— Health

‘See What You Made Me Do’ is must-watch TV. Here’s what needs to happen now to address domestic abuse

It may be a familiar statistic, but it is still shocking and unacceptable. In Australia, a woman dies almost every week at the hands of her partner or ex-partner.

In a much-anticipated three-part SBS documentary, See What You Made Me Do, investigative journalist Jess Hill exposes the glaring questions our nation must address if we are to keep women safe.

Why does he do it? And how can we stop it?

For the first time, Hill’s documentary explores the complexity of family violence in visceral detail, from understanding how coercive control works to the failure of policing and courts and families’ gut-wrenching stories of how daughters, grandchildren, mothers, or friends were murdered by their partner.

But this is not just about making TV content; it’s about making change. So, where do we need to focus our efforts and resources?

A national crisis

As Hill says, domestic and family violence is a “national crisis”.

domestic abuse

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, one in six women, and one in 17 men, have experienced physical or sexual violence from a current or former cohabiting partner since they were 15.

Our national helplines are overrun with calls, while police respond to a domestic violence call-out at least every two minutes.

The federal government has a long-term plan to address the gender inequalities that set up the conditions for violence. When women are not equal to men — when our attitudes and behaviors assert male dominance over women — it enables some men to abuse, preventing women from seeking help.

Australian governments increasingly recognize the need to do more to protect women and children, from improving police responses to providing crisis accommodation, resourcing support workers, and better-connecting women with support services. Yet many women are left waiting, with victim support and housing services critically underfunded to meet the demand. This needs to change.

But there is another area that remains woefully underdeveloped in Australia.

We need to change how we work with men urgently.

Many state and territory policy responses talk about holding men accountable for their use of violence. This is primarily through intensified policing and court responses, and there is indeed evidence these can help reduce reported domestic violence.

But we still know surprisingly little about men’s pathways into perpetration and how we might work therapeutically, socially, and culturally to intervene earlier.

For the most part, in Australia, the professional response for perpetrators is a men’s behavior change program. Yet many such programs have long waiting lists, are typically short-term (usually 20 weeks), and are often ordered by a court when a man’s violence is so severe as to reach the attention of the criminal law.

Nationally our interventions with men have primarily relied on a patchwork of funding and various pilot programs. Some pilots show promise, like projects providing tailored responses to the needs of a diversity of men, providing perpetrator accommodation with behavior change support, or programs that intervene early with fathers at risk of using violence in the home

In Victoria, a pilot-intensive case management model that integrates a family violence social worker with police family violence specialists has been shown to reduce recidivism. The pilot has now been extended to include a social worker explicitly focused on working with male perpetrators.

Each of these pilots is promising and, if adequately resourced and evaluated, will help improve our knowledge of working better with men who use violence. But there is a lot more we can be doing.

Molly Aronson

I'm an award-winning blogger who enjoys all things creative but is especially passionate about lifestyle design. I blog over at mehlogy.com I love that I get to share my passion for healthy living, fashion, fitness, and travel with readers from all over the world.

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