Domestic abuse through the eyes of the perpetrator
Many of us are sadly familiar with the impact of domestic violence on our own friends and family, and too often we see its tragic consequences on the news. But what do we know about those who abuse their partners, how they do it and why?
Their first challenge in getting help was realising what is really going on
Tonight The Project takes a rare look at family violence through the eyes of the perpetrator and asks what can we learn from those who are trying desperately to reform?
For Michael and Angel Lilley, the first challenge in getting help was realising what is really going on.
They have been together for seven years, and Michael’s compulsion for power and control has been visible since their very first date. But neither understood his behaviour was a form of domestic violence.
To me, I wasn’t hitting Angel, and so I wasn’t being violent. I have a fear that if I’m not in control then things aren’t somehow going to go my way.”
Three years into their marriage, Michael still struggles to control his emotions but is taking steps to change. He is now seeking a different kind of control, over his own behaviour.
Act to change
Michael attends a MonashLink’s Men’s Responsibility Group, one of about 80 such programs across the country.
Group facilitator Helen Wirtz recognises the patterns amongst the men who attend the group. She says that putting partners down, controlling their movements, isolating them from friends and financial abuse are all part of a spectrum that also includes physical violence.
Some of the men in the group haven’t taken full responsibility for their behaviour and are still blaming partners, But if they do make excuses, other men tend to pull them up on it.”
But Helen is realistic about the challenges for those in the program, and the ongoing risks to those close to them.
We certainly warn women not to compromise their safety by staying and hoping he’s going to change because of the program.”
Outside of such interventions, many are calling for schools to play a greater role in violence prevention which Michael agrees.
Learning to be aware of my emotions and some tools hot to control them, and how to communicate without using violence would easily have been a prevention for me”
For Angel, Michael’s behaviour has changed over the eight months he has been attending the program.
He does a lot more around the house, he’s become more interested in what I do, what I like and how I perceive things.”
Because it wasn’t physical, I didn’t know it was domestic violence
Deborah Sanasi has a similar story, she endured 15 years of non-physical abuse before her husband Robert sought help to transform his behaviour.
Because it wasn’t physical, I didn’t know it was domestic violence. I just thought we were having normal marriage issues.”
Now a counsellor herself, Deborah says we are in a society that affirms men for being powerful and in control. Her view is simple.
We need to hold men to account and stop victim blaming. It’s a perpetrator problem.”
Her husband Robert agrees.
From man to man, I think when we see it, we need to call it.”