49-50 O'Connell Street, Waterford, Ireland
The primary aim of the programme is the safety and wellbeing of women and children.
MEND delivers the national Choices Programme to support men to end their violent or abusive behaviour and become non-violent and respectful within their intimate partner relationships.
The Programme involves one-to-one assessment and pre-group sessions followed by 25 group sessions.
MEND also provides an integrated Partner Support Service for the partners or ex-partners or the men on the programme.
Seán Cooke, CEO of Men’s Development Network, speaks to our Director of Services (Client Supports) John Doyle and Owen O’Neill, outgoing CEO of MOVE Ireland, about their collaboration in delivering the national Domestic Violence Intervention Programme. This conversation was had as part of our 25th-anniversary series highlighting some of the key pieces of work we do to promote men’s health and wellbeing, advance gender equality, and to prevent gender-based violence; with the primary aim of our MEND (Men Ending Domestic Abuse) Programme being the protection of women and girls.
The primary aim of the MEND (Men Ending Domestic Violence) Programme is the safety and welfare of women and children.
However, the behaviour change programme offered to men who have been violent or abusive in their intimate partner relationships not only increases the safety of women and children but increases men’s capacity and willingness to behave in respectful and non-violent ways in their relationships.
Participation in the programme also has an impact on mental health, e.g., lessening feelings of depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation.
The programmes begin with an assessment process where a man is assessed for his suitability for the programme. If a man is accepted onto the programme he will then complete a maximum of 10 one-to-one pre-group sessions before beginning the weekly group programme.
Meetings will be held once a week and there is no cost to attend this service; however, donations are always welcome.
This service is for men who want to change their abusive behaviour and to learn how to have relationships that are based on love and trust. Meetings will be held in a non-judgmental setting for men who want to change their behaviour and improve their relationships.
Men will be encouraged to be self-aware, self-reflective and will be appropriately and constructively challenged about their abusive behaviour and supported to make changes that will keep their partners or ex-partners, their children and themselves safe.
Apart from the physical impact of violent behaviour on your partner, the psychological and emotional impact or abuse can be as damaging or even more damaging. Your partner may feel that she is “walking on eggshells” around you.
Adults often dismiss the impact of domestic violence or abuse on children. The truth is the impact is significant and the younger the child, the greater the impact.
Violent/abusive behaviour towards your partner will also take its toll on you and may well lead to depression, anxiety and high levels of stress. So your short-term need to be in control or vent your anger or rage will have long-term repercussions for you as well as your partner and children.
A whole new generation of children, including your own sons and daughters will benefit from the choices you make now.
The Programme we deliver is called: Choices and it has 3 stages after a man has been referred or referred himself to MEND. The first stage is the Assessment.
The Assessment takes an average of 2 hour-long one-to-one sessions and the primary aim of the Assessment is to work out with you if the Choices Programme is suitable for you at this time. If you have been referred from an Agency like Tusla or the Probation Service we are interested to know if you’ve reflected on your behaviour and are willing to engage in a programme that would support you to change aspects of your behaviour that are violent or abusive. We also need to know about issues that might be obstacles to your full participation in the programme and where you might need extra support e.g., addiction issues, mental health challenges, learning difficulties etc. It is important that we identify any practical matters that might make participation in the programme unrealistic e.g., transport, shift-work, homelessness. Violent and/or abusive behaviour impacts on others spouses/partners and children together we will assess the level of risk posed by your behaviour and in the one-to-one phase of the programme we will work with you to develop a safety plan that will mean you are of less risk to others and to yourself. While the Assessment is confidential there are limits to that confidentiality and we will explain these limits to you and if you are in agreement, we will sign off on a Confidentiality Agreement. We provide a one-to-one service to your partner or ex-partner and at the Assessment Stage we look for contact details of your partner or ex-partner. Often men feel challenged by this however the only purpose of this contact is ensuring your partner remains safe during your participation on the programme. If together we decide you are suitable you then move into the one-to-one stage of the Choices Programme.
2) The Pre-Group One-to-Ones
Over the course of the programme you will have a number of one-to-one sessions each of an hours duration, some to prepare you for the group stage of the programme and if necessary some one-to-ones during the group stage to review how you’re getting on in the process of change. The purpose of the one-to-one sessions before the group stage is to prepare you for entering the group, support your motivation for change, Ensure that you remaining committed to taking responsibility for your violent or abusive behaviour and learning skills that will help you remain non-violent and respectful e.g., Taking Time Out correctly and not “storming out”.
