Academic journal article The International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work

Troublemaker Cards: Promoting the Language of Responsibility and Prevention in Men's Domestic Violence

Academic journal article The International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work

Troublemaker Cards: Promoting the Language of Responsibility and Prevention in Men's Domestic Violence

Article excerpt

Contexts of accou ntability a nd responsibility

This paper discusses an innovation in working with men who use violence and abuse towards women in heterosexual relationships, also known as men's domestic violence. One of the pitfalls of working in this environment which practitioners and other public officers at times fall into is colluding with the man. In my understanding, while there is only some concern about practitioners and public officers colluding with men's irresponsible stories, what is of significant concern - but with very little attention paid to it - is the worker colluding with the man by reproducing the same culturally-sanctioned ideas of coercion and control the man has participated in. Ironically, in an attempt to avoid colluding with the man's irresponsible story and in the name of reducing violence, workers at times engage in practices of coercion and control with the aim to hold men to account for their actions. Alan Jenkins (1990, 2009) has led a discussion about the problems associated with this approach and suggests some very valuable alternatives. In borrowing some of his ideas, I have developed an approach that builds on these alternatives with men, with careful attention to second-story development, also known as re-authoring conversations (White, 1995).

The Troublemaker Cards I have developed to support this practice offer workers a practical approach to avoid colluding with coercion and control, while also avoiding irresponsible conversations. This resource facilitates a deconstructive, discursive, and responsible discussion with the man or men, which establishes a context for them to separate from the dominant ways of being and thinking that supports and justifies the abuse. These conversations also take the necessary steps towards men's accountability towards women and children1 as they come to know the effects of their abuse and develop proposals for future action (White, 1995).

In this paper, I will outline the theory that supports the use of the Troublemaker Cards and how one might use the cards to answer questions such as, 'What restrains a man from having respectful relationships?' The language and attitude of externalising significantly supports these conversations, as this provides a distance between the man and the 'Troublemaker', assisting him in declaring a new relationship to it based on his preferences in relationships. My discussion below will predominantly be set in the group context; however, there is the possibility for using the cards in multiple contexts, such as with men individually as well as working with the women who resist violence.

Innovating Troublemaker Cards: How did they evolve? The idea of the Troublemakers were first introduced to me by my manager, Rob Andrew, who aligns himself with the traditions of narrative practices. It has been this collaboration with Rob and Glenda Dixon (also a narrative practitioner) that has seen this innovative project flourish. Having worked in the context of men's domestic violence groups for over twenty years, Rob developed the concept of Troublemakers based on what he had heard from the men in the groups and Alan Jenkins' (1990) ideas around restraints. For example, 'Self-centredness' and 'Entitlement' are both ideas that Alan Jenkins names as restraints, while 'Mr Fix-it' is a Troublemaker as named by men in the groups we have facilitated over the last two years.

Originally, the cards were named 'Restraints', but the term 'Troublemakers' was adopted as it was resonant for the men with whom we work and in line with ideas of non-expert local language. In my experience, men connect with the idea of a 'troublemaker', as it is a label commonly foisted on people, whether in a light-hearted fashion or not. With this in mind, instead of objectifying or pathologising people as troublemakers, we are objectifying and externalising the discursive practices and dominant ideas that become the problem, or Troublemaker. …

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