Domestic violence perpetrators praise police program helping them to change


Posted

June 03, 2018 07:58:13

Domestic violence perpetrators on the Sunshine Coast are crediting a collaborative police program with turning their lives around and changing their behaviour.

Michael* ended up in DV Court after an incident in which his partner “got injured”.

“The love had gone, the kids were suffering, my partner was suffering, everyone in the house was suffering actually,” he told ABC’s Focus program.

His first encounter with officers from the Sunshine Coast’s Vulnerable Persons Unit (VPU) was on his way out of court.

“I was pulled aside and spoken to actually quite respectfully, which was a surprise,” he recalled.

Logan* had a similar encounter with the VPU after a Domestic Violence Order (DVO) was put in place.

He said his problems stemmed from “basically not being able to control my childhood with certain abuse that went on there”.

“Unfortunately that’s come into my adulthood because I didn’t deal with it like I should have years ago.”

Domestic violence a national crisis

Earlier this year, a landmark report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) found that on average one woman a week and one man a month is killed by a current or former partner.

Incidents involving domestic violence and mental illness are the biggest challenges facing police nationally.

The VPU started in 2016 after it was recognised that the approach to domestic and family violence (DFV) at the time was failing to make victims safer or changing perpetrator behaviour.

It was the first initiative of its kind in the state to specifically target perpetrators.

Its purpose is to keep the aggrieved and children safe but also to hold perpetrators accountable and stop the cycle of re-offending.

To do that, officers work with government and non-government agencies to refer perpetrators to relevant programs and agencies, have conversations in layman’s terms about the court process and what constitutes domestic violence and breaches of orders.

The officer in charge of the unit, Senior Sergeant Kim Cavell, said there was also a focus on addressing underlying issues for the violence which could include mental health, gambling, drugs, alcohol, parenting, separation and poverty.

She said the results so far were “heartening”.

“The raw data indicates that the number of breaches of domestic and family violence orders are projected to decrease — 12.6 per cent from July 2017 to now, compared with the same period the past year in the Sunshine Coast district.

“Hopefully that is attributed to the proactive work by the officers of the Vulnerable Persons Unit,” Senior Sergeant Cavell said.

Breaking the cycle

Michael agreed if he hadn’t come across the VPU, his life would be very different.

He now speaks with school children about the consequences of what he did and has even reunited with his partner.

“Life has got a lot better and a lot easier since I realised that I had a problem,” he said.

“There’s no full-on arguments, there’s no slammings, there’s no punchings, there’s none of that anymore actually.

“Because I can deal with the issues that arise a lot easier, the household’s a lot better, it’s definitely a lot better.

“Unfortunately it took 35 years for me to recognise my signs and an incident where my partner got hurt.”

Logan said through his involvement with the VPU he learnt self awareness and insight.

“I was wanting to change my behaviour anyway I could so I gladly took the offer.

“I’m a first time offender and a last time offender. I will never allow myself to get in that position again.

“I will continue to learn more and more about ways in which to control any situation where I may get angry.”

What is domestic violence?

The definition of domestic and family violence (DFV) has expanded over the years from physical abuse to include financial, emotional, verbal, social, sexual, spiritual and image-based, as well as stalking.

Senior constable Leroy Allan from the VPU said because perpetrators were sometimes oblivious that their behaviour constituted domestic violence.

“Quite often it’s a bit of a light bulb moment for these people.”

But he said because the role of the VPU was unlike a traditional police role, sometimes it was a “battle” to get perpetrators on board.

“On the Saturday night they could be dragged out of the house by the first responding police and then come Monday or Tuesday we’re [the VPU] trying to have a civilised conversation with them.

“You’re essentially like a car salesman, you’re trying to sell a product and convince these fellas that there needs to be some changes but ultimately it’s up to them.”

Michael and Logan said the first step toward change was the perpetrator acknowledging the need for help.

“I think decades ago this used to get swept under the rug. It’s taking the stigma away from it, it’s becoming a real reality and we can’t just deny that this doesn’t happen anymore,” Logan said.

Senior Constable Allan agreed.

“But men are a stubborn beast and they don’t like asking for a hand or putting their hand up and saying ‘I’m struggling’.

“If a bloke is saying ‘Look I need to make some changes and I want a hand’ we’ll try and point them in the right direction.”

‘We can’t silo these challenges’: police

The Queensland Police Commissioner recently awarded the Sunshine Coast VPU with a Partnership Award for its work in the domestic violence and mental illness sectors.

Superintendent Darryl Johnson said domestic violence and mental illness were the biggest challenges for police.

“We can’t silo these challenges.

“Domestic violence and mental illness normally go hand in hand so we need to address them as a whole, as opposed to a siloed approach.”

Brigitte McLellan, the regional operations manager for Centacare which works with women and children in domestic violence situations, said the collaborative approach of the VPU was a winning formula.

“No agency alone can solve domestic violence, so having police on board and actively standing behind and saying ‘We want to solve that’ is great for the community, for the confidence of victims to come forward and for other agencies.

“To know that police are behind it and we’re being backed up by legislation makes all the difference.”

*Surnames were not used with permission.

Topics:

domestic-violence,

community-and-society,

police,

men,

mental-health,

women,

maroochydore-4558,

australia,

melbourne-3000,

sydney-2000



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