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01 July 2023

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With around 1 in 4 women reporting they have experienced abuse in their intimate relationships after the age of 15, and the frequency of these incidences increasing in most states since 2020, the answers for how to end violence against women are far from simple. 

Building on a wealth of experience in family, personal and intimate relationships, including separation and parenting, the team behind Respectful Man identified the opportunity to work with perpetrators of violence from a strength-based position. Unlike traditional methods of men’s behaviour change programs, where blaming and shaming are relied upon heavily to shift participants towards adopting healthier behaviours. Respectful Man carves out a safe space for men to talk through their experiences in relationships and take responsibility for their actions as they develop new skills to better handle feelings of anger and aggression. 

Previously, doubts about the efficacy of programs targeted at male perpetrators of violence have been enhanced by a lack of access to mainstream services. There is a skills shortage when it comes to addressing violent behaviours, largely due to safety concerns for workers along with geographical barriers to getting support, particularly in rural and regional areas where family and domestic violence numbers are high. 

The pandemic added limitations for how people could access support services, which motivated the facilitators of the Respectful Man to adapt delivery online. This meant participants could continue to be held accountable for their actions by members of the group whilst taking a closer look into their beliefs around identity and their role as a partner and parent, helping them to shift unhealthy patterns and break cycles of abuse. 

“Our experience showed that there is a balance between holding men accountable and doing so within a non-shaming and non-judgmental space, so that men take ownership of their behaviour. The key to this was developing connections between facilitators and participants.” Says Respectful Man facilitator, Michael Lee. 

So far the demand is exceeding the supply, and more investment is required to train facilitators to develop the necessary skills to work effectively with the men who are ready and wanting to change their behaviour. By training men to support men in curbing behaviours of violence and abuse, we reinforce the fact that men are an essential part of the solution in addressing the challenges underpinning domestic and family violence in Australia. 

Interrelate’s Respectful Man program brings a fresh approach to working with perpetrators of violence. The integration of First Nations culture, beliefs and values gives men the chance to become the man and role model they want to be.  

For more information on Respectful Man call 1300 473 528. 

If you have been triggered or are concerned by themes raised in this article you can contact Interrelate for counselling and case management support, or call 1800 737 732 (1800 RESPECT) for 24-hour support. If your life is in danger call 000 immediately.