Taking responsibility for your violent behaviour

Denying or excusing your actions and trivialising your partner or family member’s response are barriers to taking responsibility for your behaviour.

Have you ever said to yourself:

  • “She knows what upsets me and does it on purpose. And she knows what happens when I get angry.”
  • “I’d had a hard day at work and was already pissed off, she shouldn’t have provoked me.”
  • “I had a few drinks and lost control, it’s not my fault.”
  • “She didn’t have to call the police, it wasn’t that serious.”

It can be hard to face up to how your behaviour has affected others, but statements like these hide the fact that using violence or control is a choice.

We make choices about how we act all the time, but we aren’t always aware of making them.

We sometimes choose to behave differently in different settings, with different people.

Some men say they ‘lost control’ or ‘just exploded’ when they have used violence against a partner or family member. But these same men usually don’t use violent or controlling behaviour against their boss, at their friends’ houses or when the police are around, even when they are feeling angry or frustrated.

“If someone knocked on the door when I was pushing her around, I would instantly become Mr Nice Guy, but the second they left, I would start exactly where I had left off.” – Ian

Recognising this opens up the possibility that – with help – you can make the choice to always treat those you care about with respect.

Ready to start

It takes strength and courage to admit to using violence or control, which is the first step towards changing your behaviour.

Call us for support and information
1300 766 491

If you’re ready to start taking responsibility for your actions, it’s time you gave us a call.

“I said I was sorry & it would never happen again, but if I ever raise my voice now I can see that look in her eyes. It’s still there, in the back of my mind. I don’t want to scare her anymore.” – Stefan

Men’s behaviour change programs

Currently, the main type of service available for men who use violence are men’s behaviour change programs. Men’s behaviour change programs support men who have used abusive and controlling behaviours towards their partners or family members to change their behaviour and build healthy and respectful relationships.

While details of these programs vary from one organisation to the next, there are common components and minimum standards which all programs must meet.

Intake and assessment

There are a number of pathways into a men’s behaviour change program. Some men are mandated to attend a program while others are referred by a family violence service or they can self-refer, by contacting the Men’s Referral Service. Is your behaviour causing problems for your relationships or family?

After being referred to a program there is an intake and assessment process, which usually includes an interview with an experienced men’s behaviour change worker. The interview will help you understand the requirements for joining in the program and establish expectations around your participation and what you can get out of it. This interview will also help the worker assess any risks or safety issues relating to your participation in the program.

Case management

Some programs include a case management component, where workers will support men to access other services that will help them to address their use of violence, such as housing and homelessness, drug and alcohol, gambling or mental health services.

Group work

In groups of up to 15, men are invited to explore their use of violence and abuse, supported to take responsibility for their behaviour and encouraged to learn new, non-violent and non-abusive behaviours.

Group work is the main component of men’s behaviour change programs and, while they are delivered differently by different organisations, all groups:

  • meet weekly for a minimum of 14 weeks, with some running for up to 24 weeks
  • meet for two hours, usually in the evening
  • are facilitated by two qualified and experienced facilitators – usually one man and one woman

Individual work

There is a high demand for men’s behaviour change programs which means there is often a waiting list for a place in the group. Some programs offer short-term individual counselling, to help men prepare for the work they will be doing in the group while they are on the waiting list.

In some programs, where resources allow, individual work is also available for group participants.

Work with women and children

A central element of men’s behaviour change programs provided by NTV / MRS members is that they are accountable and responsive to the safety and needs of women and children.

These programs include a dedicated, experienced worker who can provide support for the partners or ex-partners of men participating in the program. This is a voluntary service for women and can include:

  • Safety planning
  • Individual counselling and group work
  • Referrals to specialist women’s services for further support

Some organisations also offer counselling and group work specifically for children impacted by family violence.

What about individual counselling?

While individual counselling is not suitable for addressing men’s family violence on its own, it can provide additional support for men participating in a men’s behaviour change program.

Counselling can offer tools and strategies for coping with intense emotions and making non-violent choices and may further support men to understand and take responsibility for the underlying thoughts and feelings that have contributed to their abusive behaviour.

Individual counselling can also be appropriate for men who have not used violence or controlling behaviours, but are concerned they could, as well as for men who have completed a men’s behaviour change program and would like support maintaining and strengthening positive non-violent choices to resolve problems.

What about anger management?

We do not recommend anger management programs as a way to address men’s family violence.

Stopping family violence is about a lot more than managing anger, which is why we encourage men who use violence to participate in a men’s behaviour change group and not an anger management group.

While some men who use violent and controlling behaviours have problems with expressing their anger, others might be finding it difficult to express other feelings, such as fear, anxiety or frustration. Men’s behaviour change programs hold men accountable for their actions and address their choice to use violence, while focusing on keeping women and children safe.

What about relationship counselling?

We do not recommend relationship counselling as a way to address men’s family violence.

Taking a relationship counselling approach assumes that family violence occurs because of a problem in the relationship which both parties are responsible for resolving. The use of family violence is an expression of power and control and relationship counselling can only be effective when there is a reasonably equal distribution of power and both parties feel safe to speak honestly about their perspectives, feelings and needs.

Relationship counselling can also pose a safety risk if a person experiencing family violence has to talk about this while the person using it against them is present.

When confronted like this, men may deny or minimise their behaviour and many women have reported experiencing further abuse as punishment for speaking out during counselling.