“To me it was normal”: Making sense of family violence from the perspective of perpetrators and the implications for treatment

Dr Bronwyn Morrison1, Ms Marianne Bevan1
1Department of Corrections,

New Zealand has one of the highest per capita rates of intimate partner violence among OECD countries. In 2017, almost a quarter of all sentences managed by the Department of Corrections were associated with at least one family violence-related offence. Despite this significant contribution, there has been a lack of research specifically focused on family violence perpetrators in New Zealand. Little is therefore known about the onset of family violence offending and how this fits alongside other types of offending, or the stability of violence across time and different relationships. There is also an absence of knowledge about perpetrators’ lifetime experience of family violence interventions and other interventions, and the degree to which these interventions (or combinations of interventions) were considered useful by those who experienced them. Relatedly, we know very little about which factors contribute to temporary or permanent desistance from family violence offending. In order to start addressing these gaps, during 2017 the Department of Corrections undertook in-depth qualitative interviews with 48 men and women in prison for family violence offences, who had recently completed some form of treatment. This paper presents key findings from this research, with a specific focus on perpetrator accounts of their violence and what helped or hindered their efforts to stop. The paper concludes by considering the implications of these findings for effective future service provision.


Bronwyn Morrison is a Principal Research Adviser at the Department of Corrections, New Zealand. She has a Ph.D in Criminology from Keele University, UK. She has worked in government research and evaluation roles in New Zealand for the last 12 years. Since joining the Department of Corrections in 2015 she has undertaken projects on prisoners’ post-release experiences, family violence perpetrators, remand prisoners, Corrections officer recruits, and women in prison.

Marianne Bevan is a Senior Research Adviser at the Department of Corrections in New Zealand. She has completed a range of research and evaluation projects related to women’s offending, the case management of women in prison, family violence perpetration, prisoners’ trauma exposure, and youth in prison. Prior to joining the Department of Corrections, she conducted research and implemented projects on gender and security sector reform in Timor-Leste, Togo, Ghana, and Liberia.


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