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Hold fathers accountable

How you can hold fathers accountable

It is helpful to learn more about how a father has learned to use and see violence as an acceptable behaviour.

Talking with a father about this can create opportunities to understand his own history of being parented and how he learned about gender roles and relationships. This sets the scene to respectfully challenge violent behaviours.  

It may include exploring with him how he has experienced the violence of others—to help him connect this to the impact of his own use of violence on the children, non-offending parent and functioning of the family. 

How you can hold men responsible for their behaviour

As practitioners, we need to be vigilant to the father’s violence-supporting narrative and challenge it. If we are not aware of his tactics, it can be easy to fall into a position of colluding with him. Here are some ways of holding him responsible:

  • Ask him what he did and what he is going to do to keep the children safe, how is he going to create stability for the family, nurture the children and promote recovery for the functioning of the family.
  • Report his assaults to the police
  • Give consistent messages to him, his network and other service providers that his violence is not acceptable and that he is responsible
  • Challenge any social responses that minimise or excuse his violence — including those made by police, other services, friends or extended family
  • Partner with other people in the family’s network
  • Challenge any minimisations, denial or excuses by him.
  • Use language that clarifies the nature of his violence like: ‘we are worried about your choice to hit, hurt or control your partner’. Not: ‘we are worried about the domestic violence in your relationship’
  • Name his behaviours when you notice his more subtle tactics of control, manipulation or coercion
  • Support the mother in taking out a domestic violence order (DVO), if she chooses to do this.
  • If he breaches a DVO, report this to the police. Do not make reporting the responsibility of the mother.
  • Take the lead in coordinating a response across all agencies.
  • Make referrals to appropriate men’s behaviour change programs.

Note

‘Rationalising, justifying and excusing violence almost always goes hand in hand with denying and downplaying it. The vast majority of perpetrators, when interviewed, do not provide full accounts of their current and historical use of violence. Indeed, often they significantly underestimate the number of incidents and types of violence, the severity of the violence, and what they actually did.’

Perpetrator accountability in child protection practice guide

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