Domestic violence is a serious problem affecting families and communities. One in five women experience domestic violence sometime in their lives, and more than 15 million children suffer the trauma of witnessing domestic violence each year. While men can also be victims of domestic assault in their relationships, national studies point out that most domestic violence involves women as victims and males as batterers. Fatherhood programs have the opportunity to motivate participants to empathize with girls and women, while the fathers themselves can play an important role in socializing children and influencing other fathers to be aware of the impact domestic violence can have on individuals and families.
Even though most fatherhood programs are not specifically interventions for abusers or domestic violence prevention programs, they play an important role in improving behaviors among men and fathers. Most of the fathers served by the programs have never been violent toward a partner, but the information and structure of the program are invaluable resources for dads.
This page can provide your fatherhood program with resources to help educate yourself and your staff to understand the realities of domestic violence and learn what steps you can take to ensure that your staff is equipped to work with allies and survivors of domestic violence.
Tips & Best Practices
- Advocates and researchers alike often debate the statistics surrounding domestic violence. Although the term “domestic violence” has a very clear and specific meaning to advocates working in the domestic violence field, it is used in other contexts to cover many different types of couple conflict. If your fatherhood program is using statistics to talk about the prevalence of domestic violence, make sure you are doing research to ensure that statistics and definitions are used properly.
- All staff should consistently and clearly demonstrate that violence is unacceptable in parenting and family relationships and is never an appropriate response to conflict. Some staff, particularly male staff, may not have any prior domestic violence training or might be uncomfortable with the subject. All staff should complete training to ensure the program is equipped to address the issue frankly. Many programs successfully train staff by using the same curricula, materials, or activities that participants experience. This approach enables self-reflection and recognition of any personal bias in the understanding of key messages designed for participants, and practice of recommended skills.
- Domestic violence can be a hard topic for fatherhood programs to address, but it is important that you try to make room to promote safe environments for children and families. The NRFC hosted a webinar that discussed the role that fatherhood programs can play in addressing domestic violence and creating a space to engage men in discussions on how violence effects individuals, families, and children.
- Fatherhood programs have a unique opportunity to engage men in prevention work for domestic violence. Domestic violence prevention education and programming is a sensitive and serious topic for a fatherhood program to focus on. It is important to connect with domestic violence prevention organizations and properly train staff to be well equipped to handle such serious topics. Looking at what resource packets and guides that have been created by other national organizations that focus on the subject of domestic violence is a great way to start preparing your fatherhood program to address domestic violence and the role that fathers can play in its prevention.
What are the warning signs of domestic abuse?
The National Fatherhood Initiative’s domestic violence awareness materials (designed for direct work with fathers, but useful for staff training) indicate that warning signs of domestic abuse may be found in a person who:
- Looks and acts in ways that cause fear.
- Acts with jealousy and possessiveness and accuses a partner of infidelity.
- Tries to control how a partner spends their time, who they see, and who they talk to.
- Wants a partner to ask permission to make everyday decisions.
- Blames others for wrongdoings.
- Uses intimidation by destroying property.
- Threatens a partner with violence or a weapon.
- Uses insults, profanity, and name calling to put down the partner.
- Cannot take criticism and always justifies own actions.
How can fatherhood programs help fathers and men address domestic violence?
Your fatherhood programming on domestic violence prevention should include tips and tangible tasks for fathers to put into practice. The White Ribbon Campaign of men working to end men’s violence against women offers positive steps men can take:
- Educate your children about healthy equal relationships.
- Accept your role as a man promoting gender equality.
- Listen to women and learn from women.
- Be a good role model.
- Demonstrate that you value women as equals and believe in healthy relationships.
- Do not laugh at sexist jokes or otherwise objectify women.
- Speak of the men and women who made a difference in your life.
- Speak out about violence against women and other injustices.
What should staff training on domestic violence prevention include?
Domestic violence training for staff should be well rounded. Domestic violence training of fatherhood staff typically includes:
- Working to understand that domestic violence is a pattern of behavior that includes physical violence and non-physical abuse, such as verbal and psychological abuse or economic coercion.
- Exploring the facts and myths that surround domestic violence and its prevalence and severity.
- How to recognize the signs that domestic violence may be present in a relationship
- How to identify situations where interventions or referrals would be appropriate
- Learning who to make referrals to so that survivors and those around them who are impacted by domestic violence get the proper treatment and support they need.
The list above only reflects a few main points that are commonly covered in staff domestic violence training. For more ideas you can check out this training from the National Fatherhood Initiative.