Domestic violence is a serious challenge affecting families and communities. One in five women, and a growing number of men, experience domestic violence sometime in their lives , and an estimated 3.3 to 10 million children suffer the trauma of witnessing domestic violence each year . The April 2014 NRFC webinar (Addressing Domestic Violence: The Role of Fatherhood Programs, April 16, 2014) looked at strategies that fatherhood programs can take to address this issue and promote safe environments for children and families.
Jacquelyn Boggess of the Center for Family Policy and Practice (CFFPP), Michael Jones of Kanawha Institute for Social Research and Action (KISRA), and ramesh kathanadhi of Men Stopping Violence shared information and inspirational stories about how fathers and fatherhood practitioners can make a difference.
Talking about the important role that fathers can play in modeling and teaching non-violence for their children, ramesh emphasized the importance of self-assessment to reflect on our own behaviors and offered a personal story about a time when he became angry with his partner while driving. He talked about how he had driven recklessly and, when he reflected on this incident later, he realized this was an example of a controlling behavior designed to intimidate or punish his partner. He also mentioned how “stressing the negative” impacts children who witness violence and preventing that stress can be a motivating factor for men. One Men Stopping Violence program, Because We Have Daughters, builds on this idea by helping dads increase their awareness and build empathy for the realities faced by many girls.
Jacque offered advice on ways to partner with support programs for survivors and intervention programs for abusers. She stressed the importance of building trust between clients and service providers and the importance of understanding the work of all the providers. Programs working with survivors or abusers are often focused on holding men accountable for their violent and abusive actions, while fatherhood programs generally seek to help fathers improve their parenting, relationship, and employment skills. Both sets of programs engaging in dialogue about common issues, overlapping topics, and shared challenges can illuminate common goals and benefit programs and clients. Based on a series of interviews with survivors of domestic violence and other women, CFFPP found that many of the women were in favor of more services and support for men because they felt that might decrease levels of violence in the community.
Mike gave examples of how KISRA has used clips from documentary films and music videos to spark discussion and help men “look inward” to question their attitudes and make positive changes when necessary. He also emphasized the importance of modeling nonviolent, respectful behaviors in families and communities. According to Mike: “teach your children and grandchildren to reject violence, especially in the face of peer pressure or messages to the contrary in popular culture … encourage young boys to be nurturing and young girls to be strong.”
An important issue that seemed to garner a lot of attention during the webinar Q&A concerned the validity of using anger management classes in work with men who are abusers. Even though controlling anger is important to violence prevention overall, all three presenters were clear that such classes are rarely appropriate for someone who commits violence against an intimate partner or family member. As ramesh put it: “Remember abuse isn't about being ‘out of control’ … managing anger is something an abusive partner is usually quite good at.” Each agreed that anger management classes are not the most appropriate response to abuser’s needs because domestic violence is not always about simple anger management issues. In most instances, domestic violence is about control, coercion, and power and less likely about anger.
For the full webinar presentation, including an audio recording, transcript, and PowerPoint slides, go to https://www.fatherhood.gov/webinars and for other resources addressing domestic violence, visit the NRFC For Programs, For Your Fathers, Domestic Violence page.
For more information on:
- Center for Family Policy and Practice (CFFPP): www.cffpp.org
- Kanawha Institute for Social Research and Action (KISRA): www.kisra.org
- Men Stopping Violence: www.menstoppingviolence.org
Also, starting this fall, we will be adding new sections to the NRFC’s Responsible Fatherhood Toolkit: Resources from the Field. One of these will focus on Domestic Violence. Check back to the website for updates and stay connected through our Email Updates, Facebook, and Twitter to find out when these new sections become available and let us know what you think.
Nigel Vann, National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse
1: Center for Disease Control. The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2010 Summary Report (2011). http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/nisvs_executive_summary-a.pdf
2: Child Welfare Information Gateway. Domestic Violence and the Child Welfare System (2009). https://childwelfare.gov/pubs/factsheets/domestic-violence/