A Somerset study into the most effective way to tackle domestic abuse has received a positive response from its first participants. Barnardo’s in Somerset has been funded by the University of Bristol to deliver weekly groups to local men and improve safety for their partners, ex-partners and children.
REPROVIDE is a two-year University of Bristol research study which began in March and offers weekly sessions of education and support. The first group of men have completed some of their sessions and are now encouraging others to step forward and take part.
One man said: "It helps to share the problems. I should’ve done something like this ten years ago." Another said: "You learn about yourself, confront yourself and your behaviour. You can be honest about how you’ve behaved and be supported to change."
Barnardo’s is now keen to recruit more men from across the county for the second series of sessions, which begin next week.
The charity is looking for men who are aged 21 or over and who are worried that their own behaviour in relationships with women might be abusive.
Men can refer themselves, but the charity is also keen for GPs, social workers, health visitors, police officers and domestic abuse services to support men to get in touch with the ‘Reprovide’ team.
Michael Hammond, Barnardo’s children’s services manager, said: "The REPROVIDE study tests the effectiveness of group behaviour change programmes to see if they really do help men to reduce violence and abuse in their relationships.
"The first group featured a mix of people from across the social spectrum. Attendees included men aged from their 20s to their 60s, from manual workers to professionals.
"It shows that domestic abuse can affect families of all kinds, and we know that problems can escalate during lockdowns when people are spending more time together and in very challenging circumstances, so this new study is very timely."
Abuse can include physically hurting or threatening to hurt a partner, intimidation, humiliation, name-calling, jealousy and control, as well as damaging property.
Men who are interested in taking part in the study will receive further information and then be invited to a meeting to assess their eligibility for the programme. Following completion of a questionnaire, they will be allocated to one of two groups - a weekly evening group in Taunton or Shepton Mallet, or a ’control’ group with no additional support.
The weekly groups will discuss conflict resolution, consequences, healthy relationships, gender-based beliefs and expectations, and values and aspirations. Particular importance is attached to discussing the impact of abuse on partners but especially children, as this is often recognised as one of the key motivations for perpetrators to change their behaviour.
Michael added: "Both groups will be equally valuable in helping us to assess whether group domestic abuse prevention programmes can make a difference, and we can also signpost partners and ex-partners to other sources of support.
"This particular trial is focused on men abusing women but, if successful, we hope it will attract further funding for similar trials for other groups.
"Domestic abuse poisons thousands of childhoods every year and needs to stop."
Gene Feder , Professor of Primary Care at the University of Bristol and chief investigator of REPROVIDE, added: "Our trial is testing a programme that aims to help men who use abuse in their relationships change their behaviour, as well as supporting their partners or ex-partners with whom they are still in contact.
"Particularly in a year when the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a harsh light on the incidence and impact of domestic violence, this trial is even more important.
"We appreciate our close collaboration with Barnardo’s in Somerset that is delivering the programme alongside the three other sites in the South West and South Wales."