Changing the behaviour of people who are abusing their partners

Today’s guest blog comes from Rachael Bloomer, a Research Associate on the University of Bristol’s REPROVIDE study, which examines ways of changing the behaviour of men who have been abusive towards their partners.

If you are experiencing domestic abuse, you can contact Next Link in Bristol, or the National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247. In an emergency, don’t hesitate to call 999.

Are you worried your behaviour is hurting the person you love?

When people think of domestic abuse, they often think of physical violence, but there are lots of forms domestic abuse can take. It can include financial, sexual or emotional forms of coercion, control or abuse.

I work on a study called REPROVIDE at the University of Bristol, which aims to find out what might help men who have been abusive towards their partner to change how they act in current or future relationships. As part of the study, we run a free group programme for men, alongside specialist support for their female partners and ex-partners.

The group sessions run for 23 weeks and are led by experienced facilitators from local domestic abuse specialists Splitz. They combine discussion, support and appropriate challenge. There are two groups in Bristol and six in surrounding areas. We still have spaces available in our groups over the coming months. We need social workers, police, GPs, and other support services to help identify more men to take part. Men can also contact us directly.

Jakub: ‘I want to have a look at what’s going on, so that… I don’t fall into this type of behaviour again’

Could I be eligible?

Men have told us that a barrier to coming forward is that it can be difficult to acknowledge that your behaviour might be hurting someone else, especially someone you love. We understand this. Men who contact us will not be judged.

It’s not always easy to recognise if your behaviour is harmful to others, but here are some of the signs:

  • Do you feel jealous if she meets friends or need to know who her messages are from?
  • Do you call her names, or say humiliating things to her?
  • Have you tried to have a better relationship, but it always ends up in arguments?
  • You might be concerned you’re sometimes unable to control your anger?
  • Do you run the finances and look up where she has been, how much she has spent, and confront her when it’s not done your way?
  • Do you think she, or your children, are sometimes scared of you?
  • Have you reacted in a way you regret if she turns you down sexually?
  • Would other people think you can be controlling?
  • Has the thought of her leaving led you to say or do things to make that more difficult for her?

Roland: ‘Physical violence has not been used…I have thrown things on the floor and refused to leave after an argument on occasions.’

Dean: ‘I make her feel she needs me.’

How does the study work?

REPROVIDE is a ‘randomised controlled trial’ – considered the ‘gold standard’ in health research. We compare outcomes for people who have taken part in the programme, with those who have not. Two thirds of men who enrol will take part in the group programme while their partners or ex-partners will be offered one-to-one support. The other third of men will not join the group programme, but their partners will still be signposted to local support services.

Jane: “It’s one of those things that there isn’t anything really out there [programmes for perpetrators]. And to have the opportunity to be a part of this [study] is incredible.”

As a recognised urgent public health study, group meetings have been able to continue during lockdown and the programme will continue through the pandemic. All the groups adhere to safe practices regarding infection control.

If you have a question or are worried about your behaviour, please get in touch with us: reprovide-men@bristol.ac.uk, 07976225462, or visit our website.

You can also contact the national RESPECT helpline on 0808 8024040.

If you are experiencing domestic abuse, you can contact Next Link in Bristol, or the National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247. In an emergency, don’t hesitate to call 999.

If you are a professional and would like to refer someone or you can help us promote REPROVIDE, please get in touch.