Pregnancy and childbirth can pose an increased risk of tensions and conflict within a couple. Women who are pregnant or have small babies are therefore at an increased risk of experiencing intimate partner violence perpetrated by a male partner. On the other hand, pregnancy and childbirth also present an opportunity for men to undergo a transformation towards caring masculinity. If fathers are involved in perinatal care and engaged fathering it has positive effects both on the children’s well-being and development, on the father child relationship, on the mothers and on fathers themselves. It is crucial to support fathers at this important juncture to enable them to cope with the changes they are experiencing, and to become supportive partners and engaged fathers.
Fatherhood, wanting to be a good father and reducing the adverse effects of gender based violence their children are some of the most important motivators for men who use violence to seek help and attend a behaviour change programme, making perinatal support services a privileged site to refer perpetrators to such programmes. Unfortunately, most services involved in pregnancy, childbirth and early education fail to engage fathers by offering support specifically designed for them and to address gender based violence. Perinatal services and fatherhood programmes are uniquely positioned to support men through this juncture, and can play a role in preventing domestic violence through broad relationship education and referrals to appropriate agencies such as perpetrator programmes.
The Fathers Rock project by Work With Perpetrators (Fathers’ engagement in the Role Of Care Keeping mothers and children safe) focuses on the prevention of gender-based violence of men who are (becoming) fathers through the collaboration with key perinatal services. By enhancing the skills of services to involve and support men as they become fathers, we can improve the social and emotional capacity of men who are (becoming) fathers and their skills in dealing with their (new) role as fathers.
Earlier EU projects have highlighted the need for a cooperation model among services that can support men’s involvement in responsible parenting and caregiving. Needs assessment on addressing gender based violence with professionals from health, social and other frontline services in an earlier project, ENGAGE showed that more than 80% of the professionals had not received any specific training on addressing GBV in men, less than half knew one or more perpetrator programmes for referral and only one out of five had ever referred a man to a programme. A lack of knowledge and skills to adequately address domestic violence is a major barrier that prevents professionals from referring perpetrators to relevant services.
The Fathers’ Rock project also aims to increase the engagement of key public institutions on recognising and promoting the caring role of men to promote gender equality, child wellbeing and safeguarding, and prevention of domestic violence.
The concept and methodology of the Fathers’ Rock project builds upon and expands the successful approaches of two other earlier EU projects- Parent, challenging gender roles in parental caregiving, and MiC, fostering gender equality in work-life balance.
In the initial stage of the project, a needs analysis will be conducted to analyse the experiences and needs of professionals when engaging fathers in perinatal and early childhood services and addressing gender based violence. The Fathers Rock consortium will then develop a capacity building programme for professionals in perinatal and early childhood services on engaging fathers and addressing gender based violence. Finally, a multiagency intervention model will be developed. This will outline institutional recommendations for prevention of gender-based violence and child safeguarding through the work with men around fatherhood
Through the activities and outputs of Fathers Rock, the consortium aims to enhance the skills and abilities of perinatal and early childhood services’ professionals to address potential domestic violence perpetrators. Improved service delivery to male perpetrators of violence will increase perpetrators’ awareness of the consequences of their violence. This will also encourage them to take responsibility and embark on a change process to reduce their violence and become better partners and fathers. In the long run, these activities will play a role in increasing gender equality and work balance within families.
Father rock was funded by the CERV Programme of the European Commission.
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