Abuse intervention helps save family

19:21, Nov 18 2012

More South Canterbury men are reaching out for help with their anger.

Figures show 236 people have received assistance through the South Canterbury Violence Intervention Project in the past 12 months - double the number of referrals 10 years ago.

Bruce* is 55 and has a history of family violence.

Now he has been given a chance to break the cycle of abuse with the South Canterbury Violence Intervention Project (SCVIP). He completed 47 hours' training through a 14-week course three years ago but that was just the beginning.

Bruce maintains contact with the organisation and still uses its services on a regular basis. And it has helped save his relationship and change a pattern of abuse, he says.

"I came from a rough childhood, there was a lot of violence in my family and I never dealt with those issues."


It was at 53 when he recognised his violence as a festering wound. His partner and two stepsons had become the target of his temper.

"I was taking my past anger out on Sally* and the boys more frequently; it would only take little things and I would fly off the handle.

"My fuse was getting shorter and shorter. It was probably my past coming back to haunt me more and more and my mood swings became intense."

Bruce would swear and yell at his stepsons, put them down, and then blame Sally. "It had always been simmering."

It was only when Child, Youth and Family intervened that the consequences became real. The boys had been talking to their school teachers.

"We had to break up; what brought it to a head was CYF getting involved through the school."

Bruce was referred to the South Canterbury intervention project through the process.

"Bruce had to move out and they took the boys away from us," Sally says.

"They deemed us unfit."

Sally was referred to a 10-week programme with Women's Refuge. Neither of them knew there was help before intervention.

"I thought they were going to lock me up when they referred me to anger management," Bruce says.

"I learned how to deal with anger; I gained a massive insight into how I was hurting a lot of people I shouldn't hurt, and also hurting myself.

"I got a lot of coping mechanisms and was able to talk about where my anger was coming from."

He says some of the issues were too sensitive to bring up in group sessions and were followed up in one-to-one meetings.

"I got side by side with my past; you carry anger long enough and it will rear its ugly head. I didn't realise I was hurting other people."

The couple say they had to prove they had sorted out their problems and remained under supervision during the process of getting their boys back.

"We had to prove to CYF we had sorted our issues out and we were put under their wing for quite a while afterwards," Bruce says.

"It affected the boys quite badly; I try and say to myself that I don't want them to go through what I went through.

"I needed help to get through the cycle; you can't do it on your own."

Bruce and Sally's sons have since taken part in the South Canterbury Violence Intervention Project's Highway 2 children's programme.

The youth programme aims to support young people to understand and manage the anger process and also includes additional outreach-based work.

"We referred them when we realised they were venting out like their dad," Sally says.

Now the family sits down to dinner each night and talks.

"Communication is key; sometimes anger can be righteous," Bruce says.

"You need to be able to control it and let everyone know why you are angry."

"We sit at the table every night and talk with the boys about any concerns," Sally says.

Bruce still uses the project and the one-to-one services it offers.

"A lot has changed; we're all happy and we are not walking around on egg shells.

"Our communication has opened up and we can express our emotions; I put it down to everything the intervention project has taught me."

Those changes include more involvement in activities with his sons.

"I've recognised my own faults and I've recognised my past. It could have ended up a lot different; someone could have got seriously hurt or worse.

"Now I know that we don't live in an angry household and our family has changed so much."

* Names changed to protect identity.

SCVIP is an approved charity which relies on funding from the Justice Ministry, Corrections Department and Child Youth and Family.

It can be contacted on 687 7376 or email scvip@xtra.co.nz.

The Timaru Herald