FDV Conference: Pivoting to the perpetrator; honouring children’s experiences

On Wednesday 14th June Stopping Family Violence hosted the FDV Conference. Thanks to funding from the Department of Child Protection and Family Support the conference hosted speakers from across Australia and Internationally to consider children within the context of perpetrator response.

The following presentations were delivered at the conference:

  1. Caring Dads – Helping fathers value their children, Dr Katreena Scott explored the impact intimate partner violence has on children, and how programs such as Caring Dads can be utilised to address this problem. Dr Katreena Scott – presentation
  2. “Failure to Protect” or “Failure to Respect,” Dr Susan Heward-Belle. Unlike the bulk of child protection research and practice, which scrutinises mothering; this presentation spotlighted the substantive issue of men’s domestic violence and its impact on all aspects of family life. Dr Susan Heward-Belle – presentation
  3. Why Pathways Can Matter: Fathering, FDV and Children, Donna Chung challenged the underpinning assumptions, theories and intervention approaches used and explored the implications of what is required for responding to men as fathers who have engaged in family and domestic violence, and what it means for men’s and children’s futures being safer. Prof Donna Chung – presentation
  4. “It should be about the kid having a good life…” Children’s lived experiences of family and domestic violence, Dr Alan Campbell focused on children’s own reports of their experiences and responses to the family and domestic violence that they have been exposed to. Dr Alan Campbell – presentation
  5. Engaging men who perpetrate violence against women and children: Practical steps to having aligned program logic and practice, Patrick O’Leary provided some examples from agencies that work with men and ways they are reviewing program logic and engagement with men. This presentation suggested that positive behavioural change of the man is strongly encouraged but not essential to still be considered a successful intervention. Prof Patrick O’Leary – presentation

The day concluded with a panel discussion on reflections of the conference. The discussion was facilitated by Mark O’Hare from Stopping Family Violence who began the session with some of his on reflections. Below are a collection of statements from presentations throughout the day that stood out for Mark:

  • Aboriginal Women are 35 times more likely to be assaulted by a partner
  • 1 in 4 women have experienced violence by an intimate partner- we know this is likely to be much higher due to the underreporting of FDV.
  • Men’s involvement in multiple children lives. Mark stated that he attended the Caring Dad’s training the day before and it was highlighted that out of the 6 men that were used in case scenarios there were actually 17 child victims/witnesses of the violence. Do we always think about this when facilitating mens behaviour change programs? How many children do we need to think about with 12 men in each group?
  • The sector is in its infancy in regards to working with perpetrators. I think this is in some ways a tragedy that we are still at such an early stage, but in other ways I think this is incredibly exciting as there is huge scope to make positive differences in this space.
  • Moving the “protective circle” from women and children to around the man. Instead of placing the expectation around the women and children to make themselves safe, place it around the perpetrator to stop his violence. (From Dr Katreena Scott’s presentation)
  • Motivational approaches- Perpetrators are 3 and 1/2 times more likely to complete a MBCP if they have already attended a Motivational Enhancement program. There is clearly a need for us to look at this in WA and we could probably do this better.
  • It is clear that we need to work in an integrated and collaborative manner.
  • There is a 20% increase in the chance of re-assault if a man does not complete a program. Should we be removing men from programs at the rate that we do then? Who is monitoring the risk if he is not in any program?? Do we give the man the best chance to engage in a program? Could we create more efficient referral pathways for into MBCPs?
  • Caring Dads program: Dr Katreena Scott said that it took them 5 years to develop relationships with child protection in Canada but now when they open a group they get 70 referrals in a week. Katreena said it is an ongoing struggle to keep working collaboratively but it is an essential part of the work.
  • There are some shifts happening. We are beginning to move from “why doesn’t she just leave” to “why doesn’t he stop being violent”
  • Participants credited change of their behaviours in programs to facilitators
  • We need to always keep the best interests of the children at the forefront of our minds in this work…
  • Ultimately, if the children have to put up with him, then so do we!
  • “Pivoting to the perpetrator- what does this mean? How can we juggle everything and still hold the perpetrator accountable? Also, what does an integrated system mean and what is our role within it.
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