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Talk with fathers

Talk with fathers to assess safety

Engaging with fathers who use violence gives you a more complete view of the danger they pose to their partner and children. It helps to hold them accountable for their violence and makes changes in their behaviour more possible.

Here we explore some important points to consider for safety assessment. See also the Working with fathers part of this practice kit for more detail.

Be aware of how violent fathers may operate

Often fathers who use violence will minimise, deny or excuse their behaviour. They may try to manipulate and control you by creating a false sense of security or by blaming the mother or attempting to intimidate or threaten you. It is important to stay aware of these tactics and to keep him accountable.

Practice prompt

What does this father want you to believe about him? What does he want you to believe about his use of violence? What does he want you to believe about his partner and children?

Build rapport first

You will need to build rapport to help the father talk about his use of violence. Start by explaining your role and that you would like to hear his ideas about what is happening in the family. You can start by talking about what he loves about his family and what he thinks is going well. Go to the part of this practice kit that focuses on Working with fathers to learn more about how to build rapport in this context.

Talking about an assault

Be careful about the language you use when talking about an assault. It’s important to use language clearly describing who is hurting others and how. Avoid language that mutualises (shares the responsibility for) violence such as ‘fighting’.

Use language that clearly describes what happened: ‘We have information from police that you punched your partner in the face and that when they arrived, you called her a bitch. The police officer noticed that your partner’s eye was red and swollen and that her nose was bleeding and that the kitchen chair had been overturned.’

Guide to talking with fathers about an assault

Talking about a violent assault can be confronting for both you and the father who uses violence. There is more information in part of this practice kit that focuses on Working with fathers about your safety when engaging with fathers who are dangerous.

Use this guide to help identify and explore his motives for using violence and his opinions about mother, violence and being a father. When done well, these conversations can help you identify what about his personality may help or get in the way of any behaviour change intervention.

Primary question Questions to further explore motives and opinions
How hard did you hit your partner?
  • Was she injured?
  • Talk me through what happened.
Have you done anything like that before?
  • When was the last time?
  • What happened?
You have said that you only hit her because you were angry.
  • Lots of people get angry but they don’t choose to hit people.
  • Have you ever felt angry with someone else but managed not to hit them?
  • How did you manage to do that?
  • What stopped you from doing the same thing when you got angry with your partner?

Did you grow up in a home where your father hit your mother?

  • What did that feel like for you?
  • What did you think about your father?
  • What did you think about your mother?
  • What did you learn?
What do you think your children see and hear when you are hitting their mother?
  • What do you think your children learn about what it means to be a man when they see you hurting their mother?
  • What would you like your children to know about what it means to be a man instead?
What would you like to be different about how you treat your partner?
  • Domestic violence is not just about physically hurting your partner.
  • You can hurt them by other ways of controlling what they do.
  • Talk about power and control tactics and explore whether he recognises that he uses some of these.
What are you willing to commit to in the next few days that will make your family safer until we can work out the best way to help in the longer term?
  • Are you interested in hearing about things you can do to be a safer father and partner?


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