For Partners and Family Members

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  • Wanting to get help for someone who has been abusing you?
  • Is someone close to you attending a Men’s Domestic Violence Behaviour Change Program?
    • Contact and support for you
    • What does real change look like?
    • Is your current partner attending a program? Some additional thoughts
    • Is your ex-partner attending a program?
    • Children’s needs

Wanting to get help for someone who has been abusing you?

If you’ve lived with violence, abusive or controlling behaviour from someone in your life, the possibility that they might change their ways can be very hopeful idea. But it’s something to be approached with care.

There are number of reasons why you might want to get help for someone who’s been using abuse:

  • You may want the abuse to end, but the relationship to continue.
  • Your decisions about the future of the relationship might depend on him stopping his abuse.
  • You may want an ex-partner to accept that the relationship is over and work cooperatively for the benefit of your children.

Whatever the reason, specialist men’s domestic violence behaviour change programs (also known a Intervention Programs or MBCPs) are specially designed to address the problem of abusive behaviour. Seeking help from a psychologist or counsellor is not a substitute for what a specialist program can provide.

Couple counselling is not recommended where there is violence, intimidation and control in relationships, and can make you less safe.

Program participants will be offered the opportunity to learn more about themselves and the impact of their abuse on others and ways to relate respectfully, without abuse.

There are many steps in the process of change. Everyone’s journey is different but there are no shortcuts. Not everyone who completes a program will make the changes you need for your safety and wellbeing.

If mental health, drugs and alcohol, or gambling addiction are also part of the problem, they will also need to be addressed. Intervention Program participants will be supported to get the appropriate help to deal with those issues either alongside, or before completing the program.

Getting to a program

Men may choose to attend a program of their own accord, or they may be ordered by a court or other government authority.

  • If the court requires someone to attend, there may be legal consequences for not attending. The consequences depend on the kind of court order, and on whether any further violence has been committed.
  • You can’t ring up a program to ‘book him in’. He’ll need to contact the service himself.
  • Not everyone who contacts a program will actually turn up – even if ordered by a court. It requires some willingness and courage to face up to things that he might feel ashamed of, or might not want to be accountable for. It takes some commitment.

What to expect

  • Everyone is different – some men will make big changes, some will make smaller changes, some won’t change much at all. A small number will try to misuse what they learn against their partners.
  • Be cautious about the promise of change affecting your decision making.
  • Attending a program or counselling is no guarantee of change. Behaviour change is difficult and most people need support.
  • He might feel like he’s trying very hard, or having some big lightbulb moments, That’s great, but it doesn’t always mean he’s making the kind of changes that will make a real difference to you and your family. It might be a step in the right direction. Lasting change takes many steps, and may involve steps forward and backward.
  • Don’t pin all your hopes on him changing from doing a program. You still need to keep your safety plans in place.
  • As a partner, ex-partner or affected family member, you will be offered support by program staff too. They can help you move forward with your life safely whatever your circumstances and whatever your hopes are for the future of your relationship with this person.

Is someone close to you attending a Men’s Domestic Violence Behaviour Change Program?

You may have heard that your partner or ex-partner, or father of your children is attending, or planning to attend a Men’s Domestic Violence Behaviour Change Program, also known as an Intervention Program.

You may have mixed feelings about this. You may be relieved but also nervous – particularly if he is resentful towards you about attending the group.

Contact and support for you

When a man requests to participate in a Men’s behaviour change group, one of the requirements is that he provide contact details for a worker to contact his partner or ex-partner or of other family members who have been affected by his abuse, if he has these details.

  • This is part of the participation contract that he signs
  • It’s a requirement of the program funding.
  • It is not about pressuring you to have a role in the process.
  • If you have a no-contact order in place, it’s not in any way encouraging him to breach that and it’s not about the program staff contacting you on his behalf.

What it’s about: Here are 4 things you need to know

  1. The person who contacts you – the partner/family contact worker – is not working directly with the group participants.
  2. What you discuss is kept confidential. It will never be shared with the program participant.
  3. The main purpose of the contact is to give you someone to talk with about the situation, to check on your safety and provide referrals to other services if needed. This can include ongoing counselling. Your contact with them will also give the program team another perspective on the situation that has brought the man to this program.
  4. After the initial contact, the worker will enquire about ongoing contact with you. Everyone will have different responses and needs in regards to this. It’s your choice.

What does real change look like?

It is understandable that you may want an opinion in regards to how the man is going in the program and if he is making progress. However the partner contact worker and even the group facilitators or counsellors are not in a position to judge progress outside the group. Ultimately it’s your own experience of him and what others are experiencing, that will show you his progress.

You will only really know if he has changed if:

  • he shows you respectful behaviour;
  • consistently over a period of time;
  • in a range of different situations.
  • It’s especially important that he shows he can respond differently in situations like where he’s been abusive in the past.
  • It means being able to take responsibility for his past abusive behaviour;
  • It means being able to listen to and acknowledge how it affected you without becoming overly defensive.
  • It’s about a new pattern of behaviour, and a different attitude, not whether he behaves badly or well in a single situation.

Although joining a Men’s Behaviour Change program is a commendable step, remember, it will not in itself guarantee your safety.

Change is often an up and down process. Please prioritise your own safety.

Is your current partner attending a program? Some additional thoughts.

If you are still living with the person attending the program, it could be helpful to have a conversation about whether you will discuss the content of the program or not.

  • Program content can sometimes be unsettling or confronting.
  • Some men may prefer to have some privacy and space to themselves after attending a session.
  • Some will appreciate the opportunity to discuss what they are learning.
  • The content of the program is encouraging the participant to take ownership for their own behaviour and try doing things differently: this may involve taking time out, using breathing techniques, communicating differently and doing homework exercises.
  • If you are unsure about any of this, you can ask the partner contact worker to explain. She will be able to talk about what is covered in program sessions, but not about the details of what individual participants say or do.

You may be interested to know that domestic and family violence is discussed in the program as involving more than physical assault.

The importance of:

  • fairness
  • respect
  • equality
  • empathy and care in relationships
  • and family wellbeing

are all discussed in the group – as well as anger, abuse and other related issues.

Is your ex-partner attending a program?

If you hear that an ex-partner is attending a group you may have mixed feelings.

You may be still experiencing a difficult relationship even though you are separated.

You may feel sad that he did not attend counselling earlier, because it is too late for your relationship.

You may feel that you don’t want to speak with the partner contact worker. Of course that is totally OK. The worker will respect that but would like to know you are OK.

Children’s needs

You may be interested to know that responding to children’s needs, the effects of family violence on children, and respectful separation are a part of most programs. The contact with the advocate is primarily about your wellbeing and safety and can also provide support and referrals to address your children’s needs.

If you have any concerns or need more information and support please contact the program and ask to speak with the partner contact worker as soon as possible.


If you feel at risk please call DVConnect on 1800 811 811 or the Police on 000.

The DVConnect website is a source of useful information about domestic and family violence, as are the regional Domestic and Family Violence services. A complete searchable list of services in Queensland is available here.

We encourage you to get support for yourself and other family members.

You are not alone.

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