Integrated Responses to Domestic Violence: Legally Mandated Intervention Programs for Male Perpetrators

Article excerpt

Foreword | International surveys have suggested that around one-third of all adult women will, at some point in their lifetime, experience abuse perpetrated by an intimate male partner. Domestic violence is considered to be one of the major risk factors affecting women's health in Australia and there is a need for the community to respond in ways that reduce the likelihood of further violence occurring. One way of doing this is to deliver programs that aim to reduce the risk of known perpetrators committing further offences. This paper describes the outcomes of a Gold Coast program delivered to men who perpetrate domestic violence and who are legally obliged to participate. The data show that this type of program can produce positive changes in participants. However, the extent to which such changes lead to direct behavioural change is less clear and further research and evaluation is required to develop the evidence base that is needed to ensure that programs for perpetrators produce significant and enduring improvements to community safety.

Adam Tomison

Director

Domestic violence is a term that is widely used to refer to the systematic abuse of power in an intimate relationship where one partner is controlling and other partner is intimidated and lives in fear. Forms of domestic violence include physicá violence, emotional and psychological abuse, social abuse and isolation, financial abuse and spiritual abuse. Secondary victimisation includes the (often) ongoing problems that can occur as a result being the victim of such a crime; for example, the loss of employment as a result of having to flee the household for safety reasons. Domestic violence is widely recognised as a major soda problem in Australia and internationally. In Australia, it has been estimated that around five percent of the population will be victimised in any one year (Access Economics 2004), with international surveys suggesting that around one-third of all adult women will experience abuse perpetrated by an intimate máe at some point in their lives (Coulter & VandeWeerd 2009). Furthermore, it has been estimated that assaults cost Australia a total of $1,700 per incident (or $1.41b per financial year), even when the costs associated with crime prevention are not counted (Rollings 2008).

Often the abuse associated with domestic violence is serious. Nearly half of ali incidents involve physical injury and approximately two-thirds of all women who are murdered are killed by their husband or live-in partner. The most recent Australian statistics on homicide show that of the 113 incidents involving female victims reported in 2005-06, over half (n=66) followed arguments related to domestic disputes (Davies & Mouzos 2007).

Domestic violence can also represent a significant risk factor for children's heath and wellbeing (Hester, Pearson & Harwin 2007; Wolfe et al. 2003). For example, in 2007, of the 156 child deaths known to the Department of Community Services in New South Wales, domestic violence was known to be present in the homes of over half (55%; Burney 2008). Statistics such as these suggest that there is a need for the community to respond in ways that not only address the needs of victims and their families, but also effectively manage the risk of known perpetrators committing further offences. One way this can happen is through the delivery of intervention programs for men who are known to have perpetrated acts of violence against women and children.

Public policy and domestic violence

Programs for men who have perpetrated domestic violence first began to emerge in the late 1 97Os and 1 98Os, with many of the early programs being strongly influenced by services for victims (eg the women's refuge movement) and an understanding of domestic violence in the context of gender and power relationships. Although models of service delivery vary across Austráian states and territories, the typical intervention approach for perpetrators has focused on changing attitudes towards women and in particular, intimate partners. …