Family violence need not be the end of a relationship

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Since 1995, Brighton Rotary’s family violence prevention work has been helping families to live better lives. This is the story told by Susan (not her real name), partner of one of the men the program helped:

Susan and her husband, Jack, ran a busy wholesale and retail business and lived in an affluent suburb. To the outside world everything looked fine. 

It started on their honeymoon, when he first raised his fist at her. From there on the violence slowly increased.

Because of Jack’s behaviour, Susan had her mother look after their two children from Monday to Friday, using the pressure of business as the reason.  And this is why she missed out on hearing her younger son talk for the first time and seeing him walk for the first time.  But it was a safer place for them to be.

Everyone outside the home who met Jack saw him as the perfect husband.  He was clever enough to keep the abuse hidden behind closed doors.

Eventually, the mask slipped when Jack hit their son in front of family members at a Christmas gathering. A month later, when he punched Susan in front of the children, she finally called the police.  The police gave her the option of leaving with the children or having Jack leave.  She chose to have Jack leave.

A few months later, she noticed an article in the local paper about the family violence program started by the Rotary Club of Brighton in 1995 and contacted Jack. He joined the program and it transformed their lives.

Susan says that after the program the Jack she knew came back home to his family. He now comes home with a smile on his face and the kids are happy to see him. 

Encouraged by stories like this from its work with violent men, the club formed Violence Free Families in 2009. It is a national charity devoted to the prevention of family violence in all of its many forms.  It runs, with Monash University, research programs designed to assist counsellors in the field with better behaviour change programs and it is now developing a world-first program for delivery to remote communities over the web. This will also help shift workers and others who cannot attend physical group behaviour change programs.

Violence Free Families supports the “Be the Hero” secondary schools program of the Victorian Women’s Trust and is developing a new program for primary age children.

To learn more about Violence Free Families, click here: www.violencefreefamilies.org.au.


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