real life

The Project interviewed a man who used to abuse his partner.

He says he’s “thankful” he sought help before his violence became fatal.

For years, Jerry Retford physically and emotionally abused his former partner, sometimes in front of his children.

Now, the NSW-based director and firefighter says he’s a whole new man — and he has told The Project that lasting change for perpetrators of violence is really possible.

Jerry Retford says he doesn’t have any contact with his children or ex-wife, after years of abuse. Screenshot: Ten.

Retford told Channel 10 show’s hosts Waleed Aly, Peter Helliar and Carrie Bickmore that he knew he needed to change when his oldest child became desensitised to his violence.

“The one thing I do remember was seeing my oldest child get used to violence in the home. He used to scream and shout and be terrified and ask us to stop,” Mr Retford said. “After some years of experiencing violence in the home, he got used to that being around him and his response became, just walk upstairs to the bedroom, close the door and read a book.”

Mr Retford says he then embarked on a “long and difficult process” of reform, involving two years in a behavioural change course with Relationships Australia.

Now, he says, he is a “decent human being” who can handle stress and anger without acting like “a seven-year-old in a 35-year-old’s body” as he did before.

But he’s paid a price for the years he spent terrorising his family. As he told The Project panel: “I don’t have any contact with my kids now.”

Waleed Aly, Carrie Bickmore and Peter Helliar (not pictured) spoke to Mr Retford about possibilities of change for perpetrators. Screenshot: Ten.

Helliar appeared to briefly struggle with naming Mr Retford’s abuse during the program — referring to Mr Retford’s “I guess, violence” at one point.

But Bickmore asked some hard-hitting questions, probing Mr Retford about how he felt when he read news reports about the death of 11-year-old Luke Batty, whose father killed him during cricket training last year.

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“I feel for the victims of violence, both emotional, physical. it’s an awful situation,” Mr Retford responded, calling for more funding for services to aid victims.

Bickmore later asked Mr Retford directly if he was grateful his violence didn’t escalate to the point of murder.

“Are you thankful that it never got to the point where you killed your partner or killed your kids?” she asked.

“Yeah, every day I’m thankful,” Mr Retford responded.

Mr Retford says he is “thankful” he didn’t kill his family. Screenshot: Ten.

But during his interview, Mr Retford — who previously told the ABC he believes men who abuse women should also be seen as “victims” of the domestic violence pattern — chose to largely focus on the need for services to help men change.

“I would love to see a day where every man that puts his hand up and says ‘I need help’, gets help straight away,” he told The Project‘s panel, adding that some behavioural change programs currently have waiting lists of six or 12 months.

Mr Retford has previously said doesn’t want domestic violence to be framed as a “victim-perpetrator” dynamic.

“If we label this issue as ‘victim-perpetrator’ it is going to alienate a lot of men who might otherwise say ‘I need help’ and it’s really important to acknowledge that ‘yes I have perpetrated violence and abuse in the past, but I’m glad that somebody helped me and didn’t judge me for that’,” he told the ABC..

“And that’s why I want it to be seen as ‘victim-victim’ not just ‘victim-perpetrator’.”

We certainly hope Mr Retford has changed for good.

If you need help, call the national sexual assault, domestic violence and family violence contact line on 1800 RESPECT.

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