The Mercury editorial: Tackling men’s violence starts in the local loo

Innovative program is asking men what their love looks like, explains Jacqui Watt

Family violence touches the lives of many, and ripples through our communities. One of the most unsafe places for Tasmanian women and children is their own home.

Over the past few years we’ve seen a growing community awareness about family violence.

Naturally, people are curious. Who causes it? What causes it? Why does it happen? Can it happen to anyone? Could it happen to me; my daughter; my son?

Family violence can be a pattern of coercive and controlling behaviours that take many different forms. It is physical, sexual, psychological, emotional, social, and financial. It happens within intimate relationships as well as between family members and is rarely an isolated incident. Family violence is predominantly perpetrated by men against women, children and other men.

“Violence against women and children is pervasive, constant and a men’s issue.”

No to Violence is the peak body for organisations and individuals working with men to end family violence. We also provide the Men’s Referral Service, a telephone counselling, information and referral service for men who use family violence. The Men’s Referral Service is funded in Tasmania through the Tasmanian Government’s Safe Homes, Safe Families: Tasmania’s Family Violence Action Plan 2015-2020.

Over the past 25 years we’ve provided assistance, counselling, and referrals to additional services, helping over 150,000 men get the support they need and improving outcomes for families.

We acknowledge that there are social pressures and taboos in relation to men seeking support for their health and wellbeing. To build awareness about men’s use of family violence and where Tasmanian men can seek support to stop using violence, we recently rolled out an awareness raising campaign across Tasmanian men’s bathrooms. We thought it would be best to target men – with such an evocative message – in a private setting. The advertisements ask men: “What does your love look like?” Our service information is located right under the message.

 “When men are at their local pub or sporting facility, we want them to walk into the toilets, see these advertisements and think, ‘well, what does my love look like?’”

Not only does our service offer the option for men to call the Men’s Referral Service, we offer men the option to engage with a phone counsellor via live webchat. Live webchat provides a discreet entry point to the Men’s Referral Service. Our aim is to encourage men to make that call; start thinking about their behaviour, their relationships, and with luck, men will start taking steps toward real, meaningful change.

Interestingly, over the course of the advertising campaign we’ve seen quite a big increase in live webchat sessions. From what we can gather, the added discretion and immediacy are two key reasons why Tasmanian men are choosing to engage with the live webchat function. While it may seem low at first glance, in such a short timeframe we’ve seen a 40% increase in men leave the Men’s Referral Service with a referral to a longer term intervention, e.g. a Men’s Behaviour Change Program and/or one-on-one counselling. These results, while the tip of the iceberg, tell us that Tasmanian men require a lot of support to stop using family violence against their partners and children.

We’re available 24/7 to talk with Tasmanian men about issues relating to their use of violence. We also encourage concerned family members and friends to get in contact with the Men’s Referral Service about issues you, or your family or friends, are facing. We also talk to people who work in healthcare, local communities and other settings about how to assist men they work with.

To talk to a Men’s Referral Service phone counsellor, either by the phone or online live webchat, please call 1300 766 491 or head to ntv.org.au.

To find out more information about No to Violence and the Men’s Referral Service please head to ntv.org.au, call (03) 9487 4500 or email info@ntv.org.au

Original editorial copies below

The Mercury, 11 May 2018