Geelong-based Bethany launch Men’s Family Violence Intervention Centre

On Friday 27 April 2018, we attended our member organisation’s inaugural launch of The Men’s Family Violence Intervention Centre. The Centre, headed by Geelong-based Bethany, provides a coordinated response, designed to increase accountability and visibility of men who choose to use violence in their relationships. The innovative service is informed by cutting-edge research and emerging practice, and will provide a coordinated, cross-sector response to male perpetrators of family violence.

It is recognised that there are usually a complex array of factors that re-enforce (not cause) a man’s decision to use violence. In a response to this, the Centre will ultimately provide services including:

– Individual assessment and treatment to male perpetrators of family violence
– Men’s case management for male perpetrators of family violence
– Men’s Behaviour Change programs
– Fathering programs
– Drug and alcohol counselling
– Financial counselling
– Housing and homelessness response

As the model develops, additional treatment services will be provided, including Primary Health Care, mental health assessment and treatment, and other counselling.

The Centre will also host a well-appointed training facility with the capacity to host 75 people, thereby providing an incredible opportunity for local workers to build their capacity to work confidently with perpetrators of family violence.

Who is Bethany?

Bethany provide a multi-sectoral human service response to communities across the Barwon and South West regions. Bethany fulfill its mission by the provision of a broad range of prevention, early intervention, support and educational services to individuals, children, young people and families based on research, best practice and professional standards. Services provided include: specialist family violence response to men, women and children, problem gambling, integrated family services, housing and homelessness, relationship and financial counselling, post-separation support, early years, out of home care and refugee services. The organisation is governed by a skills based Board of Management, with income that is primarily derived from state and federal governments with some generated from community, philanthropic and fee-for-service sources.

In 2017, the Geelong Kindergarten Association merged with Bethany Community Support Inc, creating Bethany Kindergarten Services Ltd. The Bethany group has a combined budget of $22 million and employs over 300 staff and supports over 8,000 children, families and individuals in Geelong and surrounding areas.

How long has Bethany run Men’s Behaviour Change Programs (MBCPs) and other interventions for men who use family violence?

Bethany possess a very well-developed understanding of the nature and dynamic of family violence and believe it is a critical and complex community responsibility requiring an integrated statutory and non-statutory system response as demonstrated in the evidenced based Duluth model. Bethany’s services operate from a structural feminist analysis and believe family violence is a gendered crime that is strongly resultant of the social construction of male identify and behaviour i.e. masculinity, power and control and re-enforced by systems, ideology and behaviours within our society. Bethany pay particular attention to the active identification and management of all risks associated with family violence.

Bethany has demonstrated experience and expertise in the area of family violence having provided specialist men’s family violence services in the Barwon for the past 17 years. Bethany’s family violence services hold the capacity to work with the whole of family; with a particular focus on the men who use violence as well as the women and children who have experienced family violence. Bethany currently provide a range of state, federal and philanthropically funded specialist family violence programs.

What has Bethany observed over the past two years since the Royal Commission into Family Violence (RCFV) handed down perpetrator-specific recommendations?

Post-RCFV recommendations, Bethany has experienced an increase in service uptake from male perpetrators of family violence. This can possibly be directly credited to an increase in financial investment from government, which has enabled Bethany’s team to spend more time in the service engagement and assessment phase. It could also be attributed to a growing public awareness of the impacts of family violence for women and children and messaging to perpetrators to seek treatment/help. The most pleasing aspect post-recommendations, has been the increased financial investment from government to not only bolster capacity to deliver core perpetrator interventions such as MBCPs and case management, but to also invest in a more diverse suite of interventions targeting a range of client cohorts. Bethany understand that male perpetrators of family violence present with a range of complexities that contribute/influence their choice and decision to use violence and that there is a paucity of evidence to help the sector in understanding the relationship between the contributing factors and the primary cause of a man’s choice to use violence. The more recent investment from the Department of Justice and Regulation and the current tender from Department of Health and Humans Services will go some way in increasing this understanding.

Bethany firmly believe that they’re really at the very beginning of the development of a rich evidence base to better inform the sector’s approach to working with men who choose violence in their family relationships. This will only improve with targeted and sustained investment from government and philanthropic sources and strong collaboration across the men’s and women’s specialist family violence sectors and other sectors.

How did the Men’s Family Violence Intervention Centre come about? 

When Bethany received funding to deliver Community Corrections MBCP in 2015, they noticed a trend in male perpetrators who were being presented for assessment with a varied range of contributing factors that included substance use, poor mental health, unstable housing, financial problems and other social issues. Under the Corrections model, Bethany’s practitioners were often provided with a high degree of external assessment material that went some way in increasing their understanding of the men and as such, how his contributing factors might be intersecting with his male entitlement and privilege (as the primary cause of his choice to use violence).  This was different to men who were referred in the absence of a Court Order. In that cohort, Bethany were often entirely reliant on Victoria Police L17 reports, the man’s own account and limited access (at the point of assessment) to his ex/partner’s account to ascertain risk and understand his readiness and ability to tolerate intervention and treatment.

This trend got Bethany thinking about the possibility of establishing a Centre to enable and invite treatment services to work in close collaboration in addressing his choice to use violence via the suite of men’s family services and in treating the contributing factors such as poor mental health, substance abuse and homelessness.

To that end, the Bethany Men’s Family Violence Intervention Centre has been developed by Bethany and has received establishment and development funding from several philanthropic sources. The Centre has been designed to collocate all Bethany’s specialist men’s family violence services, a family and Gambler’s Help counsellor, housing and homelessness worker and parent educator. Partner services invited to collocate within the Centre will include Barwon Health (provision of and warm referral into AOD assessment and counselling, forensic AOD treatment and forensic clinical consultation) and SalvoConnect (provision of and warm referral into AOD care and recovery, access to withdrawal unit, housing and homelessness worker and financial counsellor).

What evidence base is the Men’s Family Violence Intervention Centre hoping to build on/toward?

The Bethany Men’s Family Violence Intervention Centre hopes to work towards the development of a strong evidence and practice base that provides guidance to the men’s family violence and other sectors in the often, complex interplay when working with men who choose to use violence and its relationship with a man’s contributing factors. As the Centre develops, Bethany would ideally like to see it as a strong platform for researchers and students to be based, with the provision of opportunities to undertake research and knowledge exchange across a range of areas associated with men’s family violence work.

For more information about Bethany’s Men’s Family Violence Intervention Centre please refer to this FAQ sheet.

For more general information about Bethany please head to Bethany’s website.