top of page

Discussion groups for perpetrators of domestic violence

While we hear about numerous services in place to help the prevention of domestic violence or to support victims (such as the Centre of Prevention of Domestic violence in Belgium, Maison Médicale du Maelbeek, l'AMA, Garance, l’asbl DANA), we rarely hear about which services are in place for perpetrators.

Last year, when my therapy arrived to the phase of confronting my father's past, I realised that he never had any accompanying either growing up (education on consent, anger management) or even after the violent period (support in taking responsibility).

Indeed, we do not really know about organizations that help perpetrators, and I had to search for a few months before I found Praxis, that provides support for perpetrators. I interviewed them to know more about the unique support service for perpetrators.

Praxis, a non-profit association founded in 1992 in Verviers and based in Liège since 2001 and in Brussels since 2004, has been focusing its activities since 1999 on setting up discussion and reflection groups specifically for perpetrators of domestic violence, mainly as part of a judicial constraint (penal mediation, probation or alternative to preventive detention).*

Perpetrators must follow a 45-hour programme that includes two preliminary interviews followed by 21 weekly two-hour group sessions and a final interview. The group sessions are led by two facilitators, one male and one female.


In fact, in the French-speaking part of Belgium, Praxis is the only institution to offer therapeutic groups for perpetrators of domestic and family violence. There are other types of support services, but the group process for working on empowerment is what makes Praxis unique. In Dutch-speaking Belgium, perpetrators are dealt with in a different way (see "Family Justice Centre").


A unique methodology: the group process for taking responsibility


The central theme of their methodology is accountability. Taking responsibility already means recognising the act, without minimising it, and being aware of the different strategies used to justify it. It also means recognising that the act was inappropriate, illegal, disrespectful of the other person's limits, and therefore unacceptable, whatever the intention or context.

Praxis supports the perpetrators in this process of taking responsibility by constantly confronting them. Confrontation when a justification is put forward, confrontation when an emotion arises, confrontation when one of their needs or limits is not respected and this builds up or explodes, confrontation to become aware of and deconstruct gender stereotypes and thought patterns constructed by society or culture or religion or education, etc.

Praxis also works on the ability to feel, recognise and express emotion, as well as empathy. The idea is for them to get to know themselves better and to feel they have more choices and more ways of reacting in everyday life. It is above all through the group, exchanges and relationships within the group, common and individual exercises within the group, and confrontation, to teach them to avoid re-offending.


The results so far


Praxis describes the results positive. Even if Praxis does not claim to say that every person who completes a cycle of empowerment will never commit an act again, one thing is certain: each of them will at least have observed a different way of relating and expressing themselves. It's fair to say that while the journey is rarely complete, it is certainly well under way.

As far as the figures are concerned, a 5-year study was carried out by Charlotte VANNESTE on recidivism in cases of domestic violence. During this research, more than 20,000 complaints of domestic violence were analysed, and it was found that of all the responses provided by the courts, Praxis had the lowest re-offending rate (9% in penal mediation and 35% in probation measures). The figures for the number of cases are to be taken with care, as they relate only to what is visible and has been named.

It is however clear that Praxis is making it possible to significantly reduce reoffending in Belgium.

Did you know about these services offered by Praxis?

What was your experience?

Let's continue the discussion on social media.



bottom of page