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008: Intimate Partner Abuse of Men Workshop - Part 7

We feature highlights from the Intimate Partner Abuse of Men Workshop held on Wednesday 16 June 2010 in Perth, Western Australia. The workshop was aimed at service providers plus anyone who works with victims and perpetrators of family and domestic violence, and considered the implications for service providers of the Edith Cowan University (ECU) Intimate Partner Abuse of Men research.

In this, the seventh and final part of the workshop, we listen to a Question and Answer session between the audience and the presenters, Professor Rob Donovan and Richard Wolterman.

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Q: Yeah, thank you. My name’s Ian Lockyer from the Midwest CP Network in Geraldton. Just a comment and an observation, I guess, rather than a question, but it’s in relation to men seeking help. And I work in three GP practices and I work in Jurien Bay and Kadathinni and Three Springs. And it’s really interesting. I hadn’t thought of it until I’d started – I’m a psychologist - I hadn’t started to think about it until I had started to work in the area of general practice, but it seems to me that I sort of see every day young boys almost being indoctrinated into a, almost a form of learned helplessness, and the design of the general practice as being not being not men-friendly. 

And it’s of interest in that I rarely see a father bringing a son into a general practice to see the doctor. And I think what we have to do is one step back from encouraging men to seek help, is to encourage fathers to encourage their sons to take responsibility for their health. Now particularly encouraging fathers to take responsibility for the health of their sons because, almost on a daily basis, I see mothers bringing babies, two-year olds, three-year-olds, four-years-old, 17-year old boys in to see the doctor. When they get to the doctor there’s a receptionist at the desk, who is a female, if there’s a blood sample that needs to be taken, there’s a [female] nurse that takes it. If the kids want to sit down and read a book it’s a Woman’s Day, it’s a New Idea - women’s books. So, by the time the kids decide that they need – they’ve grown up and they go to the doctor themselves, the doctor’s is really a women’s place.

And I think that probably almost applies to any other organisation that looks at providing support services to the community. So I think as fathers, we’ve got a really heavy responsibility to make sure that we do take over the role of father in terms of the health of our sons and take some of the burden off of the mums, who, you know, are still carrying the can. And I think that, in terms of the implications for men seeking health is a huge issue. Probably a good research project for somebody, I’m not going to take it on just right now, but I think there’s a lot of work that still needs to be done there.

MC: Thank you, there’s a well-made point. Any other questions or comments? 

Q: Hi, my name’s Rob and I’m a men’s group facilitator specialising in domestic violence. And, yeah, I’m really grateful to be here today. I have found myself really moved by your presentation, Richard, in terms of feeling – I’ve been working in this area for three years and for those three years I’ve felt like my hands were tied in terms of working with the men and men bringing experiences of victimisation or their own struggles, and working with a framework, or a format specifically like the Duluth or Stosny or invitations to responsibility, where you basically, you know, part of me is acknowledging this person is in pain and they’re struggling and they’re reaching out, and my response is limited to “this”. Whereas, you know, I think you really hit the nail on the head for me in terms of the structure is just kind of a delivery vehicle, it’s more about – what I’m finding, it’s more about the therapeutic relationship and actually really deeply hearing these men and giving them a forum to really say what they need to say without kind of the machine gun challenge approach coming at them in terms of questioning their responsibility, questioning their every kind of angle of their behaviour versus more like, just actually giving them a space to speak, and opening that space up enough where they can actually contact the emotions that have been whitewashed and buried and they’ve been disassociated from probably who knows how long.

So, I’ve, you know, I found out about this forum yesterday and I called and I signed up and I’m so glad I did. It’s just really validated an experience I’ve been having in working in – with a primarily kind of I guess feminist orientation as I haven’t known how to actually kind of work in a professional, I guess, my kind of therapeutic responsibility to the agencies I work for, but also actually really see the men. And so I think this is actually starting a conversation that’s ringing a lot of bells for me and bridging a lot of those gaps. 

So, in the research earlier, I thought you guys were brilliant, yeah, really – thanks for that. I’m really, really I’m glad to be here. Thank you all.

Richard Wolterman: A short response to that Rob. What you talk about is the biggest challenge for therapeutic intervention today. It is placed in the context mainly, and I’m speaking about the mandated male perpetrators, of course (sorry about the label) in a justice, in a corrective services perspective. My first introduction to, and I was very green, in New Zealand in 1987, was by an American guy (if that’s your background), who actually explained to the trainees at the time that he was doing a group of men and a big Maori fellow was coming through the door five minutes or so late. And he was like the Maori  guys, they stand like this. And this particular facilitator said, “Who the fuck are you? Why are you here?” was then the key therapeutic phrase, “why are you here?” Well ask the other men. It’s like “can you find the butter in the fridge” kind of thing. But the answer of the Maori guy was, “Well, the judge sent me.” And he, the facilitator, actually started physically, sorry, verbally abusing him as well. “Don’t come here until you fucking know what you’re going to do here,” you know. In different words. That was so typical for me. If you over apply that, anything you overdo becomes intrusive, abusive, disrespectful, totally inconsiderate, and not inviting people to change.

