Modern Australian

How can we make families safer? Get men to change their violent behaviour

  • Written by Kelsey Hegarty, Professor of Family Violence Prevention, Royal Women's Hospital and the Department of General Practice, University of Melbourne

Domestic violence creates an unhealthy and toxic family environment that devastates the lives of all members of the family.

Domestic violence not only causes physical injury, it can also contribute to a range of mental health issues, including anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

For children, the trauma of witnessing or experiencing violence can accumulate over time. This can contribute to severe social, behavioural, emotional and cognitive problems, which persist into adulthood.

Read more: How domestic violence affects women's mental health

Prime Minister Scott Morrison recently announced A$328 million to combat domestic violence. The investment is focused on housing solutions and front-line services for women and children.

While this investment is very welcome, we also need to stop violence occurring. This means also focusing on perpetrators, who are most commonly men.

We need to engage and motivate men to reduce unhealthy behaviours, seek help early, and stop using violence in their intimate relationships.

What do behaviour change programs do?

Men who use domestic violence are likely also to experience alcohol and other drug issues, depression, suicidal thoughts, stress, anxiety and low self-esteem.

In Australia, the preferred referral pathway for men who use domestic violence in their intimate relationships is men’s behaviour change programs. Most men are referred to these programs from courts or lawyers.

Men’s behaviour change programs are usually educational and therapeutic, including weekly group therapy. The topics covered include masculinity, intimate partnerships, conflict resolution, anger management, fatherhood, alcohol and drug use, trauma, stress, sexual health, oppression and spirituality.

How can we make families safer? Get men to change their violent behaviour Men’s behaviour change programs often include weekly group therapy sessions. Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

One model, the Duluth behaviour change model, focuses on exposing beliefs that reinforce abuse. It encourages accountability and taking responsibility for behaviours.

Another model, based on cognitive behavioural therapy, challenges dysfunctional beliefs and helps men develop effective strategies to regulate their emotions. It also focuses on enhancing communication skills.

But the use of these programs in Australia is plagued by a major issue: men are often mandated into a program only once their behaviour becomes so severe that they’ve been charged with an offence.

Instead, we need to engage men earlier by increasing their awareness and motivation to seek help for their violent behaviour.

Read more: To stop domestic violence, we need to change perpetrators' behaviour

A key challenge for men’s behaviour change programs is participants’ lack of readiness to change. This is because most men who use domestic violence are ordered into treatment by courts, or forced to seek treatment by their partners or child services.

But men who volunteer to participate in behaviour change programs are more likely to alter their behaviours in the longer term than those who have little choice but to take part.

First, men need to identify their actions

Many men who use abuse don’t realise their controlling and intimidating behaviour constitutes domestic violence.

Helping men identify their abusive actions as domestic violence is an important first step towards changing behaviours. Some men are so conditioned to violence that they can struggle to recognise the harm of what they’re doing and its negative impact on their families. This conditioning often occurs as a result of their own upbringings, and either witnessing or experiencing domestic violence.

Friends, family, general practitioners – even barbers – could potentially be trained to identify domestic violence and hand out referral options.

New technologies and social media can play an important role. As part of our research, we have engaged men to develop their digital stories to motivate others about seeking help early. Here is one example:

We have also worked with men who use violence and with the organisation No to Violence, the peak body for services, to develop an early intervention for men to reach out for help to change their use of violence.

The resulting Better Man website helps men identify their behaviour as domestic violence and develop and motivate a greater readiness to change and seek help early.

Better Man has three modules: Better Values, Better Relationship, Better Communication. It engages men in the community and provides them with awareness and motivation to seek help for their violent behaviour – before the justice system intervenes.

How can we make families safer? Get men to change their violent behaviour The No To Violence website asks men, ‘Is your behaviour causing problems for your relationships or family?’ and uses these questions as prompts. No to Violence

All men are prompted to contact the Men’s Referral Service and other services, if they are using abusive, violent or controlling behaviours in their relationships.

As an initial pilot trial over four weeks, we recruited over 120 culturally diverse male volunteers aged 18-50 who live in Tasmania, New South Wales or Victoria to try out Better Man. It will be available more widely later this year and will be studied closely to assess its effectiveness.

