The primary role of specialist family violence services is to confront and address abuse and domestic violence.
To ensure this work is effective, specialist supports are usually embedded in the community response to family violence. Inter-agency protocols are established to appropriately manage safety and risk – for those using violence, and experiencing violence.
Because many people choose not to address their behaviour, even when offered opportunities for change, inter-agency responses can be tailored to meet the needs of those affected accordingly – such as developing new risk management and safety planning arrangements.
Behaviour change programs will also seek to support the partners and family members of those experiencing violence. These programs recognise the importance of including the voices of those effected by violence. For some of these partners and children, this might be the first time they have had contact with a family violence or support service. Thus, a referral to a Behaviour change program may lead partners to get the support they also need.
These specialist services, have sound understandings of the complex gender and power dynamics operating where family violence is occurring. So, while issues such as stress and anger management, or histories of personal trauma may be important to address in assisting with changing behaviour, they are not understood as the ‘cause’ of violence and thus accountability for violence remains in the choices the abuser is making.
Specialist services are well placed to make often complex decisions about what is needed to address the violence. For instance, clients that may have co-occurring substance abuse issues which may elevate risk but may also need to be addressed before the client is ready to address other aspects of their behaviour. Similar, complexity can arise when facing mental health problems. These specialist services can support clients while continuing to monitor risk and safety.
Specialist services play a critical role in engagement, motivation and behaviour change success. Wherever possible health professionals should seek to refer to local specialist men’s and women’s family violence support services.
About MensLine Australia’s Changing for Good program
Changing for Good is a men’s behaviour change program that seeks to maintain behaviours learned during a traditional behaviour change program, or introduce or re-introduce the key concepts and behaviours of sustained behaviour change. We work with men to help them recognise their abusive behaviours and end their use of violence. By providing ongoing support, specialist counselling and resources, our goal is to help men make, and sustain changes in violent or abusive behaviours as well as attitudes that support violent behaviours. By working with men to end their use of violence, we help to increase the safety of women and children who have or are experiencing domestic or family violence. Through our work at MensLine Australia, we recognised that there was very limited ongoing support for men once they had completed a men’s behaviour change program or for those who had difficulty accessing a men’s behaviour change program, and Changing for Good aims to help fill this gap. We build on the principles of men’s behaviour change programs, educating and supporting men to maintain respectful and violence free relationships. Changing for Good is a free service.