If we as facilitators cannot make a man-to-man connection, we’ve lost it already. If the program prescribes us to deliver an educational thing to brainwash people, forget it. They will not have any success at all except for the guys who are maybe a little bit academically inclined and can run with it. Speaking the word and hearing the word is a key thing for men. I’ve been a victim of violence; sexual abuse, for years. It took me a lifetime to just acknowledge it. When I did acknowledge, my back pain left me. Just like that. If we can get men to talk like we do, we’re in. But that’s the challenge operating in the system we have.

I realise bringing new ideas to the service necessarily challenges the current status quo. Let it be so.

Q: Hi, I’m Kate Jeffries from Communicare. And I’m programme manager of both male and female perpetrator programs - both mandated and community self-referral. So, there were two things that really interested me. One was looking at delivering information to work sites, which is what was brought up before. So I was wondering how do we actually start engaging with these, especially with the big work sites where information can, you know, flow through maybe in less challenging ways, or, so, yeah – I sort of thought, it’s just got me questioning, how do we start doing it rather than having it from a community perspective and getting people to come along, how do we go out to the work sites and and how do we start getting work sites open to that. Any ideas? 

MC: Do you want to comment on that Rob? 

Rob Donovan: So is the question “how do you start in a work site program?” Well, you do some research. But I’d be looking at, I’d go and see what the occupational health people are doing. And they’re doing quite a lot of work in terms of what you can download. The posters, the safety posters that are around the work site. So it’s sort of like point of sale advertising, you know. If you’re working in a panel beater shop and you’re throwing off fumes then you have posters about that right there where you’re working. 

So, essentially it’s like any, I guess, communication strategy of “what do you want these people to know?” and then “what are the challenges you reach to get there?” But of course, then it comes back to some of the things I’ve mentioned. The posters work because they’re in your face, but not every man’s going to go to the computer and download stuff. But if you could sign up work sites to become mentally healthy, physically healthy, whatever, wellbeing work sites, part of the charter is that somebody in the organisation is designated, and I’m talking small business now, because essentially big business, you’ve got people that that’s their job and you roll it out. It still doesn’t mean they roll it out properly, but there are organised structures to do it.

But the thousands and thousands of small businesses are the big issue. And so maybe that way is why you have a designated person, but then that rotates because people get bored so unless they are really enthusiastic. So there are techniques like that. You’ve always got to revive and refresh. To many good programs roll out. They work for a while and then they just wither. So that’s where I’d start. I’d look and see what they’re going that works really well, and then I’d start to adapt some of the methods that are effective there. 

MC: Thank you. Was there one other brief matter, and then we’ll go to lunch in a sec? Just let’s hear – 

Q: There was just one other comment just on the program delivery and the program content and the facilitation skills and I think there is a real fine balance between them, but I think also that the content can prove very valuable if you are continuously reviewing it. And if that content is strength focused, that allows that balance between challenging and goal-specific and what the person wants out of life then... And you can have programs of content that can drive that through which is only going to help facilitation or facilitators enforce – not enforce, gosh - but help support that mindset and how these people are going to actually get what they want out of life and how they’re going to have healthy, safe relationships and be a healthier person overall. So I think it definitely is - it is happening now and needs to continue to be reviewed and be developed.

MC: Okay. Did you want to make a brief response to that Richard? 

Richard Wolterman: First to the workplace interventions or the workplace introductions. Perhaps a key agency for you to to write down if you wish, is OzHelp. It’s their job, actually it is their mission to get into work sites with messages about male health and I suspect they would also be wanting to run with domestic violence issues.

All the facilitators that I have known, both in New Zealand with Kinway at the time, with Relationships Australia, I think there was always a sense of continual quality improvement discussion. There was always debriefing: how can we do this better? How can we engage the guys in better ways? I think the biggest obstacle for us was, we do our own research, of course, and as a matter of fact, I was instrumental in getting Steven Stosny to Perth in 2000 or 2001. And the Compassion Power model is – appears to me very, very powerful indeed. And it claims a 95% success rate. But talking about success rates for programs is a bit of a difficult thing. Nevertheless, we were not allowed to implement the Compassion Power model at the time, as per regulations of the funding agency. Since then, I understand Kinway has received the green light to continue with it. So there’s different agencies applying different forms of engaging, different models, but all within the same meta-structure. 

MC: Thank you for those questions, and thank you for those comments. Please once again, thank Richard and Rob.

Listen now (MP3)