Programme for men who are abusive to their partners
Members of Wexford Joint Policing Committee were given a presentation on an intervention programme on domestic violence recently.
MEND - Men Ending Domestic Abuse is a programme for men who are abusive to their partners. It has been in place in Wexford since 2002 said Fran O'Grady of MEND and is also in situ in Waterford, Carlow, Tipperary, Laois and Offaly.
Ms O'Grady said that domestic abuse is very prevalent in Ireland with one in four women experiencing domestic abuse at some stage in their lives.
'This is a very high statistic', she said adding the incidents of domestic abuse were on a par with burglaries. 'The women's refuge in Wexford is full all the time', she said.
Ms O'Grady said they work with men who recognise they have a problem with anger and want to chance this pattern. She said they had strategies which would help people stop being abusive to their partners whether it was verbal, financial, physical, sexual or psychological.
Ms O'Grady said that the programmes begins with an assessment process where a man is assessed for his suitability for the programme. If a man is accepted for the programme he then joins a 32 week group programme where free meetings will be held once a week.
She highlighted that the safety of women and children is a priority when they work with men who are abusive within intimate relationships and the man's partner/ex-partner is offered support by our Partner Support Services while the man is on the programme. However this person does not have to engage with the service should she chose not to.
During the programme 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.
Ms O'Grady said that often men are deemed unsuitable for the programme and said that some men opt out of the programme during the 32 weeks because they find it too challenging. Men who won't tell MEND the details of their partner or ex-partner will be automatically deemed unsuitable she said.
Cllr Davy Hynes wondered how much domestic abuse was connected to alcohol and drug abuse and also wondered why men who didn't give their partner's contact details were excluded.
Ms O'Grady said that refusing to give the details resulted in exclusion because it was seen as controlling behaviour adding that the health and safety of women and children in a relationship was paramount.
In respect of alcohol and drugs she said that while they didn't in themselves cause domestic abuse they were often a factor.
Community representative Declan McPhartlin wondered if 'the very slack and stupid sentencing from some judges' had an effect on the amount of domestic abuse taking place.
Ms O'Grady said that in her personal opinion legal sanctions were very important in domestic abuse cases. 'It's a terrible crime and occurs in the home where you should feel happy and safe. It's horrific. The gardai take it very seriously and increasingly so, so do the courts. It's important that the message goes out that there are sanctions in place.'
Chairman of the committee Cllr Michael Whelan said often people were aware of incidences of domestic abuse but until the man recognised he has a problem it was often difficult to take action.
Cllr Barbara Anne Murphy said that in the UK only 2 per cent of reported domestic violence cases proceeded to court and wondered if the figures were similar here in Ireland.
Chief Superintendent John Roche said that here between 10 to 15 per cent of cases proceeded to court.
Cllr Robbie Ireton said that there were 'equally as bad, if not worse, women abusing men'.
Ms O'Grady said women could also be abusive but said the majority of abusers were men but said domestic violence against men is 'a very real problem'. She said that at the moment there is no programme in Wexford working with women who have anger issues.
Cllr Hynes wondered 'how many who do the programme become people who can act in a normal way. A leopard doesn't change its spots'.
Ms O'Grady said there hasn't been any detailed research carried out on the Wexford MEND programme yet but said that the results in the UK were 'quite positive'.