Halifax group urges violent men to get help, but says it can't meet counselling demand

A Halifax group dedicated to helping violent men better control their behavior has launched a campaign urging them to seek counselling, but acknowledges it's too cash-strapped to help everyone who now comes through its doors.

Tripling staff at New Start would still mean heavy workloads for counsellor

A Halifax group dedicated to helping violent men better control their behavior has launched a campaign urging them to seek counselling, but acknowledges it's too cash-strapped to help everyone who now comes through its doors.

"This work is so important because it's not just about men, it's about families," said Wendy Keen, executive director of New Start Counselling. "It's about making sure that families have the supports they need to stay together."

Three quarters of the men currently enrolled in counselling programs at New Start head families who have had their children taken away from them because of violence in the home.

New Start Counselling has launched a campaign urging men who are violent to get help. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

Campaign urges men to see help

New Start says it is the only organization in the province dedicated to helping men who abuse their partners or children. On Tuesday, the group unveiled posters aimed at convincing men who need help to get it.

The group is largely funded by the Department of Community Services and receives about $235,000 a year. That money pays for just three counsellors who work almost full time, Keen said.

"I certainly could tell you that we could probably triple our staff load at least next week and we would still be busy."

Wendy Keen is executive director of New Start Counselling. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

'Violence against women ... a men's issue'

Every year, Halifax police officers respond to about 2,700 calls that involve abusive behavior at home. Halifax Regional Police Chief Jean-Michel Blais said although some women have been violent against a partner, the vast majority of those who abuse a spouse are men.

"We're firm believers that violence against women is first and foremost a men's issue," he said.

Halifax police are lending their support to the campaign to encourage men to get counseling and the force has just reassigned one officer to deal solely with domestic abuse cases.

That officer started their new duties three weeks ago. Their job is to check in on men who have been ordered to stay away from their spouse or to drop by to talk to men who are deemed a risk of seriously hurting or even killing a partner.

A good start

The woman who runs a local women's shelter, Alice Housing, had praise for the effort.

"It's definitely a start. It's definitely the right direction. It's certainly not enough," said executive director Heather Byrne.

"We're not going to reduce intimate partner violence just by harbouring and protecting women. Ultimately, we'd like to see a reduction in the need for women's organizations to protect women from violence against men by reducing the incidence of violence perpetrated by men."