Going forward, we need a greater focus and investment in reaching all members of the family, pivoting to the perpetrators and intervening early for a sustainable pathway to create safer families.

Read more: After a deadly month for domestic violence, the message doesn't appear to be getting through

Authors: Kelsey Hegarty, Professor of Family Violence Prevention, Royal Women's Hospital and the Department of General Practice, University of Melbourne

Read more http://theconversation.com/how-can-we-make-families-safer-get-men-to-change-their-violent-behaviour-113451

NEWS

Scott Morrison hails 'miracle' as Coalition snatches unexpected victory

The Coalition has been re-elected in a shock result in which Labor lost seats in Queensland, Tasmania and NSW and failed to make more than minimal gains nationally.But former prime...

Coalition likely to win election in Trump-like upset, but Abbott loses Warringah

Against expectations, Scott Morrison has led the Coalition government back to power.Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-NDWith 57% of votes counted in the election, the ABC is projecting that the Coalition...

what we know about the results of Election 2019 so far

As of 10.01pm Saturday, May 18 2019:...

Bob Hawke, the environmental PM, bequeathed a huge 'what if' on climate change

Since the news broke of his passing, Bob Hawke has been feted as the “environmental prime minister”. From saving the Franklin River, to protecting Antarctica from mining, conservationists have praised...

the social and demographic factors that influence your vote

Your income, type of work, where you were born, and other social and demographic factors influences your vote more than you may think.The Conversation / ShutterstockAustralia has changed in many...

Bob Hawke was master of managing government

It’s always easy to romanticise the past – in celebrating the prime ministership of Bob Hawke it is important to remember it had its peaks and troughs.Trouble marked many years...

Vic Stockwell’s Puzzle is an unlikely survivor from a different epoch

Sign up to the Beating Around the Bush newsletter here, and suggest a plant we should cover at batb@theconversation.edu.au.On the western side of Mount Bartle Frere, the tallest mountain in...

for the best election predictions, look to the betting markets, not the opinion polls

It turns out that betting markets are quite good predictors, on average.www.shutterstock.comOpinion polls haven’t done too well in some important recent elections.Polls failed to foresee the Brexit decision, and suggested...

economics isn't an end itself. There has to be a social benefit

When I was growing up in Adelaide in the 1970s I wanted to be like Bob Hawke. Other kids generally wanted to be cricket, football or rock stars. I wanted...

GetUp!'s brand of in-your-face activism is winning elections – and making enemies

GetUp! protesters outside the second leaders' debate in Adelaide earlier this month.David Mariuz/AAPIt can be hard for a political cause to get noticed in a jaded world awash with information...

VIDEO: Michelle Grattan on the passing of Bob Hawke

University of Canberra Deputy Vice-Chancellor Leigh Sullivan speaks to Michelle Grattan about the week in politics. They discuss the passing of former Labor prime minister Bob Hawke and his legacy...

As we face pressing global issues, the pavilions of Venice Biennale are a 21st century anomaly

One of the most powerful images at this year's Venice Biennale is Christoph Büchel's Barca Nostra, 2018-2019, Shipwreck 18th of April 2015. La Biennale di VeneziaThe 58th Venice Biennale of Art opened last...

Popular articles from Modern Australian

Best 4 Sassicaia Wine with Soothing Taste and AromaMarvelous Makeover - 5 Tips to Revitalize Your Look This SummerWhat to Expect When Recovering from Gynecomastia SurgeryClickClack Pantry Range | Helping Australians save time & moneyThe Gentleman’s Guide to Wearing Custom TiesGynecomastia – Understanding the Facts and Treatment OptionsIs Coffee Good for you10 Foods Which Reduce Blood Sugar Levels4 Unexpected Reasons Why You Could Be Losing Your HairWhat to Do When Traveling From Australia to USAWhat we should know about ‘nitric oxide’ and why we need more of itDownsizing: What Is Too Small?5 unique ways to extract toxins from your bodyThe Art Of Bell-RingingModern Snapback Hats trending in Australia