Relationships Australia 2016 - 2017 Annual Report 1 - Page 37

Loving You, Loving Me: Pets and Domestic Violence Back on Track: A Men’s Group for Positive Change Understanding the importance of companion animals for survivors of domestic violence Our Specialised Family Violence Service runs the Back on Track program, which provides support to men who are ready for positive change in their lives and to regain their self-respect. The ‘Loving you, Loving me, Companion Animals and Domestic Violence’ exhibition, held at the Mawson Lakes Centre on 9 June, featured photos of women who had escaped domestic violence and the companion animals that played an important role in their lives. The Honourable Zoe Bettison MP, Minister for Communities and Social Inclusion launched the exhibition and spoke about the importance of understanding what matters to survivors of domestic violence, so that we can be better prepared to help them. This exhibition came out of a collaborative project between Flinders University researchers Dr Heather Fraser and Associate Professor Nik Taylor; Carley Millich and Julie Felus of Northern Domestic Violence Service NDVS; and Celine Graham, Aboriginal Liaison Officer at Relationships Australia SA. One of the main aims of the project was to highlight the ways in which animals help women and children in their post-trauma recovery by offering emotional safety, unconditional love and open companionship. Over the past year, 22 men completed the Back on Track program and 136 men engaged in counselling. The program supports men’s readiness to take new directions around their use of violence by not doing it alone. Men are often motivated to take part because they want to be a better father or partner. Participants frequently talk about a history of violence that goes right back in their family, and they want it to stop. Fathers tell us that they want their children to have different memories than they have had of their own father, saying “I want to see love in my kid’s eyes, not fear.” The program focuses on engaging men who use violence about the real and ongoing consequences of their actions. It connects men into a network of support, information, referrals for their partners and support for their children. These are vitally important steps to avert further harm to themselves and their families. Funding acknowledgement Specialised Family Violence Services is part of the Family and Relationship Services in the Northern Metropolitan Adelaide and is funded by the Australian Department of Social Services I was reluctant to see that I had a problem at the start of the group. During the group I realised I had an issue. Seeing other men being honest allowed me to see I had an issue. Participant, Back on Track 22 men completed the Back on Track program and 136 men engaged in counselling Individual, Family and Community Wellbeing | Relationships Australia SA Annual Report 2016 -2017 33