Domestic Violence Crisis Service (DVCS) Room4Change program is a program for men who want to stop their use of violence and controlling behaviours and build healthy, respectful relationships.
The program focuses on keeping the safety of women and children at the core of men’s behaviour change.
The program can go for up to 12 months or more as it has a number of service offerings including case management, groups, the option of accommodation and partner support. We asked Dearne Weaver, Director Client Services at DVCS to highlight some points from her upcoming presentation with program team leader Nina Birkl, at The Australasian Working Together to End Men’s Family Violence Conference in Melbourne:
Dearne and Nina are going to talk about the men’s behaviour change program what that entails, and look at the unique aspect in that it is located within a DFV (Domestic and Family Violence) specialist organisation with partner support integrated into the program. Which is different to many of the MBC programs that are located or run by men’s services. As opposed to a men’s service with partner support as an integral part of the services provided.
Dearne was asked about 3 key aspects of the DVCS program:
The Partner Support Program:
The safety of women and children is the overarching component that informs the men’s behaviour program.
DVCS has a range of service offerings that partner support clients can engage with. The partner support worker will make initial contact and in consultation with the client work out what will best work for them. Whether that is via the partner support worker, or other programs at DVCS with case management, or via the 24/7 Crisis Intervention program.
As a part of the Room4Change program we also have weekly risk assessment meetings where information relating to risk is discussed, both from the perspective of the men, their case managers and feedback from their participation in groups and risk related information from partner support.
“Because we think the best accountability around evaluating change for men in men’s behaviour change is not in relation to recidivism, it is in relation to feedback from their partners or ex-partners. The partner support includes current partners, any ex-partners they have had children with, or family members who the violent and/or controlling behaviors have impacted. .”
Challenges faced in engaging clients in partner support:
Some of the challenges we experience with people engaging with partner support, relate to partners or ex partners not being in contact with the perpetrator – they may be separated from them and don’t feel their current behaviour is relevant to their safety. In this case they are not really feeling the need to engage or know further information about that person in regards to how they have progressed in their journey away from violence and controlling behaviours.
Other times the person may still be in the relationship and decline partner support due to concerns about whether that is safe or concerns about how it could be viewed by the their partner.
Partner support clients may also indicate that they feel safe, despite DVCS holding information which indicates a level of risk. It is important that we continue to engage the client in partner support at this point. We have had feedback that some of the partners that have declined partner support have later indicated that they wish they had engaged. So the program is reoffering partner support periodically throughout the program, to try and pick up on those people who may subsequently want to engage in partner support when they initially declined.
Room4Change clients can have co-existing drug and alcohol, mental health issues and/or trauma backgrounds which can impact on their engagement with MBC.
As a result of complex life situations some men may exit unexpectedly or leave the program to re-engage at a later date.
It is always important to measure the effectiveness of the programs:
The program is undergoing an external long term evaluation by the Australian National University and Nina and I will discuss this more at our presentation.
In relation to measures of success or change, we do not consider recidivism to be an effective measure of behaviour change. What we have identified is that men who engage in men’s behaviour change can actually change their behaviour to avoid coming to the attention of the justice system while escalating their coercive controlling behaviour in their relationships.
We consider the best measure of change is feedback from those key people who have experienced the violent and/or controlling behaviours. Some of the feedback may be in relation to whether they are experiencing change that results in feeling there is more space for action, that they can express themselves and their needs, have a safe disagreement, and it is moving towards a more equitable relationship. There are tools and measures that are used throughout the program with the clients and their partners, ex-partners to evaluate change.
Don’t Miss Dearne Weaver and Nina Birkl at the The Australasian Working Together to End Men’s Family Violence Conference on the 22nd and 23rd of May, 2019 in Melbourne.