New program takes aim at domestic violence

Group sessions offered for abusive gay partners

A new program is being established to help gay men who abuse their partners.

Catholic Family Services (CFS) of Ottawa is launching an innovative 10-week partner abuse program for gay men. In the past, gay men who have been referred to CFS have been limited to one-on-one counselling. The new program will offer group sessions.

The specially tailored session falls under CFS’s New Directions’ initiative, a 16-week educational program for men who have been abusive to female partners that CFS has offered since the summer of 1985. The majority of its clients are referred through the court system.

Mark Holmes, the New Directions program coordinator, explains that of the 500 or so abuse cases CFS has seen, less than five have been gay men. In those cases the men were treated one-on-one. He adds, however, that this is likely not reflective of the number of domestic violence incidents among gay men.

“In the past, I think, people weren’t aware that this service was available,” Holmes explains. With three gay men being recently referred to the program a decision was made to offer a group session.

Gay social worker Neil Slattery will be the group facilitator for the New Directions group for gay men that begins Feb 18. He has counselled gay men individually in the past but explains that groups are shown to be more effective. Slattery points out that groups offered for straight men focus on beliefs about women, about power and control.

“Obviously when you’re dealing with two men in a relationship, the pressures in the relationship aren’t the same.”

Slattery explains that continuation of the group past this first session will depend upon the need, but he is confident that need exists.

“I would anticipate this not being a one-time thing,” he says, based on his own consultations with the courts regarding the number of same-sex domestic violence cases.

There are currently no plans to offer similar services for lesbians, although Slattery says that “we’re aware that that’s on the horizon.” He notes, for example, that CFS has recently offered a group for women who have been abusive towards male partners.

“Historically our program arose out of the need to hold men accountable for abusive behaviour towards women,” says Slattery. “And although that’s still the main mandate we are beginning to see variety in the cases and we want to meet those needs.”

Slattery explains that clients can be referred to the New Directions program in a number of ways. Most attend as a condition of probation. They can also come as a condition of a peace bond (where charges are withdrawn in exchange for agreement to seek treatment) or through an early intervention program in Ottawa’s domestic violence court. Some clients also enter the program voluntarily.


The program also includes a partner outreach component to provide support to partners of men in New Directions.


Those interested in participating in the group are invited to contact Neil Slattery at 233-8478 to arrange an intake interview.

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