Re-solution in men’s violence against women and children

Mike Cagney & Ken McMaster

I attended the No To Violence Conference in Melbourne last week which was a rich experience of sharing, hearing and grappling with the challenges of creating safety in the lives of families. Mike Cagney and myself had the opportunity to present a workshop on Re-Solution work which we see as the next serious step in building accountability, responsibility and allowing families to move on from abuse.

In this workshop we addressed the potential for family work as a means to promote and embed accountability and safety, particularly within families where on-going contact, relationship or reintegration is indicated. Our starting point was that there has been a variable history of family work in relation to family violence intervention in Aoteoroa/New Zealand and that work with men who had used abusive practices within their family has been – and generally remains – a fragmented and ‘siloed’ process that has little ‘connect’ with those most affected … the protective-parent / mother and the children, wider family members and interested friends and parties connected with the family.

We presented a model of Resolution Therapy, resolution being a preferred model that does not presume reintegration or reconstitution, but considers a range of options from ‘no contact’ to ‘re-establishment’ as family. At the outset we need to define what Re-solution Practice is and isn’t. Re – solution (resolution) is adopted as a descriptive phrase and ‘narrative’ that pitches towards a range of potential ‘solutions’. The aim therefore is not expressly: family preservation, family dissolution, reunification, restoration or separation.

Each of the above approaches pre-determines an outcome which is not up to the workers to determine. The premise that we discussed was that ‘too often men who had used abusive practices who have not done the work and with little credible, safety (sic) ‘slip’ easily back into families … and alternatively men who have done and have integrity of outcomes from programmes too often have little or no capacity to demonstrate ‘changes’ and that consequently accountability and safety are often poorly managed processes. It also concerns us that accountability is rarely paid forward in relation to allowing those victimized to move on with their lives.

Further we offered a framework and ‘steps’ for practitioners to consider how to counter fragmentation of the work, engage family and develop team interventions between child protection, adult survivor and adult offender practitioners. Specific themes covered during the workshop included:

  • Accountability and safety – what do these concepts mean at the coal-face with family?
  • Practices of accountability – what does accountability look like and how do we engage it in real terms?
  • Programme outcomes – what does ‘successful completion’ of an intervention programme for men who had used abusive practices mean?
  • Safety Planning – how can families ‘construct’ and ‘structure’ safety?
  • Resolution – how are outcomes of programmes engaged and ‘tested out’ with family / affected persons?
  • Matching – giving credence and value to the survivors (adult and children) needs.
  • Child Protection differentiated from Adult Protection – how are children’s needs ‘voiced’?
  • Family work and family therapy – what’s the difference?

In our view a process of Re-solution is constructed around several key ideas:

  • Has the man ‘faced-up’ … Closed the ‘gap’ on denial, minimisation and blame
  • Understands  the ‘how’ (can ‘map’) his use of how abusive practices occur
  • Can ‘see’ the impact and begin to ‘experience’ empathy for those affected
  • Has established and structured relapse prevention safety plans
  • Challenging family stories of distortion and attributed blame
  • Lifting the veil of denial in safe ways
  • Validating the survivor(s) narratives

In concluding we argued that this work is critical for meaningful and long-term safety with men where abusive practices have been used. It was our contention that we can no longer ignore the ‘elephant in the room’. We are of course mindful that ultimately the decision to engage in such practices must always reside with the survivor of the abusive practices. However there is also a possibility of running such meeting with other players present to have a vested interest in paying accountability forward.

Published on Monday, November 19th, 2012, under Family violence

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