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Urgent: Stopping High Risk Perpetrators


In intimate partner violence, when men kill women,  slogans and headlines abound in print and on social media: “It has to stop”, “Men need to step up”, “Enough is enough” etc.

While the outrage is understandable and warranted, we urgently need more than slogans. We’ve had Royal Commissions, Reports and Inquiries, Forums, and symposiums – but women’s death count continues.

We need Federal and State plans of action that deal with the problem of men’s violence to women and children. Politicians and policy officers need to sit down and listen to victim/survivors, researchers, and importantly front-line experienced service providers who work with male perpetrators.

For too long, and far too often, our legal and social response to men’s violence to women and children, has been lax, sluggish, if not downright lazy. Our response to men’s violence, when reactively piecemeal and fragmented, instead of strategically focused and consistent, leads to women dying.

Journalist Madonna King accurately called our present interventions a dribs and drabs approach. In describing a recent police response to a femicide in Qld, Professor Kerry Carrington used the chilling phrase “a calamity of errors”.

Across Australia, a calamity of errors is a fair description of recent responses of so many women’s deaths. Forty years ago, Ellen Pence one of the founders of the Duluth domestic abuse intervention project was insisting on ‘coordinated community responses’ to dv intervention. And yet it seems our service systems still largely operate in silos and solo! We need trauma-informed one-stop-shops for victim/survivors where safety and freedom from men’s violence is the primary focus, similar to Family Justice Centres in the USA, where her needs for legal support, crisis and trauma counselling, housing, childcare, her ongoing health and wellbeing needs are provided all under the one roof.

As well, we urgently need  a one-stop-shop for men, a coordinated and concerted focus on high risk/high harm male perpetrators, who have histories of strangulation, stalking, sexual assault, and serial offences (all known high risk indicators), and where there has been breaching of dv orders,  in their dv arsenal.

We could call this initiative, Men’s Domestic Violence Intervention and Accountability Centres. These men are mostly already known to courts and police and correct services. With our police using a ‘focused deterrence’ approach, in collaboration with men’s intervention services, women’s advocates, where a staged process of men’s interventions are court-ordered (not the strangely paradoxical term ‘voluntary intervention orders’ as we have presently).

These need to be interventions orders that police and courts take very seriously and where men’s non-compliance is treated very seriously, with appropriate action taken, and here I mean consequences.

These stages of intervention should be components of his DVO/AVO conditions and need to include a series of programs after he has been comprehensively risk-assessed:

1) a longer Stopping Domestic Violence program;

2) a Sexual Respect program;

3) a Safe Fathers program

4) AOD program, where necessary, and ;

5) ongoing dv-informed and trauma-informed mental health counselling; and other support for needs such as stable housing, employment readiness, etc.

None of this intervention should penalise victim/survivors. A woman’s advocate should be available for her during the course of his intensive intervention.

This intensive intervention should be at least 12 months long. These could be run via community programming and for men who are incarcerated. The details of this approach need to be developed of course, but this is the framework of the intervention.

These men need to be case-managed every step of the way preferably by Corrective Services, where they are monitored and supervised closely, and where there are serious consequences for non-compliance. This is intensive, demanding, and long-term work. We have to do whatever it takes and resource whatever it takes to stop men’s violence towards women and children.

Over the course of this 12 months, we will have a better chance of his transformation from the old abusive man with violence condoning beliefs to a new safe respectful man, with beliefs of equality and autonomy and freedom of women. With intensive support and protection for the victims/survivors, this approach may lead to a significant drop in the dv fatalities.

We cannot continue with the same old same old – the outcomes of this, as is frighteningly apparent, are dire for women.

Brian Sullivan PhD

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