Academic journal article Rural Society

Exploring Men's Perpetrator Programs in Small Rural Communities

Academic journal article Rural Society

Exploring Men's Perpetrator Programs in Small Rural Communities

Article excerpt

Introduction

Researchers and human service practitioners recognise that there has been little research in Australia that examines domestic violence in an exclusively rural context (Bagshaw et al. 2000a; Partnerships Against Domestic Violence [PADV] 1999; Wendt & Cheers 2002). The study by Bagshaw et al. (2000a) found that rural and remote areas have the least research publications dealing with issues of domestic violence of all published literature. This is consistent with overseas studies, which also indicate that rural areas have generally been ignored in research on domestic violence (Hornosty 1995; Websdale 1995).

As with most of the published research on issues around domestic violence, the studies that have been conducted in rural areas in Australia have focused predominantly on the issues of women experiencing domestic violence (Alston 1997; Coorey 1990; Lovell 1996; Wendt & Cheers 2002). Such research has identified the unique factors that women face in rural contexts and has acknowledged the complexities of these experiences. This is particularly important, for it has validated the lived experiences and needs of rural women. Unfortunately, Australian research on rural men's perpetration of domestic violence is even scarcer than that focused on female victims and so little attention has been given to the need for perpetrators in rural contexts to address their violent behaviour. Australian literature draws primarily from reviews of perpetrator programs and men's groups, and information sharing at conferences (Boyle 1998; Laming 2000; Whitelaw 1998). Bagshaw et al. (2000a) state that services for rural men, who perpetrate violence against their partners, are non-existent outside major rural towns.

Perpetrator programs in Australia

It is difficult to clearly define what is meant by the concept 'perpetrator program'because, as the Research and Education Unit on Gendered Violence (REUGV) argues in the Partnerships Against Domestic Violence (PADV) scoping of A Comparative Assessment of Good Practice in 'Programs for Men ivho use Violence Against Female Partners (2004), the provision of programs for men has had a relatively short, yet controversial, history in Australia. Such research found that agencies were at different stages of development, programs to cater for non-mandated and mandated referral had differing needs, the operationalisation of core principles of PADV were not consistent at structural and practice levels and programs for men who use violence were not always defined as such. The development of domestic violence perpetrator programs has been controversial, with critics arguing that they place the safety of partners at risk since they often create a false sense of hope for an improved relationship (Laing 2002). Golding (2001) has emphasised that men's perpetrator programs ate not the answer to preventing domestic violence and suggests instead that they should be part of a coordinated response to domestic violence. He describes programs as an 'after the fact' strategy to prevent re-victimisation, escalation of violence and abuse and to prevent victimisation of women in new relationships' (p.9).

Even though it is acknowledged that it difficult to define perpetrator programs and find empirically research-based evaluations of programs, REUGV (2003) states that Australian approaches can be categorised into a number of models, based on the starting point for their development Models that exist in Australia have been identified as including: coordinated responses initiated by Women's Domestic Violence Services, criminal justice system reform projects based around a specialist Domestic Violence Court, other criminal justice system reform projects, and responses centred around policing initiatives. REUGV (2004) also points out that regarding men's violence as learned behaviour has led to the popularity of feminist-based cognitive-behavioural approaches, which relegate power and control from a structural issue to a behavioural issue. …

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