Interview with Heinrich Geldschläger

For the ENGAGE Project, which concluded in December 2019, organisations from Spain, France, Italy and Germany developed a roadmap and training for frontline professionals interacting with male perpetrators of domestic violence.
Heinrich Geldschläger, from the Spanish project coordinator CONEXUS, agreed to sit down with us and share some of the central project outcomes and lessons learned.

How did the idea for the project develop?

The idea for the ENGAGE project came up when some of us (partners in the project) observed complementary needs around the identification of gender-based violence in men and their referral to specialised services, i.e. perpetrator programmes.

On the one hand, in trainings we delivered to frontline professionals (workers in social or health services, child protection, police, etc.) we observed an increasing need to address gender-based violence in their male service users. Many of these workers suspect or know about the men’s use of violence in close relationships but don’t have the knowledge or skills to address it with them or are afraid to do so for different reasons. And, unfortunately, there was little guidance or training available on addressing gender-based violence in men, at least in the partner countries.

On the other hand, perpetrator programmes working outside the criminal justice system (i.e. with clients who are no court-ordered) depend on referrals from other services (and men’s self- referrals) to be able to do their job. We knew from our survey in the IMPACT project (“Evaluating European Perpetrator Programmes”), that more than half of the European perpetrator programmes are working with men who have not been court-ordered by the criminal justice system, at least this was the case back in 2013.

The idea was to fulfil both complementary needs through the ENGAGE project. We set out to develop guidelines (the Roadmap) and a training package for frontline professionals to identify and address gender-based violence in the men they work with and to motivate them for a referral to a perpetrator programme. Through this we were aiming to improve the quality and quantity of referrals and the collaboration between frontline services and perpetrator programmes, all with the final overall objective to contribute to women’s and children’s safety.

And, as the evaluation of the ENGAGE Roadmap and Training showed, we succeeded in increasing frontline professionals‘ identification of GBV in male services users and their referrals to perpetrator programmes by roughly 25%!

What where the biggest issues you faced while developing the roadmap and training?

The biggest issue in developing the ENGAGE Roadmap and Training Package was probably to find the right balance between responding to the complexity of the problem (addressing GBV in men) and keeping both the Roadmap and the Training short enough so they would be really used by professionals. I remember the first draft of the Roadmap being more than double the pages than it is now. One of the ways we tried to achieve this was by keeping the main part of the text as short as possible and including several annexes with further readings or resources for professionals who have the resources to go beyond the basic steps in addressing GBV in men. Also, we included a final “in a nutshell” summary section for those who, to the contrary, need even shorter guidelines because they have very limited interactions with the men.

Regarding the training for frontline professionals, the biggest issue was to include skills building parts (through a case study and role-play exercises) that would work for different “types” of professionals and professional contexts, as well as in the different countries. According to the feedback and evaluation results, we seem to have managed reasonably well.What kind of security measures for the (ex-)partners do you include in the roadmap/training?

As in all our interventions with men who use gender-based violence, the safety of the women and children victims/survivors was central to the project. Therefore, both the Roadmap and the Training include a chapter or a part on how to prioritise the (ex-)partner’s safety at every step of the process. The chapter of the Roadmap (“Ensuring accountability and victim safety”) includes issues such as collaboration with victim support and other services, confidentiality of any information from the victim, making sure victims receive adequate support from specialised services and safety planning, being aware of the men’s possible manipulation and the victims’ possible expectations around the men’s participation in a programme, etc..

What can organisation gain by training frontline professionals with the ENGAGE training and roadmap?

From our experience with the ENGAGE trainings in the project countries, organisations delivering the ENGAGE training to frontline professionals can achieve both objectives of the project: 1) getting more and better referrals to their perpetrator programmes and 2) improving the collaboration with the frontline services. The latter oftentimes also includes spreading the news about the perpetrator programme and how it works. This can also help position the programme and the organisation vis-à-vis the services and other stakeholders involved, including the public administrations.

What would you suggest to organisations who want to start offering this training?

The first thing would be to download the ENGAGE Roadmap and Training Package from the project website and translate them to their language if needed (if you do so, please, let us know!). Then, it depends a bit on the experience the organisation and its staff have in delivering this kind of training. If they don’t feel very confident, they can get in touch with WWP EN or any of the ENGAGE partner organisations to receive further information or training.

Last changed: 04.02.2021