When men with histories of family violence sign up for Relationships Australia’s Men's Behavior Change program, this is the checklist they’re asked to fill out...
This piece was originally published in October 2018. We republished it again in 2019 following the death of seven women at the hands of people known to them in under a fortnight. We're republishing it again now, in 2020, after a Brisbane mother and her three children died at the hands of her estranged husband this week.
When we think about family violence, most of us think about physical abuse. But Michael Riley, a senior counsellor at Relationships Australia, tells The Feed that family violence plays out across a spectrum of abuse – and early detection of ‘control issues’ can save lives.
“It can be a man stopping his wife from going out with her friends on a Friday night, or tracking and limiting the purchases she makes for the family. […] Men need to ask themselves, ‘What is it about me that needs to maintain control in this relationship and how can I let go of that control?’”
And it is men who need to ask themselves the hard questions, says Mr Riley. “While there absolutely are women who commit family violence, the stats show it’s very much a man’s issue.” The sample of family violence behaviours listed below is for a men's behaviour change program. Relationships Australia is one of many counselling services that offer programs tailored for everyone in the family.
Jerry participated in a men's group therapy program with Relationships Australia and this is what he told The Feed about his experience:
“It’s really interesting seeing the new guys come in [to group therapy] and say things like, ‘Look, it's not like I punched her. I just slapped her with an open hand’ or 'I didn't smash the mug on her. I just smashed it on the wall beside her. It’s not violence, it’s just me venting.’ That’s the kind of minimizing that is so common among guys – we tell ourselves what we need to hear to make it bearable to live with ourselves.”
When reading through the checklist below, ask yourself, ‘Have I done this once, more than once and to whom?’
Family Violence Behaviours Checklist:
- Smashing/throwing things
- Punching the wall/pounding the table
- Using looks, actions and gestures to make her feel afraid
- Destroying her property
- Hurting pets
- Displaying weapons
- Trying to make her feel guilty about not having sex
- Having sex when she is asleep or passed out from intoxication
- Demanding sex
- Threatening to commit suicide
- Making her drop Police charges
- Making her do illegal things
- Putting her down
- Monitoring her mobile phone
- Criticizing her body shape
- Making her think she’s crazy
- Giving her an allowance
- Making her feel guilty
- Controlling who she sees
- Controlling what she reads
- Controlling where she goes
- Not letting her get a drivers licence or have access to a car
- Using jealousy to justify your actions
- Making light of your abuse – not taking her concerns seriously
- Blaming her for the abuse
- Blaming drugs or alcohol for the abuse
- Preventing her from getting or keeping a job
- Making her ask for money
- Not letting her know about or have access to family income
- Expecting her to buy groceries and pay the bills with inadequate money
- Using the children to relay messages to her
- Threatening to report her to DOCS
- Stalking or trolling her over social media
- Tracking her movements using a mobile phone app
- Do you think your behaviour has caused problems in your relationship?
The above list of behaviours is a sample from a longer checklist that participants are asked to fill out. The checklist is not a test to gain access to the Men's Behaviour Change program; it’s a way for participants to think about how their behaviour is linked to family breakdown.
If you’re concerned about the number of boxes you’ve ticked and would like some support, please visit Relationships Australia or call 1300 364 277.
If you or a friend might be at risk of family violence, please visit 1800respect.org.au or call 1800 737 732.