A new program is trying to curb family violence in the territory, but unlike others, it’s for men only.
The territorial government is developing a new narrative therapy program for men as part of its ongoing action plan against family violence. The pilot project, located in Yellowknife, is set to begin in February 2013.
“We heard from the women and children the NGOs (non-governmental organizations) were serving that women wanted help for their partners and that they would be more likely to engage in the justice system if they believed there was something that would help and heal the men in their lives, as opposed to punishing them,” said Rebecca Latour, family violence program analyst with the Department of Justice.
The action plan, implemented in 2003, represents a concerted effort by the territorial government along with many NGOs to combat domestic and intergenerational violence in the NWT. While there are many programs and services offered to help women and children escape abuse, similar help for men – who are most often the abusers – has been seen as lacking.
“We’ve been collaborating with our NGO partners for at least four years on this project specifically, and a lot longer for the action plan as a whole,” Latour said. “We went forward with the idea that, although we have services for victims and we probably need a lot more of them, there was really nothing community-based being offered to men.”
Minister of Justice Glen Abernethy announced in the legislature on Oct. 23 that the Narrative Therapy: Abuse Intervention Program is approaching the end of its development phase and will soon be launched.
The project will be piloted through the Healing Drum Society in Yellowknife for three years, with the eventual goal of expanding into other communities. Individuals can volunteer or be mandated to participate in the 24-week program, in which the first four weeks are dedicated to assessing the man’s readiness to enter therapy, and the remaining 20 dominated by group work.
Latour hopes to have enough clients to warrant three cycles a year for the duration.
“I don’t think people who terrorize their families are very happy,” she said. “After consultations with men across the North, we know that when people are motivated to change they’ll reach out, and this will be something available to them.”
Latour indicated the lengthy developmental process was needed to properly prepare all aspects of the program before implementation, especially criteria for evaluation.
“The jury is still out on men’s programming in general,” she said. “It’s very hard to say what’s successful and what isn’t in terms of outcomes because programs are like apples and oranges; they’re tough to compare.”
To that end, Latour said various committees in charge of the program have put a lot of effort into defining goals at the “front end” so results can be measured after three years.
“You sure don’t want to be doing something that’s not working, making it worse, or (what) can be done in a more efficient way,” she said.
Latour insisted there is no use in dealing with different aspects of the issue separately.
“We don’t see this program as an island. It’s providing support and the same message to everyone in the family,” she said. “They’re not being treated together, but they’re being supported together.”
According to Statscan, the Northwest Territories has the second highest incidence of family violence per capita in Canada. In order to combat this in a meaningful way, Latour said, the problem must be solved from all sides, including that of the abuser.
“If one wing is broken, the bird can’t fly, so we need to have opportunities and accountability for everybody,” she said.