Canberra Responding to LGBTIQ Domestic Violence

Canberra domestic violence prevention program helps bystanders interrupt abuse

A new program is empowering bystanders to recognise and intervene in domestic violence abuse situations.

The MATE program, run by the AIDS Action Council, has been designed to teach community members how to recognise abuse and have the confidence to speak out and offer help.

The people involved will then be accredited to go and teach the course themselves to the community groups and services they are involved in.

MATE was based on an earlier program called "Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP)", which was founded in the United States in 1993, and has a special focus on raising awareness about domestic violence in LGBTI relationships.

"The LGBTIQ communities have, and still fight, for recognition under the law and a level of equality and recognition more broadly in the social context that sometimes it's hard to put your hand and say 'hey, we have [domestic violence] in our relationships'," Sue Webeck from the AIDS Action Council said.

Dr Shannon Spriggs-Murdoch brought the original MVP program to Australia in 2010 and designed MATE to take into account the changing tools of violence and the communities it affects.

"I think the reality is, this stuff is around us all the time and I think often times people feel really helpless, they feel disempowered to step in and create change," she said.

"It's a program about the necessity for us to work as individuals to create change in areas of intimate partner and sexual violence.

"What MATE allows us to do is expand that viewpoint and include the LGBTI communities and a number of others that are also, we think, not just important but being affected just as much, if not more, by these issues," she said.

Dr Spriggs-Murdoch also said the course's success was its practical nature.

"It's about putting people in situations that people might see as bystanders and asking them to consider first what's happening here ... and then ask them to really think about what would you actually do if this situation was before you? What are some ways you could intervene?"

The program is part of a series that will be held throughout the year, funded by an ACT Government grant for Women's Safety.


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