by Sharon Austin
Government is trying to make inroads into helping men who have displayed violent behaviour towards women confront their issues and successfully deal with them through Partnership for Peace — a violence intervention programme.
And, even though these are early days yet, it seems to be bearing some fruit.
Senior Administrative Officer in the Division of Family, Marva Howell, said the second cycle was only in its seventh week, but the feedback from the facilitators and clinical supervisor was positive.
Howell continued: “They have indicated that they are already seeing a change in behaviour where the gentlemen are using the information they are getting from the programme.”
When difficulties arise in relationships, counselling is usually suggested, but the officer stressed that it did not always work and described Partnership for Peace as an alternative to such counselling.
She explained that the men were exposed to a number of subject areas including Anger Management, Power and Control in Relationships, Managing Feelings, Domestic Violence and the Law, Effective Communication, and Manhood and Womanhood.
Howell added: “So we offer them a safe environment to operate in and air their issues. The programme is co-facilitated so the participants see a male and female working together and this can trigger in their mind, ‘I don’t have to be the dominant aggressive person, but I can actually have a healthy relationship with my partner’.
“While going through the programme the gentleman might even say, ‘hey that relationship was not healthy for me’, and at the end of the educational sessions he may make the decision that he no longer wants to be in the union.”
An initiative of UN Women, the 16-week programme is currently being implemented and managed by the Division of Family. It targets men who are abusive to their partners and uses a psycho-educational approach to convey to participants that violence is unacceptable and it can be broken through the sharing of concepts and techniques that help to replace such behaviour with preferences for respect, open communication and healthy relationships.
Participants are referred by the magistrates’ court, however, self-referral from state and non-state agencies will also be allowed access to the training.
Cabinet approved the programme in 2010 and prospective facilitators were trained and stakeholders sensitised so the necessary buy-in could be attained. The first cycle was rolled out last August and six of the 16 men successfully completed it.
One may wonder why only such a small group appeared successful. Howell explained: “Some of the men would have re-offended. In addition, prior to entering the programme, they signed papers saying they would adhere to the various rules. Sometimes nobody tells these men who are displaying violent tendencies that they are doing wrong. So, it is sort of an unstructured environment and they are not accustomed to following rules.
“One of the rules of the programme stipulates that the men can only miss two sessions. If they are absent on more than two occasions, they are automatically terminated from the programme and the magistrate is informed immediately. In addition, the men cannot be late; the sessions begin at 5:30 p.m., we give them a grace period of 15 minutes, and anyone who arrives after that period, is not permitted to enter the room. These gentlemen have to learn how to comply with various rules, but some of them cannot,” she pointed out.
Two cycles of this programme will be offered every financial year and as it grows, a men’s support group will be formed so they can rely on each other for assistance. However, Howell has indicated that the men have already established an informal network and they lean on each other for support.
So, the proverbial seed has been sown to reduce the incidence of violence in our society and it is hoped that the affected men would take full advantage of what is being offered, their families would rally around them and that kind of behaviour would be eliminated.