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Safe At Home program aims to end domestic violence

A new Rowan House Society program offers help to Fort Macleod men who want to end their abusive behaviour.

Safe At Home is a free 52-week program that supports men who want to end the cycle of abuse in domestic violence.

“With this program we can help the family as a whole heal,” Rowan Society chair Danelle Mirdoch said. “This is for the type of man who wants to help himself and wants to get some treatment.”

Rowan House Society also offers a free, 10-week on-line health relationship group for men.

Safe At Home is a four-year pilot project funded by a $731,000 grants from the federal department of Women and Gender Equality.

The purpose of the project is to build a blueprint for an innovative approach to end domestic abuse.

“The program is designed to help participants become accountable for their actions, but also support them in understanding and developing healthy behaviours,” Mirdoch said.

The program was developed in response to pleas from women and children for a better way to deal with domestic violence.

Rowan House operates a 24-bed emergency shelter in High River and serves a broader area.

In the past, women and children have been forced to leave the family home, which disrupts their lives, while the abuser remains in place.

Safe At Home turns that idea on its head, instead removing the abuser while allowing the women and children to remain in their home while receiving support from Rowan House and other agencies.

“Women were constantly saying to us, ‘We have to do something different, we have to get at getting to the root cause of this,” Mirdoch said. “Because if the man is not willing to accept responsibility for his behaviour, all that happens is that they go on to their next relationship and they do the same thing over and over again.”

Rowan House has established transitional housing in Claresholm, where the man lives while getting psycho-education and support to help them plan for a future free from domestic abuse.

That psycho-education includes explaining the different types of abuse, and causes of abusive behaviour.

“It’s really educating them about what domestic abuse is,” Mirdoch said.

The men spend the first eight weeks of the 52-week program in the Claresholm house where they take part in three weekly sessions of psycho-education, group therapy and community support, as well as case management and individual counselling.

In the second seven-week phase of the program men are reintegrated into the community, either moving back in with their spouse if that is appropriate or into other housing.

Over that seven-week period they received psycho-education and group therapy on a weekly basis and monthly case management or individual counselling sessions.

That is followed by an eight-month after-care program in which men take part in one group therapy session each and individual counselling or case management sessions each month.

“All through the 52 weeks we do continue to support the spouse and the children as well,” Mirdoch said.

Safe at Home is available to all men who:

• Have been removed from the family home, or advised by RCMP to remove themselves, following a domestic incident.

• Are living independently with a history of abusive patterns.

• Accept that their abusive behaviours need to change and want to develop healthier relationship practices and communication.

• Want to be healthier partners in their current and future relationships.

The Safe At Home program can house up to two clients at a time for up to eight weeks.

“People have to be willing participants for this,” Mirdoch said. “Men have to want to be part of the program.”

Mirdoch said the desire to change comes at different times for different men, giving an example of a woman who stayed at the Rowan House shelter and took part in counselling and other programs.

The woman came out of the program with the strength to tell her partner he had to get help. The man enrolled in Safe At Home a week later.

“That tells us what we’re doing is working and we’re able to help the family,” Mirdoch said. “It really is wrap-around support for the whole family.”

Safe At Home is available to men living within the boundaries of the MD of Willow Creek. You can apply for the Safe At Home program at or by calling 403-652-3311.

Men who are waiting to get into the Safe At Home program can enroll in a free, 10-week on-line men’s healthy relationship group.

Men can join the on-line group, which meets Thursdays from 6-8 p.m., at any time at