5 reasons to mandate guys to DV programs

Would this man voluntarily attend a program?

I worry about some of the debates that are occurring at the moment in the family violence arena. Unless we are very careful we can roll back  the hard earned gains that have been achieved over the last 30 years. I also deliberately use the word ‘guy’ because most of those referred to family violence intervention programs tend to be men. We are seeing more women coming to notice but that is another issue for another blog.

One debate in particular is the current one in the violence intervention field within New Zealand around whether or not perpetrators should be mandated to attend programs. Those arguing for making programs voluntary referred the issue of therapeutic engagement is a much better way. I totally agree that therapeutic engagement is critical for change work. However, I’m not convinced that making program attendance voluntary will achieve that aim. These are my five reasons for making attendance at stopping violence program is mandatory:

  1. Being mandated provides accountability to a third party. In an ideal world when someone is abusive within their environment, their family would take a clear position around safety. Many family members however find themselves with divided loyalties and in similar ways to managing those with alcohol and drug problems with families, find it hard to know what the best thing to do. Accountability outside to either a judge threw the family violence court, a probation officer when someone is on sentence, or through the Ministry of Justice via a protection order, all serve to hold it accountable for their behaviour.
  2. Retention rates in programs are better. I been knocking around this field for a number years and worked under a system where men were said to programs but not mandated. Her initial response to get to interview was 10% of those referred. 90% of men did not see the value of attending programs to help them sort the issues. To go back to voluntarily referral would be a tragedy.
  3. Being mandated to attend a program reinforces the message that abusive practice behind is not acceptable. When a society says what you are doing is not okay, this can begin the process of developing conduct of the summons to him what the person is doing and what others see as acceptable. The second wave of feminism rendered visible the extent of abusive practice there occurs behind closed doors. Let us not go back to turning a blind eye on the dangers that lurk within families.
  4. It takes pressure off those who are the victim is of the abuse. When someone is on the receiving end of abuse they often feel caught between keeping it quiet and blowing the whistle.
  5. Human nature.  As human beings we are often quite lazy. Given the choice to dig in, look at ourselves, and do the hard yards to develop skills to manage challenging situations, we often look for the easy way out. The risk of making referrals to program is voluntary in my mind is dangerous. What we will set out his competition between programs to provide minimal intervention rather than the matching of the best dosage for the complexity of the issues being presented. When was the last time you to more than required around a particular issue?

I am a passionate believer in the need for using respectful, engaging and strength-based approaches to work with men to help them face up to their use of abusive practices. I also know from my own personal, and the experience of working with lots of men, that sometimes we need a little cajoling, encouraging, and outright pressure to get to the starting line of change. If we feel heard, respected, and engaged ourselves, then we are likely to start to journey of change.

I acknowledge the counter arguments which include that men who are mandated to attend a programme often present with a real degree of resistance and reluctance. Making programmes voluntary therefore means that men have made more of a choice to attend and therefore

You have probably worked out from my comments that I see real dangers in going back to a system whereby attendance at stopping violence intervention programs are voluntary. In an ideal world and who recognise a problem with abusive practices would put their hands up, come forward, and put the hard work in to creating safety for their families. What maintains abusive practices have attitudes and beliefs that normalise the behaviour and shift responsibility to other thing or others. Getting a man in the door at least provide us with the opportunity to begin compensation. What position do you hold in relation to this debate. Love to hear your comments.

Published on Thursday, February 2nd, 2012, under What Ken thinks

Leave a Reply