Posted by: Knightbird | August 9, 2011

The Lean Approach to Resolving Domestic Violence-Part 2

The Lean Management approach looks first at system errors in any of its operations. In “Out of the Crisis,” Dr. Deming postulated that 94% of defects came from system errors, and 6% from special causes. He later revised this to 98% and 2%. Yet the general U.S. management culture practices blame and shame as its approach, ascribing defects to people.

We follow this same blame, shame and punish approach to negative behaviors in society. We do not look at the systems that produce these behaviors. Instead, we blame moral failings in individuals. And when these individuals are finally called on their behaviors, they do what business employee’s do-deny the blame and resist the punishment. We then utilize a very expensive system to try and punish the individual. When we are successful with punishment, we have very little in the way of effective services to try and rehabilitate the individual. We then release them back into society, stigmatized and often unable to secure employment, housing or opportunity for a successful life. They still have all of the problems and issues they went to prison for, and the added stigma of conviction and incarceration. Plus, they may have learned additional criminal behaviors and punishment avoidance while in prison. Do we have something to learn from Dr. Deming’s postulation?

Recent discussion by both the state of Alaska and the Federal Government on domestic violence in Indian country are taking the blame and shame approach. Current proposals through the Tribal Law and Order Act include increasing the maximum incarceration length to 1, 5 and 10 years depending on the severity of the crime (

What would the result be if we took a systems approach and looked at the contribution by a dysfunctional family to the perpetuation of DV? When a spouse is convicted of domestic violence and sent to prison, the consequences for children in the family can be severe, and can actually lead to an increased likelihood for the children to be violent. Let’s look at the evidence. Using the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) Study’s 10 traumatizing events, the children of the convicted spouse above will have at least 2 ACE’s: domestic violence in the home and a parent in prison. As many as half of DV batterers may have alcohol or substance abuse issues, which can interject a third ACE-alcohol abuse. If the batterer is the primary provider for the family, prison sentences can remove that support and lead to physical neglect issues such as homelessness and hunger. It would not be unusual for the family to experience other ACE’s, such as depression of a family member. And if one family member is physically abused, it is not unlikely for the children to be physically abused either. Family members can quickly accumulate 4, 5 or more ACE’s when domestic violence is present in a family. Sending a parent to prison exacerbates the existing trauma, and requires a different systems response.

In a lean management system, you look for a root cause analysis. You ask the 5 whys and your goal is to prevent defects from occurring in the future. Domestic violence is a clear defect in healthy family dynamics. A family with DV in it usually has other ACEs along with it. Having ACE’s in ones background increases the risk of both victimization and perpetration in the future.

“An often-ignored risk of lifetime exposure to violence is the elevated risk of future violence, a critical consideration for prevention. Past exposure to violence increases the risk of revictimization (Arias, 2004; Elliot et al., 2004; Noll, 2005; Whitfield et al., 2003), the potential of perpetrating violence (Alexander et al., 1991; Lang et al., 2002; Whitfield et al, 2003), and transmitting violence to the next generation (Avery, Hutchinson, & Whitaker, 2002; Cappell & Heiner, 1990; Kalmuss, 1984; Noll, 2005).”

Assessing perpetrators and victims for unresolved childhood trauma, and treating that trauma, may well have a better outcome for families than charging, trying and incarcerating a parent. Failing to address a root cause of a problem rarely leads to solutions, and instead leads to increasing costs. Treatment is avoided, or if offered, is only offered to the victim. Treating the entire family should lead to a better societal outcome because we are treating the family as a system rather than as individual, siloed problems.

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