Working with men to end family violence

31 October 2018 | Posted In: #134 Spring 2018, Domestic Violence, NGO Services, | Author: Jacqui Watt

No to Violence is the peak body for organisations and individuals working with men to end men’s violence. Jacqui Watt and one of the phone workers explains the Men’s Referral Service.

FAMILY violence touches the lives of many, and ripples through our communities.

Over the past few years we have seen a growing community awareness about family violence. Naturally, people are curious. Who causes it? What causes it? Why does it happen? Can it happen to anyone? Could it happen to me; my daughter; my son?

Family violence can be a pattern of coercive and controlling behaviours that take many different forms. Family violence is: physical, sexual, psychological, emotional, social and financial. It happens within intimate relationships as well as between family members and is rarely an isolated incident. Family violence is predominantly perpetrated by men against women, children and other men.

Violence against women and children is pervasive, constant and a men’s issue.

No to Violence is the peak body for organisations and individuals working with men to end family violence. We also provide telephone counselling, information and referrals for men in Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania. We’ve supported callers for more than 25 years and we’re qualified to work with men who use family violence.

The Men’s Referral Service is a men’s family violence telephone counselling, information and referral service operating across Australia and is the central point of contact for men taking responsibility for their violent behaviour. The Men’s Referral Service also provides support and referrals for women and men seeking information on behalf of their male partners, friends or family members and workers in a range of agencies seeking assistance for their clients who are men.

We’ve provided assistance, information, counselling and referrals to additional services, helping more than 150,000 men get the support they need and improving outcomes for families.

Our primary job is to ensure that women and children are safer through our interventions. We know that all cases of reported family violence are complex and this is why we thoroughly assess each situation to see what assistance is needed and how we can support the best outcomes for women, children and men.

Men’s use of violence is a choice and men must take responsibility for their behaviour. We ask you to stop, reflect and ask yourself, what does your love look like?

If you are concerned about your own behaviour or how someone you know is behaving, contact the Men’s Referral Service on 1300 766 491 or head to to chat online. For all other enquiries, please email

Jacqui Watt is the CEO of No to Violence, which has been contracted by the NSW Government to undertake sector development in NSW and welcomes men’s family violence intervention enquiries from agencies.

A No to Violence phone worker’s experience

As a phone worker working for the Men’s Referral Service, I speak with a lot of men on a daily basis about a wide variety of family and relationship contexts, challenges and issues.

Quite often, I speak to men who are talking about these issues for the first time. In this initial phone conversation, I talk to them about taking the next steps toward safer and happier relationships and families.

Sometimes the men who call us have already thought about what kind of support they need and are seeking information about anger management programs or couples counselling. Before we start talking about what he wants to achieve, we address the safety of his partner (and children). It then becomes clear if a specialist family violence service, such as a Men’s Behaviour Change Program, would be the best support for him, rather than other options.


Anger management is a popular term and is often the go-to suggestion for men who respond to conflict with violent or aggressive behaviour.

However, in the context of intimate relationships, anger management can be limiting and doesn’t address important safety concerns. While anger is a common emotional experience for many of the men we speak to, exploring their responses to anger more broadly often shows that they are already managing it quite well in most situations. For instance, they don’t punch a hole in the wall when they’re angry at a colleague and they don’t assault a stranger when they’re angry about waiting in line at the bank.

Quite often the issue they want support around is specific to their intimate and family relationships. To make things more complicated, they are often experiencing other difficult emotions connected to their relationships such as jealousy, sadness, or vulnerability. For men wanting to make changes to how they behave towards their partners or families, specialist family violence support is most appropriate.


No matter how men have behaved toward their partner or family, I find that most men I speak with will try to avoid talking about what the issue is by focussing on what it is not, “it’s not like I…” “I’m not as bad as…” “I’m not a violent guy”. This is understandable; it can be challenging to take responsibility for how you have chosen to behave if these choices hurt people you care about. However, this can be a barrier to accessing the support which could assist in addressing controlling, abusive and physically violent behaviours of all kinds.

Engaging in a family violence specific service for men, such as a Men’s Behaviour Change Program, does not mean you need to adopt the identity of “a violent man”. Rather, it shows that you are choosing to address your behaviour and are working towards safer, more respectful ways of working with your partner or family.

Comments written by a No to Violence phone worker. Name withheld for privacy reasons.