Chris from WAVE DV Centre is now able to accept commissions from Local Authorities to provide two day courses for men who want to become better partners and fathers. The Freedom Programme is about male gender based violence to women and girls. It is therefore not suitable for male victims. I am delighted that she can use her fees to provide the Freedom Programme to women survivors.
Here is an extract from the Men’s Manual which is about to become available on Amazon.
How to set up the course
I have produced this manual in response to requests from hundreds of practitioners who have asked for a different approach to working with men who use violence against women.
I am Pat Craven a former probation officer who ran perpetrator programmes for Merseyside Probation Service between 1996 and 1998. I concluded that the programmes could have been much more successful if they were run in a very different style and by a different agency which was not subjected to the same constraints as a statutory body.
Imparting rules and instructions.
Everyone who attends is instructed to procure a copy of ‘Living with the Dominator’ and ‘How Hard Can It Be...?’. They must complete the written course before attending and bring their completed copy to the event.
The letter I send to trainees when the event is confirmed includes a timetable and a list of the rules. A template of the letter is available at the end of this manual. However at the beginning of the weekend I always restate the rules as I will describe in the instructions on how to facilitate session one.
The Gender of the Facilitators.
They can be either women or men. They should have experience of facilitating the Freedom Programme. They do not need a man to be present so he can be a ‘role model.’ Women facilitators give a message that women do not need a man to help them. However I have trained several men who understand the programme and they are also eminently suitable.
If a couple are still together, female partners should not be excluded. They should be in the room and be able to watch how he is reacting. They are the only people capable of assessing if he is learning anything or is changing. They are not only watching their own dominator but they are watching other men who are sitting in a group with him who are visibly changing. This is also has the additional advantage of bringing the men’s shortened version of the Freedom Programme to women who may not otherwise have a chance to attend the women’s programme.
Many other women who have already completed the women’s programme then bring their abusers to the men’s weekend as a condition of allowing him to stay in the relationship. Many men in this situation often agree to attend the weekend in the belief that they need not take it seriously and can get away with paying lip service to it.
Six out of 10 women who accompany their abusers tell me that the men have changed for the better. Four out of ten report no change but regard the event as a success because they can now make informed decisions. Another way of evaluating success is to count what percentage of couples who attend have their children returned from the care of the local authority.
Unlike the women’s programme the men’s programmes should not be for a few hours a week. They are much more effective if compacted in to 2 days. This means they do not return to society in between sessions and have all their beliefs reinforced every time.
Facilitators should never write reports for courts or social care. They cannot assess if he has changed or not. They also have a vested interest in seeming to have succeeded and often get funding just because they say a man has changed. In other words women can be put at risk by facilitators who write such reports. The only person who can assess whether the man has genuinely changed is the partner who is watching him interact with other men in his group.
It is essential never to run the programme without sufficient men. It cannot work because success depends completely on the men learning from and informing each other. If there are not enough and the facilitator is actually telling the men what to think the programme will fail. They can only learn from each other. If the programme fails it will reinforce their behaviour instead of challenging it.
Facilitators need the flexibility to cancel a programme if too few turn up. I never confirm an event as viable until I have at least twenty five couples as I know from experience that only around half of them may turn up. The minimum number should be sixteen men plus their partners.
Always be prepared to cancel the weekend if too few attend and always make this clear to everyone who books a place.
I welcome observers but I insist that they join the groups. We are all anonymous and no group member must know the identity of another unless they are the partner who came with them.
Trainees must behave or leave. Court mandates are self defeating. What is the point of a man attending because his solicitor can appeal against his removal? If he gets away with abusive behaviour it will reinforce his belief that abusive behaviour is acceptable because it has worked again. It is crucial that when I facilitate of this programme I have freedom to set my rules and to enforce them.
I will not change my rules to attract funding or meet guidelines set by other agencies.
No personal information
Don’t let the men talk about themselves. They all sincerely believe that their victims force them to use violence. The men who come to my programmes arrive expecting me to help them cope with this horrible woman who forces them to assault her. If we allow them to air their very distorted views we are colluding with them and putting women in danger.
If anyone does not keep my rules I ask them to leave. If they refuse to go I will not continue and I close down the programme. I tell everyone to leave and ask those who really want to be there to leave their contact details with me so I can invite them when I arrange another date.
Usually when the miscreant has left everyone else remains and we continue with the programme. When I expel anyone it usually results in excellent cooperation from everyone else.
