THE TOO HARD BASKET?
Research has revealed that mainstream family violence services are falling short in dealing with male perpetrators from non-English speaking backgrounds, especially refugees.
The gaps in the services are leaving families in the lurch.
Marty Smiley takes a look at behaviour change programs geared towards men from culturally and linguistically diverse communities in Australia for The Feed.
“When I started this work. There was a sentiment in the family violence sector that we shouldn’t work with perpetrators,” Hala Abdelnour says.
“But working with men ultimately protects women and children.”
Hala Abdelnour knows what perpetrators of violence are like, she regularly sits in a room with them. It’s her job to listen to them, to challenge them on their behaviour.
Since 2016, she’s worked with over 500 men in male behaviour change programs, the main form of intervention available to men who use violence against women.
The men that undergo these programs have often financially, emotionally and or physically abused their partners. Men often labelled as ‘cowards’ and ‘monsters’ are the centre of Hala’s work.
“Working with men in men’s behaviour change programs is more challenging than working in a maximum-security male prison because the conversation is specifically about gender with men who use violence against women,” Hala says.
“And I’m the only woman in the room.”
It’s a daunting role. A role many tell her they’re glad they don’t do.
“People have yelled at me, made rude comments and even attacked me for my choices. I cop a lot of judgment.”
“As a society, we’re quick to wipe our hands of people who seem too hard to deal with”
This reluctance for doing the work is something Hala has often witnessed in the family violence sector. In particular, a fear of working with men from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds (CALD).
Late last year, a report commissioned by the Victorian Multicultural Commission, and written by Hala, was released. The report showed non-English speaking men – particularly refugees – are being left behind by family violence services that aren’t catering programs to their experiences.
It’s something Hala says ultimately harms victim-survivors and families.
As part of the report, Hala conducted 83 consultations across 52 organisations in the family violence sector.
Most of the participants in the study stated they had ‘never accessed or been offered training on applying family violence to culturally diverse communities or working within a trauma-informed capacity.’
“The reason for this is that mainstream organisations don’t represent the populations they wish to serve,” Hala says.
“The settlement services need more family training and family violence services. They need a total reform to be more inclusive of people from diverse backgrounds”
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