Our work is founded on two simple, powerful, principles.
Abuse is about gaining and maintaining power and control over women.
Orthodox models of counselling and psychotherapy with abusive men can increase the danger they represent to women. Anger management is not an appropriate form of treatment as it implies that men are abusive because they are angry. In fact, as any abused women will say, anger is not a cause of abuse, it is a form of abuse. It is intended to frighten, and gain power and control over, women - the aim of all abusiveness.
Additionally, anger management leaves many men angry and believing their anger is justified but that they need to control it. Obviously this is better than acting it out or inflicting it on his partner and children, but it is fundamentally a hopeless position for men. Radical, non-orthodox approaches such as we use at The Men's Centre offer hope of a future without the necessity for constant self-control with its attendant depression and low self-esteem.
Men are completely responsible for their behaviour towards women.
There are no justifications for men's abuse which can help men to deny responsibility for their behaviour. Alcohol, insecurity, an abusive childhood, provocation, stress, neurosis, loss of control, anger or a bad temper, some of the most common accounts used to deny responsibility, are quickly challenged and analysed in our treatment programmes.
Men can change. lt may be difficult, and take longer, to change the internal emotional roots of abusive and violent behaviour. However, it is possible. Encouragingly, the evidence is clear that, for the majority of men, it is possible to change behaviour more quickly and to cease the damaging cycle of violence which so many men inflict on women and children
Abusiveness is a choice. It is instrumental and decisive. It's aim is to control a woman and to punish her for failure to submit. Men abuse when they don't get their own way.
A simple account of Orthodox and Radical Models in working with abusive men.
Orthodox models tend to view abusive and violent behaviour as symptomatic of some underlying problem, the solution to which is necessary before the bad and dangerous behaviour can be mitigated or stopped. It does not take much thought to see that this colludes with the most common and main forms of denial of responsibility by an abusive man for his behaviour - that he cannot stop because he has no control by virtue of his basic insecurity, his deprived childhood, his abuse as a child or his low self-esteem etc. In other words any counsellor or therapist who believes this is effectively telling the man that he is not expected to give up his bullying and abusive treatment of his partner and children until the underlying problem is solved. This is a fundamentally dangerous position for the man's victims. Such orthodoxy also explicitly regards abusive and violent treatment of women by men as an illness - often in this model requiring the woman's participation and collusion. In other words she must like it or get some satisfaction from it. The position is similar to the 'it takes two to tango' model of marital therapy or couples counselling - forms of intervention which can increase the risks to women who are being abused.
This is not to say that many abusive men do not have some underlying emotional problem or even neurosis. Many abusive men suffer from some form of post traumatic stress disorder or chronic low grade depression from childhood abuse or deprivation. These may require treatment at some point, but stopping abuse and violence to his partner does not require that these problems be resolved first.
A radical model of men's abuse of women derives much of its authority from academic feminist research. It explains men's abusive behaviour as being expressive of men's need to have power and control of women in order to ensure obedience and submission. Fundamentally it aims to enable a man to have an easier life with a guarantee of future servicing and caretaking by his partner. It is also intended to ensure that she does not make demands on him. Abusive beahaviour is intended to get and maintain power over women. With power, control is guaranteed even if it is not used or exercised and it is important to point out that there are many men who are not abusive to women and who are comfortable not exercising power in the home.
From within this model men are seen as believing in their own superiority and in women's innate inferiority. This is the raw definition of male chauvinism.
The work we carry out at the Centre is underpinned by the radical understanding of abusiveness but we also know that much of the orthodox theory and intervention practice is essential if we want to help men to change. We do not subscribe to the view that men want power and control simply to ensure future servicing. It is also a major form of fear and anxiety reduction and management. We believe it is important to help men to understand those fears and their origins. Our programmes are primarily intended to stop the man's abuse but also to help him see how his abusive behaviour helps him manage his fear and anxiety.
Underpinning our work is the understanding, based on many years of clinical experience and research, that abusive men [and many men who do not think themselves abusive] suffer from a profound sense of unjustice, the feeling that life is unfair or that their partner is treating them unfairly. Anyone with a sense of injustice needs to find injustices, or create them, in order to account for why they feel so unfairly treated, anxious, afraid and angry. Such men will often create dramas with authority in order to feel their rage and righteous indignation without the guilt usually associated with such powerful feelings. The most easily available place in which to create situations where these feelings can be dramatised and enacted is the home with the most important person in their life - their partner. Much of our work, after the achievement of self-control is designed to help mitigate the sense of injustice and to uncover its roots in early attachments.