Taming the beast

In 2000 nearly half a million cases of domestic violence in the
UK were reported to police. Sympathy, understandably, lies
exclusively with the victims. And so, it seems, do services.
However, men who use violence are beginning to be seen as men who
need help.

It is a priority to move a woman and any children away from a
violent man but, if he remains unchecked, it is almost certain that
the man will again use violence – perhaps with his next

However, an alternative approach is being pioneered in

Set up in 1990, the domestic violence probation project is the
longest running criminal justice based programme in the UK. It is
run by Moira Andrew and Rory Macrae, who have both been working in
this field for more than 10 years, and their colleagues Catriona
Grant and Stephen Madill.

They work with up to 35 men a year who attend as a condition of a
probation order. And it works. A Scottish Office evaluation in 1996
concluded: “While a conviction and any court disposal had some
impact, men who attended the programme were significantly less
likely to use violence and associated controlling behaviour than
those dealt with by other means.”

Macrae says: “Our perspective is that basically men use violence to
get their way in relationships or enforce their

Indeed, unmet expectations challenge some men’s view of themselves
as men to the extent that they feel justified in using

“Essentially, we are trying to work out where each man is coming
from,” says Macrae.

“We listen to men’s perspectives about why they use violence and
encourage them to reflect on these and the impact the violence has
on them, their partner and children.

“We are looking for their motivation to change and this means
taking responsibility.”

However, to be referred to the project the men have to be
convicted. Andrew and Macrae believe there are many men who need to
change but will never come near the criminal justice system.

In September 2001 Andrew was seconded to a project, funded by the
European Commission Daphne Initiative, to form the Working with Men
Partnership comprising Edinburgh-based agencies interested in
developing a non-court mandate service for men who use

“I wanted to ask the question: do you work with men, and if not,
why not?” says Andrew, who consulted all agencies working in
domestic abuse, including Women’s Aid, Women Supporting Women and,
less obviously, the army and World Council of Churches.

Andrew discovered that agencies did not work with violent men
because they felt scared, unskilled and did not know what to do.
But, crucially, they could see the merit in doing so.

One such agency was Women’s Aid. “Ten years ago it would have been
unthinkable,” says Macrae.

Increasingly it was being recognised that most women do not want
the man to leave – they want him to change.

“We have met few violent men who are generally happy about
battering their partner,” Macrae says.

Andrew adds: “The other assumption is that they are just like that,
will be like that and won’t be anything other than that.

“The thought tends to be ‘men are responsible for this and they’re
all bastards’. And I think what we’re saying is ‘men are
responsible for this and they need to be expected to take that
responsibility and to change’.”

Since last month – aided by the Scottish executive’s domestic abuse
service development fund – Andrew and Macrae have been seconded to
a one-year project, which offers training to agencies on work with
men in preparation for a pilot non-court-mandated programme.

– For more information contact: moira.andrew@edinburgh.gov.uk
or rory.macrae@edinburgh.gov.uk


Scheme: A multi-agency approach to tackling domestic abuse

Location: Edinburgh

Staffing: Fixed term secondment

Inspiration: The lack of work with men who use violence outside
the criminal justice system

Cost: £41,000 from Scottish executive domestic abuse
initiative, match-funded in money, kind and resources by agencies

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.