Those who work on programmes in Ireland enjoy the satisfaction of seeing some of the abusive participants change for the better and stop abusing. But, this work can also be frustrating, and facilitators also experience the disappointment of trying to deal with abusive men, who are not willing to change. Global research reflects this, showing that some programmes are ineffective, while others have a positive impact on women’s safety by suppressing battering. Their first priority is the safety of women and children. They help batterers be aware of their behaviour, and a batterer can learn in a group setting how abuse hurts their partners and their children. Groups also hold men accountable for their behaviour, and provide a setting for positive change. On the other hand, the abuser is surrounded by violent men, and may not be inclined to reveal the inner pain that often promotes abusive behaviour. Strange as it may seem, there are abusive people who get pleasure and satisfaction for hearing about the sufferings of victims. Such groups do not change the abusive personality type, and some abusers on programmes try to manipulate the facilitators, and ‘butter them up’. They also know that the police, if called to a domestic incident, will take a favourable view of the fact that they are attending a programme. But, at the very least, abusers, who wish to change, learn violence avoidance techniques, and are educated on abuse and violent behaviour.
Ultimately, if such programmes are not always successful, it is not because of any lack of dedication by their facilitators, but because of the extreme difficulty perpetrators experience in being vulnerable, and being able to embrace self-change. So, it is important that you are motivated by the desire to change, rather than enter any programme because you are coerced by the courts or by the threat of your partner leaving you. I believe that self-motivation is the most important ingredient in ensuring your success on any programme.
Before entering such programmes, it is also important, and required by some groups, to deal elsewhere with the mental health issues that you, as an abusive person, are more than likely to suffer from. People with abusive tendencies often experience mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, suicidal feelings, and addiction. In Ireland, as in other countries, there are some marvellous voluntary organisations offering free help for these. Mental Health Ireland, (with at least 104 local Mental Health Associations), has an excellent mental health information service, which you can avail of. On its website you will find, for example, contact information for AWARE, a major organisation with a countrywide network of branches. One of its aims is to educate sufferers about depression. It has a helpline, but its main way of helping depressed people is through confidential support groups. Be aware that confidentiality has limits, which will be explained to you by the facilitators of these groups.
Adapted from Jim O’Shea’s book Abuse. Domestic Violence, Workplace and School Bullying published by Cork University Press
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