• On mobile? Watch the educational video here.

The educational video above, featuring actors, was produced by the New Directions Partner Assault Rehab program.

A rehabilitation program for spouses charged with domestic assault faces cutbacks, just as three major cases of domestic assault dominate Ottawa’s news headlines.

New Directions Partner Assault Rehab Program, run for the past 29 years, is the only one of its kind available for offenders of spousal assault in Ottawa, according to co-ordinator Mark Holmes.

But Holmes, who has worked at New Directions since the program’s inception, says the number of sessions available to a client has been reduced from 16 to 12 weeks.

He said the program, which was once as long as 24 weeks, is now expected to treat a variety of men and women with the same approach. 

Clients of all ages, backgrounds

“One of my concerns isn’t just the reduction to 12 weeks, but it’s this ‘one size fits all’ approach that doesn’t allow us to distinguish between these two groups of individuals and then provide targeted treatment - in the same way you wouldn’t treat heartburn the same way as you would treat a heart attack,” Holmes told Hallie Cotnam, host of CBC Radio’s Ottawa Morning.

“You wouldn’t necessarily work with someone where it’s a more isolated, situational violent episode as you would with someone where that push was embedded in a larger context of power or control.”

A large majority of the clients are there on the condition of a court order, and most are men.

The program holds weekly group education and counselling sessions that aim to instill a sense of accountability and personal responsibility for those who offend, Holmes said. The sessions also help offenders identify warning signs of abusive behaviour and then learn to respond in more effective ways.

Holmes said those at a higher risk to re-offend will bear the brunt of the cutbacks. He admitted there is little sympathy for this group of people, but he’s worked to eliminate that stigma.

Still, he said referrals to the program have decreased for five consecutive years.

New Directions Partner Assault Rehab Program

  • Part of Catholic Family Service Ottawa.
  • 85 per cent men, 15 per cent women.
  • As of April 1, reduced from 16 to 12 weeks.
  • Started in 1985.
  • Treated about 11,000 people since inception.
  • 550 to 650 people referred to program each year.
  • Clients from 18 to 70 years old.

Source: Mark Holmes, program co-ordinator

3 high-profile trials with spousal assault allegations

With one murder trial and two attempted murder trials in Ottawa related to alleged domestic assault, the issue has been shifted to the forefront of many people’s minds.

Holmes said he wonders how these cases might have been prevented.

“You always wonder what might have been done that could have either provided additional security and safety to the victim, or if there would have been a way to reach out and engage,” he said.

Holmes also said it’s not easy to spot a potential or current offender of spousal assault, even for other family members, because offenders often hide violent behaviour.

“The kinds of violence and abuse and other kinds of controlling behaviours that are exhibited by men are private. They are behind closed doors. I think they will often present themselves as a different type of person to work colleagues or neighbours or other family members,” he said.