to prison, but to societies that continue to embed systematic levels of sexualised and interpersonal violence.
Although restorative conflict resolution is gaining a steady foothold in many contexts, the context of domestic violence is strongly debated. The debate has been continuing and it still does. The argument in this paper sustains that the debate represents a typical conflict. When appreciating one, it is important to discern the core of it. The paper goes then on to arguing that the debate represents a typical moral conflict, rather than a judicial or a political one. The paper aims at establishing a framework for solving of moral conflicts, in the light of the debate between the advocates and the critics of restorative justice in domestic violence cases. As such the paper seeks to make a contribution to not only the debate relating to restorative justice in domestic violence cases but to restorative conflict resolution in general and to conflicts typical in societies today.
Full-text available
Research on the efficacy of criminal law intervention involves social processes and due to its nature, the processes require the use of qualitative methods. It is about processes of change, about development, or fixation and about the influence, various criminal law interventions exert onto these processes. In addition there is the content of the subject matter that is conducive to the application of qualitative methods: violence in intimate relationships constitutes intricate and complex fabrics of power and love, of dependency and sexuality. The instruments of collecting data consisted of observing of criminal processes and mediation procedures that provided access to the parties and the opportunity for intensive talks with men and women as the core piece of research. They were complemented by expert-interviews with judges and mediators. The analysis of the data involved using an "ideal type"-process analysis guided by a triangulation of perspectives as presented by the different actors. The qualitative, "interactive" method of doing research on processes of change calls for continued intervention in criminal policy—something that goes beyond presenting evaluation results. I will present and analyze the difficulties encountered when using this approach. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0201169
Die Wirkungsweisen strafrechtlicher Interventionen bei Gewaltstraftaten in Paarbeziehungen. Der Strafprozess und der Außergerichtliche Tatausgleich
  • B Hoenisch
  • C Pelikan
Listening to each other, wondering about each other, learning from each other. The Vienna seminar on VOM. Newsletter of the European Forum for Restorative Justice
  • C Pelikan
  • C Koss
  • A Kinnunen
Legalbiografien von NeuStart Klienten
  • V Hofinger
  • A Neumann
The austrian protection against domestic violence act 1996
  • C Pelikan
  • B Haller
  • P Smutny
Victim offender mediation in domestic violence cases. A research report
  • C Pelikan
Legalbewährung nach Außergerichtlichem Tatausgleich
  • V Hofinger
  • A Neumann