3) The Group Stage
The group stage of the programme gives you a unique opportunity in a supportive atmosphere to learn new ways of behaviour that will be healthier for you and more respectful to others, in particular your partner and/or children. Together with trained facilitators and other men who have similar issues you will meet for 23 weekly sessions of two hours duration, normally happening from 7.00 – 9.00pm. Often men are anxious as they begin the group sessions however the majority of men find it to be the stage of most benefit to them and their families. The group stage comprises of 6 modules each taking between 3 and 5 weekly sessions, the modules are: Respect, Support and Trust, Gender, Parenting, Sexual Respect and Emotional Intimacy. These modules give men an opportunity to look in a very practical and experiential way at issues that are linked to the violent or abusive behaviour that lead to them referring or being referred to the programme. At the end of the group phase each person will, within the group, complete a feedback form to give us information so that we can continue to improve our programme, in addition we will have 2 follow-up sessions with you during the months following your completion of the group programme to support your behaviour change process.
As you have experienced violence or abuse from you partner or ex-partner in a situation where you expected to be safe and respected, the first thing you need to know is that the primary aim of the programme is to increase the safety of women and children.
This is why a Partner Support Worker has contacted you. Your partner or ex-partner has referred himself or been referred to the programme and we would like to work with you to support your safety and the safety of your children.
Having made contact with you by phone, if you are willing to engage with us, the Partner Support Worker will set up a face-to-face meeting with you in a safe and confidential place. This meeting will last an hour or so and together you will look at your experience of violence and abuse so that a Safety Plan can be made and we can have an idea of the work that needs to be done with your (ex-) partner and the level of risk he poses. Don’t be surprised that early in this meeting you will be asked to sign a Consent Form so that you know that whatever you discuss is confidential even though there some limits to that confidentiality. If we have concerns that there is an immediate risk of harm to you, your children or another person we may have to inform the appropriate authorities. The programme your (ex-) partner is attending focuses on both challenging his behaviour but also providing him with skills and support to change his behaviour. However, we can make no guarantees that your (ex-) partner will engage fully and openly or that he will complete the programme or indeed if he completes that he will change his behaviour significantly. So while our facilitators do their best to work with the men the role of the Partner Support Worker is to help keep you and your children safe, to give you realistic expectations about the outcome of the programme and to keep you focused on actions that will keep you safe and empowered. The programme does not aim to keep families together but rather to challenge men to be more respectful and non-violent in their relationships and to enhance the safety of women and children. Your Partner Support Worker will also signpost you to other services that may be of support to you as you deal with the impact of violence and abuse on you and your children.
Your Partner Support Worker may recommend a second meeting and on completion of this meeting she will agree with you a time that she will contact you, by phone, on a weekly basis while your (ex-) partner is on the programme and up to 3 months after completes or discontinues his engagement in the programme.
Your Partner Support Worker will keep you informed generally about the programme and inform you, when appropriate, about critical issues being dealt with in the programme that might impact on your partner. However the programme protects the confidentiality of both men and women and we only share information with you about your partner where we have concerns about increased risk or we need to inform you about specific areas being covered in the men’s programme that may be helpful for you to know about.
When you have acknowledged what is happening and although you probably feel bad about your behaviour, there is often a resistance to taking steps to get support to change this behaviour.
It is normal to feel nervous or anxious about disclosing to another person behaviour we are not proud of and would rather keep hidden.
You will probably begin to place the blame on your partner or your children because you will need to find some way to feel better about yourself.
You will find yourself thinking: “If only she didn’t nag me so much, I wouldn’t lose the head”; “she’s always pushing my buttons”; “if only the place wasn’t such a mess and the children so loud,” etc.
You will probably begin to justify your actions: “I have a short fuse”; “I just pop when the pressure gets too much”; “If I didn’t have money worries, this would never happen.”
You may promise yourself and others that it will never happen again but if you haven’t taken responsibility for your behaviour and taken steps to change that behaviour then it will happen again.
The choice is yours. Take action.
Men’s Development Network, through the requirements of the General Data Protection Regulation 2018 and the Irish Data Protection Act 2018, is committed to protecting and respecting your privacy. We wish to be transparent on how we process personal data and show you that we are accountable with the GDPR in relation to not only processing your data but ensuring you understand your rights as a client.
Your data will be processed only in ways compatible with the purposes for which it was given and as outlined in our Data Privacy Notice and this will be given to all our clients at the time of data collection. Please refer to our website www.mensnetwork.ie for information. If this medium is not suitable, we will ensure you can easily receive a hard copy. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any concerns about how your personal data is handled.
The MEND Programme offers a parallel one-to-one support service to partners or ex-partners of the men on the programme.
If you are or have been in a violent/abusive relationship, here are some useful contacts:
In this two-part documentary series 'UPFRONT: Domestic Abuse' from 2017, journalist Della Kilroy looks at the situation faced by young domestic abuse survivors in Ireland and meets a young male perpetrator of abuse.