Ontario eyes putting 22% more men through the program
After announcing funding to help stop abusive men attacking again, Ontario is cutting by 25% how long men spend in a different program with the same goal.
Starting next month, court-ordered counselling for men who have assaulted their partners will last 12 weeks — four weeks less than the program runs now.
The decision — made against the advice of an Ontario-wide advisory panel on the Partner Assault Response programs — could put women at risk, said the director of Changing Ways, which delivers the program in London, St. Thomas and Chatham.
“It was government bureaucrats making bureaucratic decisions. It undermines the work we’re trying to do here, engage with these men,” Tim Kelly said.
He was at London police headquarters in December when the province announced nearly $300,000 for another personal support services program for men charged with domestic assault.
“It’s contradictory,” Kelly said. “Once we have them, I don’t understand why you wouldn’t want us to spend as much time as we can with them, so we can work out what are the issues.”
Kelly said even16 weeks’ counselling isn’t enough to change the behaviour of male offenders.
“I’d actually like to see them for another 10 weeks or 20 weeks,” he said. “I can’t think of anything I can change in 12 weeks.”
The Attorney General’s office says shortening the program will increase program capacity by 22%, making space for more than 2,200 men a year.
“The effectiveness of the Partner Assault Response (PAR) program will not be compromised by this change in format,” spokesperson Brendan Crawley said in an e-mail response to questions.
The move will cut wait times for recently released offenders, who will still get 16 counselling sessions within the 12 weeks, he said.
“This change will allow the program to help more victims of domestic violence, and give them quicker access to PAR services, such as safety planning, support, and referrals to appropriate community resources.”
But Kelly said he’s not so sure.
“If your goal is to be punitive and provide punishment, this is what they’re doing. If it’s to change attitudes and behaviour toward women, I don’t see how this is going to do that.”
Though some programs across Ontario may have wait lists, Changing Ways doesn’t, Kelly said.
The change coincides with information recently released by Ontario’s Domestic Violence Death Review Committee.
Of 164 cases of domestic homicide examined over the last 10 years, no offender has been through a PAR program.
In recent months, Kelly, Kate Wiggins of Women’s Community House and officials of other agencies on a provincial panel have been fighting the government push to reduce time length — asking to run some experimental groups at 12 and 16 weeks and evaluate the differences.
American researcher Ed Gondolf, who studies batterer intervention systems, said the length of time isn’t as important as the context of the meetings.
But more time in a program means more eyes on an offender who has committed a crime with a high rate of recidivism, he said.
“It gives the court more feedback and a better understanding of the men’s trajectory of change.”
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Partner Assault Response program
- Everyone convicted of assaulting a partner in Ontario must go through a PAR program
- During weekly group counselling sessions, offenders discuss their beliefs and behaviours, healthy relationships and techniques for defusing violence.
- Program goal is safety for partners and increased accountability for offenders.
- London program serves 450 men a year at an annual cost of $300,000.