He’s in prison for his second criminal conviction for domestic violence.
He’s categorised as highly likely to reoffend. And the time has come, in the 10-week behavioural rehabilitation program he’s undertaking, for him to tell the group about what he did. To talk about his thought processes in the lead up to the assault. It’s a pivotal moment in the course.
“I didn’t do it. We had an argument and she hurt herself getting out of the car.”
He was defiant.
His version of events doesn’t correspond with what a court has found and it doesn’t match the version of events his partner has given.
Sarah Ferguson was in that room, listening to this unfold, and found it challenging to hear.
“There is no sense of confronting them with what they’ve done. I wanted to say ‘You’re in prison because a judge found you guilty of assault.’ But that’s not how it works,” Ferguson explains. “What do you do with someone who doesn’t believe they even did it?”
He was then asked who his behaviour had impacted. “He didn’t mention his partner,” Ferguson says. “The moderator had to say ‘and….your partner?’ He said ‘Oh ok, yeah’.”
It hardly instills confidence in programs designed to rehabilitate and prevent repeat domestic violence offenders.
“Changing behaviour is a tall order. You can’t underestimate the difficulty in that. These are men in their 40s who have been behaving like this for a long time. These [programs] fail easily and are easy to criticise.”
This is one of countless eye-opening experiences Ferguson encountered while immersing herself on the front line of domestic violence in Australia for her two-part documentary Hitting Home which airs on the ABC on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.
She spent time in a men’s prison, slept in a women’s refuge, she lived with a woman who was fearing for her life and she spoke to many victims caught in the domestic violence web.