Domestic Violence Month
May is Domestic Violence Month. For many people and community organisations it is a valuable opportunity to raise awareness about domestic violence and family abuse, whether that be proactive community involvement or through social avenues. Albeit, for the 1 in 3 women who experience physical and/or sexual violence, this month holds far greater significance. As much as it is a means for advocacy, it is a stark reminder of the brutality, isolation, and distress associated with domestic and family violence.
The aim of the month is to:
- Raise community awareness on the effects of domestic and family violence;
- Promote a clear message of NO tolerance to domestic and family violence in our community;
- Promote what support is available in our community for those affected by domestic and family violence and
- Encourage those who have used abuse or violence to take responsibly and seek support to change.
Things you may not know about domestic violence
- Domestic violence (as defined by White Ribbon Australia) can take shape in many different forms including: physical abuse, financial abuse, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, social abuse, sexual abuse, stalking, spiritual abuse and image-based abuse
- Domestic violence (as defined by law) includes physical abuse, damage to personal property, emotional abuse, economic abuse and threatening or coercive behaviour
- An isolated instance of abuse is considered domestic violence, it does not have to occur over a long period of time
- Domestic violence permeates through all social classes, both urban and rural localities, age, religion and family composition.
We all know that domestic violence in unacceptable. As a society, how can we prevent it from happening and reduce its impact?
Nationally, Australia continues to address domestic violence through a combination of approaches such as the RESPECT campaign and White Ribbon Australia. The RESPECT campaign has successfully infiltrated workplaces and large institutions such as the University of Queensland, driving the agenda of systemic and cultural change. Locally, victim counselling and support programs are the most common type of domestic and family violence intervention and are doing all they can to support those affected by domestic violence.
For individuals and families affected by domestic violence, the provision of accessible and highly specialised support services is critical, not only to ensure their safety but allow them to continue to thrive as people and families.
But what about perpetrators of domestic and family violence?
There is an emerging body of evidence showing promising findings on addressing domestic violence; perpetrator interventions. The ‘Family and domestic violence perpetrator programs’ report released through the Australian Institute of Family Studies in 2017, stated that male behaviour change programs (MBCPs) can be highly effective when tailored service mechanisms are responsive to changes in risk and support perpetrator’s accountability (Vlais, 2017). The report identified a growing national urgency to ensure both earlier and more extensive systems for perpetrator responses. This would enable MBCPs to be delivered as an early intervention through which to further downstream approaches, once the perpetrator has been engaged by other support services (Vlais, 2017). Increasing knowledge of practitioners from a diverse range of agencies about early perpetrator identification can increase visibility and appropriate referral pathways.
It is however important to note that perpetrator interventions do not and should not replace existing domestic and family violence support initiatives. It is important to focus on a range of evidence-based interventions to collectively reduce the volume and impact of domestic and family violence across Australia.
The ‘Practice Standard for Perpetrator Interventions’ report released by the Government of Western Australia (2015) highlighted shortfalls of current practice. The shortfalls that are highly relevant and have wider ramifications for the targeting and direction of perpetrator interventions include:
- Engaging women and children around strategies to keep themselves safe in isolation of a response to the perpetrator is ignoring a significant part of the problem; high likelihood of repeat offending
- The limited capacity to identify and respond to perpetrators of family and domestic violence when they present in non-violence related fields e.g., substance misuse, mental health.
Beacon Strategies has experience working with organisations in the field of domestic and family violence. Recently, we have supported a number of community-based organisations to develop service models related to reducing the impact associated with domestic and family violence.
One of the service models was aimed at breaking the intergenerational cycle of domestic violence through targeting perpetrators of intimate partner violence. The service model was inclusive of: enhancing service entry points, providing comprehensive assessment and ongoing case management and optimising referral pathways to a number of relevant support services such as mental health and alcohol and other drug treatment services.
On the other hand, we’ve worked with an organisation to fine tune a service model relating to the provision of therapeutic support for survivors of domestic and family violence, with a particular focus on children and young people.
Do we think funders should choose one approach or the other? Absolutely not. We need to be led by ‘what works’ in reducing domestic and family violence and focus on:
1) Reducing the prevalence of domestic and family violence through perpetrator programs, but also
2) Providing holistic support for individuals and families effected by domestic and family violence to continue to thrive in life.
Government of Western Australian, 2015. Practice Standards for Perpetrator Intervention: Engaging and Responding to Men who are Perpetrators of Family and Domestic Violence, Pearth: s.n.
Rodney Vlais, S. R. D. G. D. C., 2017. Family and domestic violence perpetrator programs: Issues paper of current and emerging trends, developments and expectations, s.l.: Stopping Family Violence.