It is a confronting reality that the majority of perpetrators of domestic and family violence are men. While some men’s advocacy groups suggest that males are under-represented in the statistics, our best research has found that one in six women and one in 20 men experience at least one incidence of violence from a current or former partner since the age of 15, and 75 percent of intimate partner homicides are female.
Given this, it is completely appropriate that the majority of responses to domestic and family violence have focused on supporting victims. In the main, services have focused on keeping victims safe and this has meant that most often women and children experiencing violence have had little choice but to leave their homes. This has led to domestic and family violence to becoming the leading cause of homelessness in Australia which has created additional layers of trauma, disadvantage, and need.
While there is a need for this to continue to be the predominant focus, there is also a need to work with people who have used controlling and violent behaviours, and provide a pathway for them to develop strategies to develop more positive relationships. While there has been some solid work supporting perpetrators to acknowledge and change their behaviours, there is still a need to do more work in this area. As such, it is a welcome development to see the Domestic Violence Crisis Service (DVCS) launch a new program, Room4Change, a residential program to help men address their violence and controlling behaviours while their families are supported to stay at home.
This is a program for men who have identified they have an issue they need to work on, and who want to maintain strong and supportive relationships with their family. It is a therapeutic program, acknowledging that people need professional support to address behaviours that have been formed over a life time, and may have been the result of experiencing violence themselves. It is a long-term program (six months) in recognition that change takes time and people need to be supported to re-establish relationships and change behaviours. The residential element of the program has been designed in a way that participants are able to continue to work, continue to pursue their usual activities and to maintain their connection with friends and family. This element also means that their families can be supported in their own home at the same time. As part of the program, participants are able to access another home, ‘Dad’s Place’, so that fathers can spend overnight time with their children in a safe and welcoming environment – this element places emphasis on maintaining strong family relationships.
Domestic and family violence is disturbingly common and something that has affected many families within the Canberra community. It is great to see new services being offered to families that enable families to develop new ways of interacting and being together that leave behind controlling and violence behaviour.
The Room4Change program is accepting referrals now. Men can call DVCS directly on 62 800 900.