THE MEND PROGRAMME:
AN OPPORTUNITY TO STOP THE CYCLE OF VIOLENCE IN THE HOME
Violence, in all its forms, is an issue both locally and globally. Violence when it happens within the home is particularly shocking. It occurs in an environment that is expected to be loving and safe not fearful and threatening. This form of violence, called Domestic Violence, is more common that we might expect. Statistics tell us that up to 1 in 5 women in Ireland have been victims of Domestic Violence (O,Connor, M, & Kelleher Associates, Making the Links, Women’s Aid, 1995) with a smaller but not insignificant number of men being victims also.
What causes Domestic or Intimate Partner Violence? Some say that it is because we still live in a Patriarchal society where substantial inequalities remain between men and women, where men feel they have the right to control their partners and to use whatever means they can, including violence, to maintain that control.
Others claim that we still raise young boys to feel they must always be in control, powerful, independent. Boys are told: “big boys don’t cry” and are taunted on the playground with the modern equivalent of: “don’t be a sissy”. So young boys may grow into men who hide their vulnerabilities and who cannot manage their emotions and even project their insecurities onto their partners.
Additionally the media image of the male macho hero type is still dominant. Young boys get the message: don’t let your vulnerability show. These boys may grow into men whose only accessible (or allowed) emotion is anger or rage while other emotions are tightly contained. Of course, this will have a significant impact on a man’s mental and physical health thereby potentially contributing to incidences of domestic violence and abuse.
Another understanding of the roots of intimate partner violence lies in early childhood experiences – trauma; difficulties in attaching with a parent or primary caregiver; early loss or separation; or in witnessing violence in the home. These early experiences are particularly important because humans learn about relationships as children: are they nourishing or threatening? Is the world safe or unsafe? Are they loved and/or lovable?
At as early an age as 3 or 4 these key beliefs are set down and “hard-wired” into the brain influencing our expectations and our behaviors especially our behavior within relationship. The template for an adult intimate relationship is set down in our earliest years through our primary attachment relationship (usually mother or father) and it happens in largely non-verbal ways. This means our understanding of the world, our selves and our relationships is communicated by our parents – in their touch; through their eyes; in the way they respond to our unspoken needs and in how they relate to one another.
This goes well enough for most of us but some of us have very difficult early childhood experiences; experiences we may not be able to remember. These can be triggered in our adult intimate relationships. If we do not learn how to manage or regulate the emotions or sensations that arise when an old hurt has been touched we may respond very inappropriately and even violently towards our partner. Thus we hurt the ones who love us.
The MEND Programme is dedicated to supporting behavioural change for men who, are or have been, violent or abusive to their partners or wives. The aim of MEND is to end the cycle of violence that these people may have experienced as children, which their children now experience and which, if not dealt with, will continue on into the next generation. We have worked with many men whose first words to us has been: “I swore I’d never be like my father but….”
Men often feel ashamed of this behavior, may wish to deny this behavior to themselves and others. Unfortunately this perpetuates the problem. The first step will require courage, honesty and a desire for something to change.
If men don’t change this behavior and don’t learn to manage and regulate difficult emotions or sensations then society will intervene, through Statutory Services such as An Garda Síochána and Child Protection Social Workers, to manage this behavior for the sake of children, partners and society at large. By then much damage may have been done and unnecessary harm caused.
So now is the time to act. MEND [men ending domestic abuse] Programmes are available in Carlow/Kilkenny, South Tipperary, Laois/Offaly, Waterford and Wexford. We are inviting men to make contact with the service by calling in confidence 051 878866. Once you’ve made contact we will meet with you to talk about the Programme and to decide together if it would be suited to you.
The MEND Programme (www.mend.ie) is funded by Cosc, the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence in Ireland (www.cosc.ie) and is managed by the Men’s Development Network, a national organization dealing with men’s issues and based in Waterford (www.mens-network.net) The MEND Programme engages with local women’s services to provide Partner Support to partners or ex-partners of the men on the group Programme.
The MEND (Men Ending Domestic Abuse) is a behaviour change group programme for men who are violent within the context of intimate partner relationships. MEND also includes a Partner Support Service for the partners or ex-partners of the men on the Group Programme.
Cosc, the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based violence, which is an executive office within the Department of Justice and Equality, funds MEND. MEND is a member of RESPECT UK, who over-see best practice guidelines for domestic violence intervention programmes.
There are five Programmes in the South East, co-ordinated by the South East Domestic Violence Intervention Programme, managed by the Men’s Development Network at our headquarters in Waterford City.
Wexford Town (Probation Office)
Waterford City (MDN Office)
Carlow (Acorn Counselling Centre)
Clonmel (Family Resource Centre)
Portlaoise (Parish Centre)
Wexford MEND – 086 1075449
Waterford MEND – 086 8167798
South Tipp MEND – 087 9156632
Carlow/Kilkenny MEND – 086 8751131
Laois/Offaly MEND – 087 4597626