3.3 Supporting alleged perpetrators of domestic abuse

Support Though Court supports clients irrespective of allegations made about them. You will therefore come across situations where you are asked to support a client who is alleged to be a perpetrator of domestic violence. It is important for you to manage your boundaries appropriately, and to control any feelings of revulsion, either due to the allegations made against them or the way they behave in the court building.

For example, your reaction could lead you to be under-involved in their case, or not engage fully with their needs. As a Support Through Court volunteer, you are not there to judge, but to support all clients regardless of allegations made about them. However, if you feel that you are unable to support a client - for whatever reason - speak with your Service Manager at the earliest opportunity.

Activity 3

However, there are issues which might arise specifically when supporting a client who is an alleged perpetrator and we will now consider those issues and the care that is needed when supporting such clients.

Please watch this video from Respect and answer the following questions. Please note this video is aimed at healthcare professionals so there are some things that are discussed which may seem out of context at Support Through Court. Don’t worry about this.

Download this video clip.Video player: stc_respect_2020_vwr001_1080x1920.mp4
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My name is Colin Fitzgerald, and I'm the service development manager for an organisation called Respect. Respect is a national charity working in the field of domestic violence. And we run two help lines, one for men who are using abuse towards their partners. We also run a male victims helpline, and we also work with young people around violence in intimate relationships or towards their parents.
By focusing purely on the victims, there's a danger that what we don't do is we don't hold perpetrators to account for their behaviour. And also, we kind of put sticking plaster over things. So it means that we might do some excellent work with the victim, but if the perpetrator then goes off to be in another relationship where he goes on to be abusive again, then we haven't really done our job.
And one of our jobs should be to hold these men to account for their behaviour and make sure that they're not out in society using violence again, because the impacts of that upon them, their partners, and ultimately their children is going to be huge.
There's no type of person that abuses. So we know abuse takes place in a number of contexts men to women, women to men, and also in same-sex relationships.
There are women that abuse their male partners. When you start to see a disparity is if you factor in homicide, sexual violence, levels of injury, and incidents of four or more. And then you start to find a disparity, with the vast majority of perpetrators being male and the vast majority of victims being female.
I think sometimes it's quite hard for people to negotiate what's happening in a relationship and work out from a professional point of view who's doing what to whom. A good question to ask is not who started the violence, but who ended it. Another good question to ask is, who suffered the worst injuries? And the final question to ask, really, is, who's in fear in terms of what's happening in the relationship?
No. There's no evidence to suggest that violence and abuse happens in one community more than any other community.
No. Alcohol and drugs doesn't cause people to be violent or abusive. So even if they have been violent when they've been intoxicated, there have also been times where they've been violent and abusive where they're not intoxicated.
Most of the support for perpetrators in the UK comes from domestic violence perpetrator programmes. And if people are particularly interested in those, the thing to really do is phone Respect's helpline. And what we would do is we would plug people into the programmes that are local to them.
When men go on to programmes that conform to national standards and complete those programmes, the vast majority of those men stop using violence. The vast majority of their partners will report feeling safer. Sexual violence was completely reduced. And women, in conversation with the women whose partners attended those programmes, what those women were reporting was that they felt a greater chance to be independent and behave the way that they wanted to behave.
There are some things to look out for. Some men will talk about the fact that they've used violence. You also get some men who will present at, for example, their GP's with a mitigating issue. So they'll present saying that they've got an issue around depression or anxiety. Or sometimes what will happen is you'll have an appointment with a client, the female client, and she'll turn up for her appointment, but she'll be accompanied by her partner, and her partner will insist on coming into the meeting with her. And then when you're asking her questions, he'll answer on her behalf.
No, I would advise against confronting them. But I think also what we should be looking for is opportunities to have discussion with them and to hold them to account for their behaviour.
It slightly depends on the context in which you're working with them, but if you're a professional and they're your client and you're getting some inkling that there might be something happening, then it's certainly worth asking some followup questions. Has he got any concerns about his behaviour? Where are the children when arguments are taking place? What is it about the arguments that's concerning him? Has it ever reached the point where he's laid hands on his partner?
Probably what he'll want to do is tell you an awful lot about how his partner is behaving and how that's making him feel. And if you can, you want to try and ease him around a little bit to talk about how he's behaving and what he thinks the effects of that are on his partner and also his children.
By all means, be empathic, but the one thing you don't want to do is collude with their behaviour. So if they're telling you that something that they've done-- and they might be telling you about a hard situation-- you don't want to turn round to them and say, oh yeah, I can't imagine why you'd want to do that. You really want to be clear that the behaviour isn't OK, but actually, with some help and some support, that they can get around that.
End transcript
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When discussing the relationship perpetrators may deny, minimize and blame. They may present as having a sense of entitlement, particularly in regard to women. This is often called ‘male privilege’. They use a variety of common excuses to explain their behaviour such as drugs and alcohol, mental health, stress or childhood experiences. They can come across as plausible, sensible and charming.

When supporting alleged perpetrators, remember the advice given in the second domestic abuse module ‘Supporting Survivors of Domestic Abuse’. The same process applies when supporting alleged perpetrators.

First check legal aid eligibility (can they provide evidence of domestic abuse perpetrated against them?). Then help with the immediate issue they have come to see you about. What can they do without a solicitor?

Focus on their case and help them to understand where the domestic abuse fits in with the decision-making process of the court. Finally, consider if you can signpost them to other organisations who may be able to help.

3.2 Why is it important to understand domestic abuse?

3.4 The importance of maintaining appropriate boundaries when supporting alleged perpetrators