Ellen Pence, our dear friend and colleague, passed away on January 6, 2012. Ellen’s tireless efforts toward ending violence against women and children has left an imprint so wide and deep that it can truly be said that the lives of women and families worldwide have been changed for the better because of her work.
An activist and leader within the Battered Women’s Movement for over thirty years, Ellen was deeply committed to furthering an analysis of domestic violence that linked men’s violence toward their partners to other forms of domination—class, race, gender, and colonization. The DAIP Power and Control Wheel was an expression of the social analysis of private violence that she taught. With deep compassion, she facilitated groups with men who committed that private violence and believed in their humanity and ability to change their lives.
Ellen was the architect of many innovative approaches to addressing domestic violence: the Duluth Model of intervention in domestic violence cases, known widely as the Coordinated Community Response (CCR), the Praxis Institutional Audit, and the Blueprint for Safety. She also advocated in the Child Protection System for interventions that linked the welfare of children to the protection of their battered mothers. In her work, she attempted to remedy the overrepresentation of people of color in these and other social institutions.
Ellen was foremost a communicator. Her contributions as a writer, trainer and educator will continue to inspire anti-violence work. Her genuine compassion for people gave her the ability to build bridges and convince the unlikeliest people to become her enthusiastic allies, which made her a brilliant community organizer. In a published Reflection on her work with the Duluth DAIP, Ellen wrote:
In the end I think the DAIP’s greatest contribution was its demonstration of how a local advocacy group could reshape institutional responses to male violence. In our case, that meant that we were able to create new boundaries around acceptable interventions to protect women and children. It redefined police action, it integrated women’s safety into all court interventions, it created a way to focus rehabilitation on the abuser instead of the relationship, it demonstrated how to create interventions based on different levels of dangerousness and the context of the violence, it insisted on a system that intervened beyond the incident and understood the whole context of the violence, and finally it showed a way for activists and their allies in the system to work together. We made gender visible in a justice system that purported to be blind to all of the privileges it so routinely maintained.
We at BWJP will miss Ellen greatly, and forever feel gratitude for the impact she had on us as individuals and on our Movement. With great humor and spirit, she never stopped holding each of us accountable for working harder to ensure the safety and security of all women and children.