In Derbyshire a very special programme Changes is working with perpetrators of domestic abuse to change their behaviours.
Specialist support workers run one-to-one sessions with people who are concerned they might be hurting, scaring or controlling their partners.
The service delivered by Derbyshire Domestic Abuse Support Service, a consortium of NCHA’s Derbyshire WISH, Elm Foundation and Crossroads Derbyshire aims to promote healthy relationships. They hold perpetrators to account, support social change and stop the cycle of abuse.
Partners of those enrolled in the programme are also helped with a dedicated Partner Support Worker.
The programme, funded by the Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner, is a clear example of ‘invest to prevent’, the theme of this year’s UN 16 days of activism against gender-based violence campaign.
Dave went through the Changes programme in 2022.
At the time he was caught up in a relationship that he describes as “an overwhelming pattern of controlling behaviour and alcohol abuse.”
Although hesitant at first, Dave is very open about the affect the course had on him in the end, and how much his life has changed.
The support workers helped both Dave and his ex-partner. Since their separation, he now considers her his best friend, and they are successfully co-parenting their children.
He explains: “I learnt so much about what a healthy relationship is, how to create a relationship of mutual support. You have their back and they have yours. I’ve got a naturally controlling personality. But I’ve learnt that you can’t control other people’s behaviour, and you shouldn’t try.
“But my biggest takeaway was how to be honest with my feelings. We all wake up sometimes and things don’t feel ok, and that’s ok. But we need to admit it, to be able to say ‘I’m not feeling happy today’. My aggression was because I was truly unhappy. If I could have just been honest about that, things would have been so different.
“I talk to my friends all the time now. I ask them if they’re ok, I encourage them to open up about their emotions. ‘Cause men don’t talk! We don’t speak to each other. We don’t tell our friends when we feel miserable. But it’s ok to talk about our emotions – and it’s really important that we do!
“I’d advise anyone who’s thought, “I shouldn’t have done that” about their behaviour in their relationship, to reach out and seek help. The Changes programme is not judgemental and it allowed me to see things from both sides.
“I’ve learnt that everything starts with me. I’ve realised that I was a very insecure bloke. If I’m not happy or good to myself, how can I be good to others, and how can they be good to me?
“Services like this are so important. They changed my life.”
You can listen to more from Dave in a recent podcast for the Willow Trust.
Find out more
Changes is a voluntary programme for people looking to change their relationship behaviours.