Fatherhood programs can play an important role in preventing domestic violence. Though they are not always designed to specifically handle domestic violence, fatherhood programs play a part in how fathers and men interact with and treat women. Experienced fatherhood practitioners recognize the importance of ongoing relationships with abuser intervention programs and victim support organizations. Building these relationships may take considerable time and perseverance because of philosophical differences and misunderstandings between the agencies.
Common misperceptions face the two groups. Working together, these can be diminished. Such as those that believe that all fatherhood programs advocate for and emphasize fathers’ rights; and that all domestic violence prevention advocates believe that men identified as batterers cannot change. Through constructive dialogue, misperceptions can be cleared up and understanding of mutual goals can grow. Discussions about external factors such as poverty, racial discrimination, and gender oppression can be the foundation for shared goals.
Fatherhood programs most likely will not be experts in domestic violence awareness or prevention, so the need for community partnerships with domestic violence prevention organizations will be a mutually beneficial relationship. For more information on why partnerships are needed and how to build them, check out the rest of this page.
Tips & Best Practices
- Research on domestic violence is growing. Experts in the domestic and family violence fields are finding that there are gaps in the support and prevention services that work with underrepresented populations. One of the populations researchers suggest working with is fathers and fatherhood programs. Domestic violence prevention organizations and fatherhood programs need to be able to understand the important part that their partnerships can play in creating safe communities and healthy families together.
- It is important that service providers and programming organizations come together to promote domestic violence prevention. For instance, the Ohio Intimate Partner Violence Collaboration (OIPVC) successfully collaborated with local child protective services (CPS) agencies in 13 Ohio counties. The collaboration allowed for the CPS agencies to participate in the Safe and Together training program. Fatherhood programs can use this example to encourage their own collaborations with domestic violence prevention organizations.
- Domestic violence can be a challenging topic for fatherhood programs to address. Despite the discomfort the subject may cause, fatherhood programs need to engage men in conversations on violence and what healthy relationships look like. The Center on Fathers, Families, and Public Policy released a report that discusses the barriers that service providers often face when trying to work with fathers and the fatherhood programs they attend. Working to overcome these barriers can ensure that your fatherhood program builds successful partnerships.
The West Virginia Pathways to Responsible Fatherhood Initiative operated by Kanawha Institute for Social Research and Action (KISRA) uses an innovative screening tool called the Reality Check card to ask specific questions about relationships and identify possible signs of an abusive relationship. The card also lists all the licensed domestic violence programs in West Virginia. All program participants receive a card to help them reflect on the condition of their relationships. The card prompts abusers and victims to think about their behaviors and treatment of others. They can identify where they might need help and how to receive help if necessary. One participant who completed the Reality Check card at a What Is Domestic Violence? session said he never knew his behavior was coercive and controlling. He enrolled in counseling and anger management programming that have taught him how to be in an equal and respectful relationship. Learn more in the NRFC April 2014 webinar Addressing Domestic Violence: The Role of Fatherhood Programs.
How can a partnership between responsible fatherhood programs and domestic violence organizations address the gendered nature of domestic violence?
Experienced practitioners note that although male victims should have support, it should not minimize or deflect attention from the problem of men’s violence against women. One approach offered by Ramesh Kathanadhi of Men Stopping Violence, a national training institute that helps mobilize men to prevent violence against women and girls, is to point out that male victims experience violence in partnerships with both women and men. Acknowledging same sex violence can help avoid pitting male victims against female victims and “de-gender” the issue of domestic violence.
What would a successful partnership look like?
- Recognize they have separate functions but find ways to work together.
- Provide complementary services toward mutual goals.
- Host cross-trainings for each other’s staff.
- Share cross-referrals.
- Work together to create standard operating procedures for both agencies.
- Have ongoing case consultations and partnership development meetings.
Why would fatherhood programs be good partners for domestic violence prevention organizations?
Domestic violence is a serious problem that affects families and communities worldwide. While research has shown that men experience domestic violence in their relationships, national studies point out that most domestic violence involves women as victims and males as batterers. The gendered statistics on domestic violence has many advocates turning to men to be a part of the solution and address how they can add to the problem. Fatherhood programs have a unique and direct access to a community of men that can learn from domestic violence organizations and influence positive change in their communities. Fatherhood programs are a great asset to domestic violence prevention organizations.
What can fatherhood programs and fathers do to support domestic violence prevention organizations even if they aren’t part of a partnership?
Both responsible fatherhood programs and fathers can support domestic violence prevention even if there are no formal partnerships or groups that specifically focus on the subject. Fatherhood programs can encourage fathers to watch how they speak to and think about women. Focusing on respect is an important level of violence prevention. You can also demonstrate support for the domestic violence prevention agency’s community initiatives by attending events such as Take Back the Night rallies, hosting donation drives, and encouraging men to volunteer.