2 Nov 2016

Taking on male violence in the Hutt Valley

From Nine To Noon, 11:26 am on 2 November 2016

Wellington’s Hutt Valley may soon have a community safe house where men who are a threat to their families can have time out.

Social workers James Kirk and Deb Robinson, who are part of the initiative, talk with Kathryn Ryan.

Deb Robinson and James Kirk

Deb Robinson and James Kirk Photo: supplied

Deb Robinson from the Network for a Violence-Free Hutt Valley says that every week 15 to 20 men in the Hutt Valley area are issued a Police Safety Order (PSO) which requires that they leave their homes.

“As far as the research has shown [PSOs are] quite effective, but not if there’s nowhere for men to go” she says.

James Kirk, from Orongomai Marae Social Services, says men in domestic violence situations need a structured place to go and stay where they won’t find stigma or judgement.

While there are community support services available for these men, many aren’t aware of their options, he says.

The men understandably seek accommodation within their own closest support networks – friends or family – yet it’s critical that they are around other men who believe violence towards women is unacceptable.

Deb says just as important as establishing the safe house is enlisting male mentors.

“We need a group of men willing to walk beside these other men while they change their behaviour.”

It’s also essential that all men walk the talk, says James.

“We can talk all we like, but at the end of the day it’s how we role-model that behaviour and lead by example in our community.”

Deb notes the lack of men working against domestic violence on a social level and says a larger, stronger network of men who oppose violence is needed.

It’s also important to remember one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to men moving away from violence towards respect.

“The key for men who want to change their behaviours is about finding out how you might do it in a way that works for you.” says James.

James’ own experiences are an integral part of his commitment to ending the cycle of violence.

“What did I do to bring about change – not only in my thoughts, but my feelings and my actions?”