BY JANE CANAWAY
12 May, 2009 08:31 AM
YOU don’t have to hit someone to be violent – that’s one of the first lessons to be learned in the Men’s Business program at Sunbury Community Health Centre.
The program is offered to men “ready to change their violent, abusive or angry behaviours”.
In 2007-08, 213 men visited the centre, with 46 taking part in anger-management groups.
The nearest alternative centres are in Melton and Preston. The men come from as far away as Seymour, Diggers Rest, Craigieburn, Caroline Springs and Gisborne.
Some are referred to the program after a violent incident at home; others sign up voluntarily. All share the need to learn more about the way they react to stress.
“What we work on is ‘how do they change’,” counsellor Joy Fawcus says. “That includes learning that violence can be verbal, emotional, social and financial, too.”
The men’s families know all too well how a raised voice or punched wall can instill fear.
It is not unusual for Ms Fawcus to find four incidents referred to her by police on a Monday morning.
Others are referred by local doctors’ surgeries or partners. And, yes, woman make up 98per cent of all victims.
Awareness campaigns will always bring a torrent of reports, and Christmas and Easter are busy.
“All the holidays are big – people spending more time together, and often alcohol is a factor,” Ms Fawcus says.
Each report means a phone call to both the victim and perpetrator, offering counselling.
In Sunbury, there’s only one service so, until a year ago, Ms Fawcus would be dealing with both parties.
“Now I’ve got Craig [Caple] here, too – it’s better for me and good for men to know that he’s here.”
With women meeting during the day, and sometimes off site, and men at night, she has had warring parties come face to face at the centre only twice in 20 years.
As well as working out what triggers anger, the sessions also work through the cycles of violence in a relationship.
“First there’s the explosion, then remorse, then the honeymoon period, then it builds up to an explosion again,” Ms Fawcus said.
Even after 25 years, she is amazed at how many men come from split homes where violence was an issue.
“It’s about 80per cent,” she says. “It’s just part of their lives.”
A men’s support group fills the needs of “graduates” from the 14-week course who miss the contact and feedback.
Fathers are also encouraged to spend time with their children to understand the effects their violence has on them. A major annual event is the family camp, which last year gave 65 parents and children a chance to play, enjoy time together and not worry about cooking meals, getting to work or school, or other daily stress.
Sunbury Community Health Centre is at 12-28 Macedon Street, Sunbury. Phone 9744 4455.