If violence is already present

For guidance and advice about how to address a situation when someone has been identified or is suspected of using family violence, contact the Men’s Referral Service on 1300 766 491

If the father discloses behaviours that could be interpreted as controlling or abusive from the partner’s point of view, refer them to preventative services. Do not attempt to screen him by asking his more questions, unless required by legislation. Asking screening questions may risk the perpetrator suspecting that his partner has disclosed information and could risk escalation of violence and controlling behaviour where already present, especially if the victim also attends the same health/mainstream service.[1]

In Victoria, organisations may be required to use screening and identifying tools when family violence is suspected or identified. You should be aware of your obligations under theFamily Violence Information Sharing Scheme and the MARAM framework. Victoria has different information sharing schemes applied to prescribed organisations that oblige certain services and professionals to share information about perpetrators and alleged perpetrators of family violence. Service providers in Victoria working with alleged/perpetrators have to update clients on their limited confidentiality under the scheme.

No matter the setting in which it occurs, family violence is a human rights issue. Excuses of circumstance, religion and cultures are not legitimate defences of the practice. ‘Response to perpetrators must be done in ways that minimise collusion with the attitudes and beliefs that the perpetrator uses to absolve himself of responsibility for his violent and controlling behaviour, to minimise the importance and impact of this behaviour, and to make himself out to be the victim.[2] Collusion can take the form of agreement with his excuses and focusing on his experience as a victim more than on the family’s experience, or aggressively contradicting his views. Above all else, remain respectful during the interaction to keep him engaged with your service, and not trigger an angry or defensive response.

Illustration of man and pregnant partner

Recognise the signs

Note some indicators of men who use violence against family members:

  • Dehumanises or pathologises her
  • Acts or talks in a way that makes her out to be inferior to him
  • Comments negatively on her decisions and actions
  • Criticises her parenting
  • Blames her for showing him ‘no respect’ or accuses her of being ‘disloyal’ to him
  • Restricts/gatekeeps her access to services, always accompanies her to appointments
  • Speaks for her, rather than her answering questions she is asked
  • Controls her access to financial or other resources
  • Is clearly intent on getting his own way
  • Tries to get you to agree with his negative views about his ex/partner/family member
  • Is blind to, or does not appear to care about, her viewpoints and needs
  • Presents or talks about himself being the real victim
  • Talks about her in emotionally abusive or degrading ways[3]

Other disclosures of non-physical abuse include:

  • Visa or immigration status related threats or controlling behaviours
  • Withholding information and using manipulative tactics that rely on their partner’s lack of knowledge of legal rights in Australia[4]
  • Complete control of finances and money
  • Forbidding a woman from getting to work by taking her keys or car
  • Taking a woman’s pay and not allowing her to access it[5]
  • Deciding what she wears or eats
  • Humiliating her in from of other people
  • Monitoring what she is doing, including reading her emails and text messages
  • Discouraging or preventing her from seeing friends and family
  • Threatening to hurt her, the children, pets or property
  • Yelling at her
  • Deciding if she can and what she uses for birth control
  • Forcing her to have an abortion or to continue a pregnancy
  • Constantly comparing her with other people
  • Constantly criticising her intelligence, mental health and appearance
  • Stopping contact with family and community members in a cross-cultural relationship
  • Preventing her from practicing her religion[6]

Risk factors for increased risk of family violence in perpetrators:[7]

  • Use of weapon in most recent event
  • Access to weapons
  • Has ever harmed or threatened to harm the victim
  • Has ever tried to choke the victim
  • Has ever threatened to kill victim
  • Has ever harmed or threatened to harm or kill other family members, pets, or other animals
  • Has ever threatened or tried to commit suicide
  • Stalking of the victim
  • Sexual assault of the victim (including rape, coerced sexual activity or unwanted sexual touching)
  • Previous or current breach of Intervention Order
  • Drug and/or alcohol misuse/abuse
  • Obsession/jealous behaviour towards victim
  • Controlling behaviours (for example, the perpetrator telling the victim how to dress, who they can be friends with, controlling how much money they can access and determining when they can see friends and family or use the car)
  • Unemployment
  • Depression/mental health issue
  • History of violent behaviour

Relationship factors:

  • Recent separation
  • Escalation – increase in severity and/or frequency of violence
  • Financial difficulties
  • Major life transition

Respond with a degree of respect but without justifying the behaviour

If someone discloses that they are concerned about their own violent or controlling behaviour, it is important to remind them that they have a choice about their behaviour, that there is support available to help them, and refer them to the available support services.

Refer the person to a support service

  • Men’s Referral Service: provides anonymous and confidential telephone counselling, information and referrals to help men take action and stop using violent and controlling behaviour – 1300 766 491Available 24/7 for TAS and NSW. 8am-9pm Mon-Fri; 9am-6pm Sat-Sun for all other states.
  • 1800RESPECT has qualified and experienced counsellors that can provide information, anonymously, 24/7 – 1800 737 732www.1800respect.org.au/help-and-support/using-violence/
  • MensLine Australia is the national telephone and online support, information and referral service for men with family and relationship concerns. MensLine Australia offers telephone anger management and behavioural change programs, as well as online counselling – 1300 789 978mensline.org.au
Illustration of father, mother and daughter walking

Resources for fathers

Illustration of father and daughter cuddling

Resources for service providers

Prevention

Cultural Competency

Fatherhood and parenting

  • Gilles Forget, Ignacio Correa-Velez, & Mike Dee (2018) Being a father in my new society: A qualitative study of the fathering experiences of men from refugee backgrounds resettled in Australia. Journal of Refugee Studies. https://eprints.qut.edu.au/122910/
  • Relationships Australia Victoria’s Support for Fathers provides dads with options and information about fatherhood, the relationship with their partner and connecting with their kids. It also provides a toolkit for support services to work with dads and families . https://supportforfathers.com.au
Illustration of father and daughter kneeling

[1] North West Metropolitan Region Primary Care Partnerships, Guidelines for Identifying and Responding to People Who Cause Family Violence Harm (April 2018) 12. http://inwpcp.org.au/resources/identifying-and-responding-to-family-violence/guidelines-for-engaging-people-who-cause-family-violence-harm/.

[2] North West Metropolitan Region Primary Care Partnerships, Guidelines for Identifying and Responding to People Who Cause Family Violence Harm (April 2018) 18. http://inwpcp.org.au/resources/identifying-and-responding-to-family-violence/guidelines-for-engaging-people-who-cause-family-violence-harm/.

[3] North West Metropolitan Region Primary Care Partnerships, Guidelines for Identifying and Responding to People Who Cause Family Violence Harm (April 2018) 18. http://inwpcp.org.au/resources/identifying-and-responding-to-family-violence/guidelines-for-engaging-people-who-cause-family-violence-harm/. These guidelines are directed to health and mainstream services in Victoria.

[4] Domestic Violence Victoria, Submission to Family Safety Victoria: Family Violence Information Sharing and Risk Assessment and Risk Management Framework (10 July 2018) 52.

[5] White Ribbon Australia, Financial abuse, https://www.whiteribbon.org.au/understand-domestic-violence/types-of-abuse/financial-abuse/.

[6] White Ribbon, Signs of an abusive relationship, https://www.whiteribbon.org.au/understand-domestic-violence/what-is-domestic-violence/signs-abusive-relationship/.

[7] Victorian Government, Department of Human Services, Family Violence Risk Assessment and Risk Management Framework and Practice Guides 1-3 (2nd Ed, 2012) 21-22.

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