Work with perpetrators - better protection for victims of gender based violence

01 Oct 2013

Centers for Social Work (CSW) exist in every municipality in Serbia and they constitute the backbone of social protection system. They are referring to the centralized decision-making institution, Ministry of Labor, Employment and Social Policy – UNDP’s primary national partner in the field of combating gender based violence.

During the past five years, UNDP was supporting the social protection system to tackle gender dimension of violence more thoroughly. These efforts resulted in a new policy framework which obliges the institutional/general service providers to pay a particular attention to the gender based violence when responding to the protection needs of the victim.

Three years ago UNDP in Serbia made a step forward and piloted a new approach, aiming to expand the range of protection services in addressing violence against women (VaW). The basic idea was to slightly twist the common perspective by putting the focus of the intervention on perpetrator rather than on a victim/survivor only. We introduced the programme for work with perpetrators of violence against women, based on the Norwegian best practice model “Alternativ Til Vold” (Alternative to Violence – ATV: UNDP contacted three strongest City Centers for Social Work (CCSW) who had functional Counseling Centers for Marriage and Family: in Belgrade (, Kragujevac ( and Nis ( 16 professionals were trained and mentored by Norwegian experts during one year. After gaining the relevant capacities, social workers were paired in 8 teams (one female and one male in each) and started applying newly acquired skills in their daily work.

As a result, 25 perpetrators were treated in Kragujevac in 2012. About 95% of them was directed to the programme by the Public Prosecutor Office, the institution with which CCSW signed a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in cases of VaW. 17 of them were admitted to the group therapy treatment after thorough initial assessment through individual interviews. CCSW in Niš assessed 23 perpetrators and worked with 19 who qualified for the therapy. CCSW in Belgrade made contact with 22 perpetrators. 80% of perpetrators who were enrolled in the programme did not commit violence during the therapy treatment.

Trained professionals also prepared a contextualized version of curriculum, in order to disseminate the acquired knowledge and skills among their fellow colleagues at the local level. The curriculum ( was accredited by the Institute for Social Protection of the Republic of Serbia, in charge for providing licenses and accreditation for the services and trainings in the social protection system.

These tangible results encouraged UNDP to further expand the work with perpetrators programme and 6 additional CCSW from Novi Sad, Subotica, Kraljevo, Čačak, Kruševac and Leskovac were trained, this time by national experts, to work with perpetrators.

“So far we have focused our work exclusively on the victim of violence, which proved not to be sufficient for stopping the violence. We are happy to be part of the new program and we rely high hopes that the new programme will complement to our efforts to provide better protection for victims of violence”, said director of CCSW Novi Sad Nenad Drašković in a press conference few days ago (

“I believe that the program will manage to tackle the target group that hasn’t been addressed sufficiently by the social protection system so far and that it will contribute to significant decrease of recidivism among perpetrators of VaW”, added Ms. Dijana Prcic, Director of CCSW Subotica.

We are aware that two main challenges may occur in the new, scaled up phase. Firstly, UNDP in Serbia is accountable for ensuring the high standard of service delivery in 6 new CCSW. With the initial support from Norwegian experts, it was agreed that the success will be if 80% perpetrators successfully finalise the therapy treatment. On the other hand, we’ll have to prove the sustainability of the programme after the perpetrators have completed the therapy treatment. Initial indicators showed that more than 80% of perpetrators who successfully finalised the programme did not commit violence while they were undergoing the therapy. Since the programme has been relatively recently introduced, we are still not able to measure whether the perpetrators remain non violent in the period after the treatment. Therefore, new indicators which will look into perpetrators’ behaviours are needed. Through ex-post assessments we plan to interview ex-perpetrators how they perceive change in their behaviour and in power relations with their intimate partners three and six months after the completion of the therapy. We will also reach out to their intimate partners to hear survivor’s voice and their perception of change.

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