FAMILY law solicitor Joplin Higgins has helped establish the Hunter’s first voluntary intervention program for perpetrators of domestic violence, which will begin as a pilot course early next year.
Ms Higgins said facilitators had been recruited to offer a shortened version of the 32-week Inward Out program in Singleton, Muswellbrook and Cessnock, before a wider roll-out.
“It should have been done years ago,” Ms Higgins said. “We’re so far behind nationally in talking about this. It can’t just be politicians and policy-makers talking about domestic violence because it’s an in-topic.
“It should have always been an in-topic and there should always be money made available for services and programs like this.”
Instead, she said, the program was likely to subsist on funds and goodwill from Upper Hunter businesses, community groups and volunteers. The program will see men referred by service providers and solicitors and cover accountability, trust in partnerships, parenting with respect and healthy family relationships.
“It can’t assist the person they’ve already perpetrated violence against, but it may stop the perpetrator being violent against any women and children in future relationships, or in a situation where the perpetrator and victim stay together, which is sometimes the case.”
Ms Higgins was inspired to start the program after she was awarded Westpac’s Social Change Fellowship and spent four weeks in the United States. She visited mandatory batterer intervention programs in Kansas and Colorado, which can run for up to 52 weeks and have reduced the risk of participants re-offending by 46 to 66 per cent.
Ms Higgins said it was crucial programs addressed previous trauma, including sexual, physical and emotional abuse and seeing a toxic, violent or drug induced relationship between parents.
She said she also learned there were three types of perpetrators. The “entitled” perpetrator feels it is their right to be violent to a partner, while a “survival-based” perpetrator will usually not have been physically violent until towards the end of the relationship “when they’re losing control”.
“Just prior to or post separation is when the violence escalates to physical abuse and they [the abused] are more likely to be the victim of homicide or familicide,” she said. “They think ‘If I can’t have you, no-one else can have you’.” Ms Higgins said, chillingly, there was also the “sadistic” perpetrator. “There is no way to change their offending behaviour and they are the ones where its severe violence that usually results in a death.” Visit Hunter Stadium on September 3 to stand up against violence. Register: mycause.com.au/events/1000people1voice