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Research into raising men’s awareness of effects on children exposed to domestic violence launched

Far greater investment in training programs designed specifically to raise awareness of the harms experienced by children exposed to family violence is needed, according to new research launched today.

A research team from the University of Tasmania's schools of Health Sciences and Social Sciences, led by Professor Ken Walsh and in partnership with The Salvation Army (Tasmania), conducted a research project aimed at reducing the harmful effects on children resulting from exposure to family violence.

The research paper was launched by Her Excellency Professor the Honourable Kate Warner AM, and attended by guest speaker and leading international researcher on violence in family relationships, Dr Katreena Scott, and Mark Morrissey (Commissioner for Children, Tasmania).

Dr Scott is recognised internationally for her intervention work with abusive fathers and for her research on effective interventions for intimate partner violence.

She was invited to testify at the recent Royal Commission into Family Violence.

Dr Scott is an Associate Professor in the Department of Applied Psychology and Human Development at the University of Toronto, and is the Canada Research Chair in Family Violence Prevention and Intervention.

As part of the Tasmanian-led research project, a series of state-wide workshops with a range of experts were held, with feedback and results helping to inform the development of a training package.

However, the group found very few resources that had been evaluated for their effectiveness in raising awareness about the harmful effects on children of exposure to family violence which could support the proposed training package.

"Initially we set out to identify high-quality, evidence-based resources to guide the development of a program to raise men's awareness that violence towards their female partners can have severe and lasting impacts on children," research team spokesperson Dr Peter Lucas said.

"However, it was soon identified there's little evidence about best practice for such programs, and relatively few existing programs have been comprehensively evaluated.

"In other words, there's a massive 'evidence gap' in this area."

Almost 90 people including workers from the family and domestic violence sector, police officers, researchers and program managers from a range of services in the sector were involved in the stakeholder consultation process.

Interviews and focus groups with additional key stakeholders were also conducted as part of the research.

The final project report includes 35 recommendations relating to four key themes:  awareness raising, program content and delivery, resourcing and ongoing research.

"While the release of the report signals the end of this stage of the research project, it is hoped that it will inform ongoing discussion about how to raise awareness of the harms experienced by children who are exposed to family violence," Dr Lucas said.

"The stakeholders made it clear that far greater investment is needed in this area.

"A number of suggestions were made for how best to do this, but there was a general consensus that a broad community-wide marketing campaign was needed, as one component of a whole-of-community approach to reduce children's exposure to family violence."

Development of a comprehensive social marketing campaign to raise awareness of the issue across the community, while also targeting predominantly male workplaces such as mining and construction industries, are some of the recommendations arising from the research.

"One thing that impressed us was the sector's incredible commitment to working collaboratively to raise awareness of the harms that children experience from exposure to family violence. We're really encouraged by that," Dr Lucas said.

The project team included Drs Peter Lucas, Romy Winter, Clarissa Hughes and Professor Ken Walsh of the School of Health Sciences, who partnered with the Salvation Army (Tasmania).

The project was funded by the Tasmanian Community Fund.

Published on: 26 Apr 2016 1:59pm