As strong patriarchal sentiment has been a primary cause of violence against women, activists have tried to help abusive men in counseling groups designed to encourage people to speak their emotions instead of physically acting upon them.
Nur Hasyim, an activist from the Rifka Annisa Women Crisis Center (WCC) in Yogyakarta, said the counseling programs fostered men’s abilities to better manage their anger.
“It’s clear why they resort to violence. This obviously relates to the power they have,” said Hasyim, referring to the cultural condition that puts men superior to women.
If men knew better ways to express their emotions, they would not have to hurt their partners, he added.
The number of cases of violence against women has continued to rise in Indonesia, but this is admittedly due to activists’s efforts to raise victims’ awareness and encourage them to report incidents of abuse.
The National Commission on Violence Against Women recorded 143,586 cases in 2009. Most victims were abused by men who were close to them.
The law on eliminating domestic violence dictates counseling not only for victims, but also for the perpetrators.
Rifka Annisa opened its a counseling program in 2009 to help men eliminate their abusive tendencies.
The center reported that 16 men joined the counseling program in 2009, while 12 other men had joined as of November this year.
A perpetrator has to complete 12 sessions in a program, each of which lasts for two hours.
Hasyim said he was optimistic about the program despite the small number of participants.
“All of them finished the sessions and they joined it voluntarily,”
Hasyim said that participants appreciate the anger management and communication sessions most.
“We have had many good responses from wives saying that their husbands are not abusive anymore,” he said.
However, their willingness to share power with their partners remained a challenge, Hasyim added.
Rifka Annisa spread its counseling reach by networking with the Cahaya Perempuan Women Crisis Center in Bengkulu.
The program in Bengkulu focuses on counseling perpetrators of abuse against women as part of its role to mediate domestic conflicts and protect victims.
Another counseling center for abusive men is Jakarta-based Yayasan Pulih, which was established in 2006.
Yayasan Pulih psychologist Vitria Lazzarini said that the main challenge to “curing” men of domestic violence is that they are often in denial.
“They can easily deflect responsibility for such abusive behavior by saying their partners caused it,” she said.
All of the men quit the counseling programs after their fourth to sixth session, even though the program requires 26 sessions to totally subdue an abusive disposition, Vitria said.
One early session includes a two-hour private discussion with each program participant.
Vitria said the low participation among the men was because the men were recommended to take the program by the NGOs that found them involved in a domestic violence case.
Four year after its establishment, the NGO has only taken care of 10 participants.
Many men said they resorted to violence because they saw their partners as property, Vitria said.
“It seems they are thinking that because they are the only decision-maker in the marriage, their wives are subordinates,” she said.
Some men undermine their partners not only by carrying out physical and sexual violence against them, but also through psychological abuse intended to destroy the victim’s self-confidence, she added.
Mitra Perempuan activist Rita Serena Kalibonso agreed that any efforts to eliminate violence against women should involve men.
“In the last two years, we have worked closely with men in efforts to eliminate violence against women,” she said.
Rita added that Mitra Perempuan was also providing counseling programs for prison inmates detained for their involvement in violence against women.
Mitra Perempuan has also involved men in campaigns against violence toward women, she said. (ebf)
Source : The Jakarta Post