Some accuse the Freedom Programme for Men of endangering women. They imagine a situation where a man can become so enraged by the programme or indeed by being ejected from the group that they attack their partner in revenge. This betrays a lack of understanding of the way abusers behave.
When an abusive man commits an act of violence it is always planned. So in this situation he may have decided to be ejected from the course so he can blame her for insisting that he attends. They do not just ‘lose it’ and attack their partners.
My name is Laura and I wanted to write a short description of how the Red Bear Children's centre and freedom project has been a massive aid to myself and my children over the last six months.
In feb 2009 I met a man who I believed was a good, honest and caring man. Unfortunately this wasn't the case as I started to realise quite early on in the relationship. He became paranoid and questioned everything I did, trying to control me.
I was naive and young and believed it was because he loved me. In jul 2009 the first physical incident happened and I listened to his apologetic nature and went back to him within a couple of weeks and soon realised I was pregnant.
In April 2011 I had our second child. Throughout the first two years I didn't believe I was in a domestic violent relationship. I hid a lot from my family and distanced myself from my friends. As this was his wish, he made me believe I wasn't worth friends and the friends who still stuck around made me believe they weren't good enough to be around me or my children or he would cause arguments with my friends just to isolate me.
I felt numb, lonely and worthless. I didn't have my family close at this point, I only had him and my children and in my mentality this was the only thing that mattered to myself, my family. I also couldn't admit to people what was going on. I felt weak and lifeless.. I didn't want people judging me as I had children I never wanted people to think I was a bad mother as I love my children unconditionally.
Last year more violence happened but I carried on digging my head in the sand..
The first incident of the year was the end of January and quite a vile incident as well..
My partner urinated on me. This was my first proper attempt for a cry for help and I called the police.
When the police arrived I froze and I didn't give a statement. I look back at this point and see how little respect I had for myself and how weak I was towards him. He was cautioned for this.
In October 2013 another incident happened where my partner was arrested for assault by beating and criminal damage against myself.
I remember looking at my partner at the time and feeling this sense come over me of feeling deflated, I could not carry on in this situation. My children was watching this abuse and I thought of them as I picked up the phone to the police for the last time.
He pleaded guilty in nov 2013 and a restraining order for two years was put into place.
As my ex partner left I was petrified as I knew that day I became a single mother.
I made a promise to myself and my children that day; to love and protect myself and my children for as long as I live, I still didn't know I had the strength to carry this promise on.
Lisa Howard came into my life a couple of weeks after my ex left. And at this point I'd like to say what an amazing, strong, trustworthy professional and friend she has been.
I was very worried and wary of social services and outreach as I have heard the typical horror stories you can hear but I took it in my stride to prove to them I can be the best mother I can be.
Simon Bullem my social worker was amazing and was always there to help. He never looked at me in a way that ever felt patronising and always seemed helpful and caring about my situation. I thank social services for their great help and support throughout the time they were involved.
Lisa and the team were my "rocks" throughout the terrible time I went through. Lisa was continuously on the end of the phone when needed, always was there when I needed a helping hand, took great interest on how myself and my children were feeling through the up roar of what had happened and even more so put myself on two fantastic courses.
The freedom project and triple p parenting course.
Freedom helped me understand so much more then what I thought I could. I gained strength, wisdom, hope and friends. People in my position who greatly understood the importance of exactly what I was feeling. This course should be available in every county. I truly believe, looking back, freedom turned me into this person I am today.
Triple P helped me open up to my children more. I never could express my feelings towards my children as I was in constant fear of their father keeping tabs on me so I would block my emotions up.
Now a different story.. I continually tell my children how proud I am of them and how much I adore them, the change in my children has been immensely great. I never thought they would come so far..
They have completely changed for the better and I am so so proud of how great my two children are progressing.
They are safe and happy, what more could a mother ask for!
I now live closer to my family and my children are settling in well to their new lives, safe.
None of this could have ever been possible without the professionals or projects involved.
I owe them my life as they gave me and my children our lives back.
I thank them and love them so much.
I just hope that other women who have ever been affected or is going through a domestic violent relationship will find the strength to call out for help as it was the best decision I have ever done.
I will never forget the horrific time my children and myself went through but I can now look back and smile with strength as I can see how far me and my children have come and the better life we live. I want the same for everybody who is/has suffered.