‘The Incident’: The Impact of Incident Based Reponses to Domestic and Family Violence on Perpetrator Understandings for Attending Intervention

Dr Amy Young1, Professor Patrick O’Leary

1Griffith University

Interventions with men who use violence against women and children remains a contested field in terms of design and effectiveness. Practice standards stipulate that perpetrator interventions must sit within an integrated response with appropriate links to justice agencies and specialist women services. Referral pathways for perpetrators of domestic violence come from non-mandated through to civil and statutory orders. This is most often prompted from incident-based responses across the justice and social service system, which mirrors the dominant practice of police responses to domestic and family violence (DFV). In this paper we examine men’s recounts of why they have been referred or mandated to attend a behavioural change program. This is based on multiple data sets of qualitative interviews with perpetrators of DFV over the last four years. Thematic analysis was applied to unpack men’s understanding of why they were attending interventions. The most dominant theme was men’s attribution that the prompt related to a single incident where justice or social service agencies became involved. Men largely saw ‘the incident’ as an exceptional occurrence, attributing blame to their partner or other mitigating factors. Men’s explanations of why they have been compelled either through social or legal mandate to attend interventions mirror the dominant macro systemic response to DFV in Australia. This in effect colludes men’s denial of patterns of behaviour, especially coercive control. Thus, systemic responses to DFV are also ingrained in men’s explanations of violence and abuse creating barriers to assist men to change patterns of thinking and behaviour that underly ongoing acts of DFV in the absence of overt physical violence or in the lead up to serious incidents requiring intervention. This has implications for how intervention programs respond to men and importantly the message justice and service systems give to men upon referral.


Dr Amy Young is an experienced researcher with technical skills in a range of qualitative and quantitative research and evaluation methodologies. Dr Young’s recent work has included qualitative research with men who use violence, and women and child survivors of domestic violence.

Patrick O’Leary is an internationally recognised researcher and social worker with significant expertise in domestic violence/gender-based violence, child protection in social development and humanitarian contexts, social work, long-term impact of child sexual abuse, and socially excluded young people. He is currently the co-lead of the Disrupting Violence Beacon and Director of Violence Research and Prevention at Griffith University.


Dec 08 2021