Perpetrator is the term commonly used because the person who is choosing to use violence is the direct cause of harm. A perpetrator is a person who carries out harmful, illegal or immoral acts, therefore a person who chooses to use violence is identified as a perpetrator of violence. Collectively perpetrators of violence are often referred to as ‘men who choose to use violence’ because using violence is a choice. Men can choose not to be violent.
Evidence overwhelmingly indicates that primarily men perpetrate violence against women so perpetrators are generally described as male, however it is recognised that men and those who identify as a non-binary gender also experience family and domestic violence and require support and intervention.
Men who choose to use violence towards or abuse their family members can, with commitment and support, change. There are services available for men who choose to use violence. They are commonly known as ‘Men’s Behaviour Change Programs’ or ‘Perpetrator Intervention Programs’.
The types of services and supports available include:
A central part of men’s programs and support services is ensuring the safety of adult and child victim-survivors. Therefore, interventions should include:
Men’s Behaviour Change Programs usually refer to group-based perpetrator interventions designed specifically to address family and domestic violence behaviours and to increase the safety of women and children. Programs are specifically designed for men who choose to use violence towards a partner or family member (usually partner, ex-partner and/or child) The programs help men to understand how their attitudes and beliefs contribute to abuse and encourage men to be accountable for their behaviours. The programs recognise that perpetrators of family and domestic violence use specific and multiple tactics to coerce and control their victim and cause fear. Program content includes: reconsideration of attitudes and behaviours that relate to violence and abuse; creating an understanding of the impact of men’s choice to use violence on their partners and children; and developing alternative strategies to using violence.
Anger management programs aim to address men’s behaviour when they are unable to manage or regulate their emotions in response to stressful situations, resulting in acts of violence. A person with anger management issues could potentially use aggression or violence with people they interact with outside the home, such as, colleagues, acquaintances, shop attendants and others. Anger management programs work with individuals to improve emotional regulation, learn appropriate stress management and coping behaviours and effective communication.
Working with men using specialist interventions is important for reducing and stopping family and domestic violence. Many men who choose to use violence want to stop using abusive behaviours in their relationship and need the support structures such as men’s behaviour change programs, family and domestic violence informed counselling or ongoing case management for the opportunity to stop and reflect on the choices they have made.
Programs or other interventions are an opportunity for men to work towards being non-violent/abusive and building healthy and respectful relationships with their partners, ex-partners and children.
Specialist services are committed to supporting men to address their abusive behaviours towards their partners/ex-partners and children.
Organisations that work with perpetrators of violence through men’s behaviour change programs will provide partner contact. This looks different to each organisation however comprises of a worker having contact with the partner/ex partner in person or via phone while the perpertrator engaged in the programme. This can range from safety planning, financial supports and discussing program topics. This worker will also liaise with facilitators to determine whether behaviours are ceasing or increasing.
An assessment may need to be completed before being accepted into a program/support service.
Men who choose to use violence can sometimes need to use additional services to address their behaviours or improve their health. For example, some men may need support for their mental health and/or their alcohol or other drug use. They also may be being seen by the Family Court, the Community Corrections or the Child Protection systems. First Nations men may need culturally-based support to heal from trauma they have suffered, or intergenerational trauma.
It is important to distinguish between Men’s Behaviour Change Programs for family and domestic violence and other supports. It is not enough to just address one of these issues. For example, where a man drinks a lot of alcohol and also uses violence, he is encouraged to seek help for alcohol use AND for family and domestic violence.