Step Up: Addressing Adolescent Violence in the Home and Restoring Family Relationships

Aug 15
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Adolescent violence in the home is a growing concern within the general community and is certainly part of the family violence incidents that police members are called to attend. Critical to this work is an understanding of what has gone before and what is the current functioning of the family. This does not take precedence over an intervention that focuses on risk assessment, safety and wellbeing for parent/s and siblings, which is essential in our work; however we also can’t ignore the trauma and disconnection that has often occurred in the lives of the adolescents we work with.

Those in the Step Up team need to be, or become, proficient in many skills that are important in the position of the Step up Practioner. Many is the challenge of supporting a woman who has lived through family violence and now struggles with an adolescent who is perpetrating that which has been seen and experienced. We cannot work with an adolescent without recognising their pain and trauma and such is the challenge.

We know from our work that over 80% of our adolescents have lived through family violence. Are they using power and control to get what they want – absolutely… We have similarities to the men’s behaviour change programs; however we require the parent/s to go on the journey with us. The work we do would not be possible by working only with an adolescent, the family work is critical.

Addressing abusive behaviour

During our work with families, it can unfold at times that there is current family violence being perpetrated by a parent/s in the house. These can be families that have never had contact with a family violence service before. Skills and expertise are essential in forming relationships with all perpetrators to address their use of abusive behaviour whilst ensuring the safety of all in the home.  The use of ongoing violence by an adult in the home would not preclude them from the Step Up program but it will mean that group work is not an option.  Collaborative work with other family violence services is at times part of a program intervention.

Our group work brings together the parent/s and the adolescent for 10 weeks in addition to the individual work with the family. During group we address the behaviours, explore who they are and introduce strategies and ways of communicating and problem solving together. Adolescents and Parents are sometimes together in group and other times will meet with the group facilitator in separated groups. For the Parent they are able to be part of a wider parent group who are experiencing the same fear and often isolation, an opportunity to experience support from others and an enhanced opportunity to hear collective wisdom. Movement to Group Work will only occur when there is an evident ownership and motivation to move away from harmful behaviour choices.


If you or someone you know has been affected by domestic violence, call the National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line, 1800-RESPECT (1800 737 732). In an emergency, call 000.

The National Working with Men to Tackle Family Violence Conference takes place in Sydney in February 2017.  In association with No To Violence, this event will share and discuss strategies for prevention, intervention and perpetrator accountability. 

Ending Family Violence

Submitted by Tracey Savage

Tracey Savage

Tracey Savage is Team Leader of the Step Up Program, Child & Family Services Ballarat. She has been in this role since the development of the program two years ago. Previously, Tracey was a Senior Counsellor in the Men and Family Counselling program at Cafs, working predominately with men in areas of Family Violence, Parenting, trauma and relationship conflict.

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