This article exists as part of the online archive for HuffPost Australia, which closed in 2021.

Domestic Violence: Can Abusive Partners Change?

We can stop domestic violence if we listen to the men who do it.

This doesn't make for comfortable viewing.

Although that said, nothing about domestic violence is comfortable. It's a shameful, hidden problem that exists throughout Australian society and around the world.

That shame is palpable through both Jerry and Worrell, two men who admit to using violence in their homes -- be it physical, psychological or emotional.

But they're also two men who have been through men's behaviour change programs and want to share their experience to help other men recognise and stop their own abusive behaviour.

Generally, when we talk about domestic violence it's a conversation focused on the victim.

Why did she stay? Why didn't she fight back? Why didn't he tell his father to stop? How do we teach women to avoid these relationships?

Questions Leanne has been asked several times in her life. She shares her experience of persistent abuse from her last relationship. She represents the victims.

And yes, most often we refer to women and children as the victim and the man as the perpetrator. With good reason. In Australia, women are three times more likely to experience violence at the hand of a partner than men.

It's also the leading cause of death, disability and injury in women between the ages of 15-44.

The striking imbalance amongst gender is a central driver.

"It's very clear that if we compare the men that do use violence and the men that don't, one key difference is in their ideas about being a man," Dr Michael Flood, sociologist with expertise in men and masculinity, and a leading domestic violence expert, told HuffPost Australia.

"Men (who) use violence are much more likely to be invested in the idea to be a man is to be in control, dominant and have power over women. Those ideas about masculinity link to broader patterns of gender inequality.

"And really, it's gender inequality that shapes some men's use of violence against women."

However, by turning the lens onto men who use this behaviour we can see there are other factors that also drive this use of violence -- like past trauma.

Cathy Zervos is a relationship counsellor for BaptistCare and runs mens' behaviour change programs. She explained the act of acknowledging past trauma, like abuse or abandonment as a child, doesn't mean sympathising with perpetrators.

"Men's behaviour change programs are 'trauma informed' -- I see that different to sympathy," she told HuffPost Australia.

"Sympathy says it's OK. We don't say it's OK. We say-- yes, you have trauma that may have contributed to the response you have in your relationship and this is your opportunity to take responsibility."

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit In an emergency, call 000. For more information about a service in your state or local area download the DAISY App in the App Store or Google Play.


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