Working with men who use violence Part 2: new Australia, UK and US research

Fri 29 Sep 2023

This news story highlights recent research and resources from Australia, the UK and the USA that focus on working with men who use violence.

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Working with men who use violence: new Australia, UK and US research

This story highlights recent research and resources informed by research from Australia, the UK and the USA. In our previous news story, Working with men who use violence Part 1, we focused on key Aotearoa New Zealand research and information.

Tool for practitioners to assess programmes for men and boys

The Working with Men and Boys for Social Justice Assessment Tool is an online tool for organisations and advocates to self-assess and improve their work with men and boys. This includes programmes focused on preventing men's violence against women, young men's relationships, fathering, men's health and wellbeing, and more.

The Tool is designed for leaders, designers and facilitators of programmes for men and boys to review and strengthen principles of gender and social justice in their programmes. It is based on research and practice in social justice, gender studies and the sociology of men and masculinities. It asks a series of questions related to principles that cover 4 areas:

  • aims and focus
  • scale and support
  • teaching and learning
  • evaluation and improvement.

The questions cover a range of issues including non-violence, masculinity, racism, patriarchy and more. It was designed by Australian researchers Amanda Keddie, Michael Flood, Shelley Hewson-Munro, Anna Halafoff and Maria Delaney and involved input from Our Watch, Safe and Equal, Dardi Munwurro, Jesuit Social Services and the Centre for Resilient and Inclusive Societies.

For more information about the tool, see the brief issues paper or watch the video overview of the tool. Also see related publications from the project team members:

Update: The Working Together With Men model from Australia, is an approach that engages men in forms of allyship to co-create small scale projects with those most impacted by gender-based violence. Working Together With Men 2.0 — Tools and templates for accountability and action was published in December 2023.

Review of global research on perpetrators

The report, Who uses domestic, family, and sexual violence, how, and why? The State of Knowledge Report on Violence Perpetration (2022), was written by Australian researchers Michael Flood, Chay Brown, Lula Dembele and Kirsti Mills. It reviews current Australian and global data and research.

The authors highlight that "Most [domestic, family and sexual violence] perpetration happens without ever coming to the attention of police or legal systems." While they call for police and legal responses to be safe and accountable, they also write "...the focus and investment of efforts to reduce and prevent perpetration, hold perpetrators accountable, and provide justice for victim-survivors must fall outside these systems to have lasting effects."

They call for systemic and cultural change to lessen the risks of violence, writing "Prevention and response efforts should include attention to the personal and systemic changes that will encourage desistance from and the cessation of violence perpetration." The report explores risk and protective factors, and makes recommendations for future research. For an overview of the report, see The Conversation article by the report authors, Who is perpetrating domestic, sexual and family violence?

Research methods

Researchers from the UK reflected on the challenges and ethics in conducting research interviews with men who have used violence. In their article, Researching Men's Violence Against Women as Feminist Women Researchers: The Tensions We Face (2023), the authors, Sandi Dheensa, Karen Morgan, Beverly Love and Helen Cramer, reflected on their research work with 2 studies of domestic violence perpetrators programmes that involved interviewing men as they entered, participated in and exited the programmes. The authors reflect on several challenges including: building rapport without colluding with the men, finding ways to talk about violence without alienating the men, personal safety, over-investing in change for the men and responding with additional support to men's disclosures of trauma. The author's discussion also includes some reflections on how their personal gender and ethnic identities intersect with these challenges.

For related information see the one of the author's blog posts, Why doing research with domestic abuse perpetrators is challenging (2023) and the article, Methodological Challenges in Group-based Randomised Controlled Trials for Intimate Partner Violence Perpetrators: A Meta-summary (2023).

Research on digital interventions

Recent research from Australia highlights that digital interventions can provide “...a safe, private space for men to reflect on their behavior and the consequences of their use of violence” but the lack of interpersonal interaction can pose challenges in balancing accountability with non-judgmental, compassionate engagement. The authors of “Help Me Realize What I’m Becoming”: Men’s Views on Digital Interventions as a Way to Promote Early Help-Seeking for Use of Violence in Relationships (2023) write:

“Thus, a website or app—like a MBCP [men’s behaviour change programme] —would need to tread a fine line between holding men accountable for their behavior and emphasizing the negative consequences for themselves and their families, whilst also avoiding making men feel that they were inherently “bad” and cannot change. This is challenging to achieve without the feedback and interaction typically available in a MBCP or a one-on-one counseling session.”

And they go on to say:

“It is important to remember that the context we propose for a digital intervention is early engagement; the aim is not to provide therapeutic support or to replace programs such as MBCPs or one-on-one counseling. The balance of accountability versus hope for change therefore needs to be informed by the end-goal of encouraging a man to seek help for his use of violence.”

Rosanna Bellini and Nicole Westmarland have researched the use of video-conferencing and other forms of digital based interventions with men using violence. Their article, “We adapted because we had to”: how domestic violence perpetrator programmes adapted to work under COVID-19 in the UK, the USA and Australia (2023), shares findings from interviews with people working with perpetrators of intimate partner violence and related non-government organisations. Practitioners reported an increase in using digital services to replace in-person work. Practitioners also talked about how this shifted the group dynamic and created challenges to ensuring safety for victims and privacy for perpetrators. The authors discuss the need to integrate safety support services for victims when offering digitally-based interventions for perpetrators.

Bellini and Westmarland have also published A problem solved is a problem created: the opportunities and challenges associated with an online domestic violence perpetrator programme (2021). This research looked at a pilot online court mandated programme for men who were perpetrators of domestic violence based in the US. The programme took place before the COVID pandemic and involved video-conferencing online. While the remote programme created opportunities such as reaching rural men, the authors identified a number of challenges unique the online format including the need to adapt group facilitation styles, additional risks to personal safety for facilitators and ensuring safety for victims especially the challenge of partnering with victim-survivor services when participants and victims might be geographically spread. See the preliminary findings from this research in the authors' earlier report Initial lessons learned from using video conferencing software to deliver interventions for men using violence in intimate relationships (2020). Find more reflections and resources related to service delivery adaption from the pandemic in our COVID-19 Information for specialist family violence and sexual violence services.

Update: Also see the related reports from Australia-based Monash Gender and Family Violence Prevention Centre 'Just opens up a whole new possibility of change': A review of the Men's Exploring New Directions online program (2023) and “You can’t just … add a bit of rainbow dust”: A review of the Clear Space online family violence behavioural change program for GBTQ+ men and non-binary people (2023).

Aotearoa New Zealand research

For Aotearoa New Zealand research see our recent news story, Working with men who use violence Part 1: Aotearoa research, resources and updates. For more information search our library by the perpetrators/offenders quick topic search or see our Issues Paper: Responding to perpetrators of family violence (2016).

Related media

What it's like to learn someone you care about is violent [Australia], ABC, 07.08.2023

Barber launches app to tackle Pacific men's mental health issues, PMN News, 13.07.2023

She Is Not Your Rehab founders launch wellbeing app for men, One news, 27.06.2023

The prevention helpline tackling New Zealand's appalling domestic violence rates, Newshub, 03.06.2023

De-radicalising from the 'manosphere', ABC Podcast [Australia], 17.03.2023

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