Region's top football clubs back new campaign to tackle domestic abuse

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By Charlie Wilbraham, Sport Investigations Editor

The pandemic highlighted aspects of society that many had previously tried to ignore, not least women’s safety. In recognition of this, top sports clubs in the South-West have launched a campaign with the University of Bristol that encourages men to assess their behaviour towards women, both in ongoing relationships and in understanding how they may have been abusive in the past.

The #ChangeChampions campaign involves asking men who are concerned about how their actions in relationships could be abusive to take part in the 23-week REPROVIDE programme to help them to understand and change their behaviour. Bristol Rovers, Bath City FC and County In The Community (Newport County AFC) have signed up to support the campaign by helping to publicise REPROVIDE across their club and member forums.

A statement from the University describes REPROVIDE as being led by researchers from “Bristol's Centre for Academic Primary Care in partnership with the charities Barnardo's, Splitz Support Service, NextLink, Phoenix Domestic Abuse Services and Respect” and that “the programme was awarded National Urgent Public Health Priority Status by the National Institute for Health Research [NIHR] due to the increase in domestic violence and abuse during the coronavirus pandemic”.

Typically, women’s safety conversations in our media are warped by male understandings of the issue that centre it around how women can adapt their actions to reduce the chance of their being abused or assaulted. This campaign rightly places the onus on men to better understand how their behaviours can affect those around them, encouraging them to speak openly about their feelings throughout the programme. Alongside this, the campaign supports and involves the partners and ex-partners of the participating men so that the effectiveness of the programme can be understood.

Dr Karen Morgan, Research Fellow in the Centre for Academic Primary Care at the University of Bristol spoke of the importance of this approach: ‘Not all domestic abuse is physical. It can be emotional, sexual, financial or controlling behaviour, but whatever form it takes, it is important that men who are concerned about their behaviour in relationships have somewhere to turn for help.

‘Through the REPROVIDE study, we are hoping to find the most effective way to help men to change abusive behaviour, and ultimately, to improve lives for their victims, for children, and for the men themselves. Men joining our study will be helping us to do that’.

The wife of a male participant in the study described the effects that it had had: ‘This group, and the people who lead them, have managed to teach my husband about his behaviours and his triggers. He is a lot more content, positive, a lot more at peace with himself and his childhood trauma. Not only has he became a better husband, but he has become a better father to our daughters. He is a lot more patient and understanding and is a lot better at communicating - as beforehand he couldn’t do any of this.’

Spokespersons for the sports clubs that have lent their weight to the campaign have all highlighted the power of sport as a means for education and change, citing the need for such proactive initiatives that also recognise how difficult it is to critically self-reflect on such issues. The normalisation of conversations about different types of male violence and behaviour that are harmful to loved ones is clearly an important step for sports clubs whose fanbases are dominated by men.

For those interested, the REPROVIDE team have asked for ‘men who live in Bristol, North Somerset, South Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Somerset or Gwent and who are or have been: in a relationship with a female partner; aged 21 or over; worried that their behaviour towards female partners might be violent or abusive; able to take part in an English-speaking group.’ Men can also text ‘CHANGE’ to ‘88802’ to find out more information.

‘Visit the REPROVIDE website for information about the programme.  If you would like to request some leaflets or posters, have a question, or would like to refer yourself or someone else to take part, contact the research team at reprovide-men@bristol.ac.uk. To refer yourself you can also text CHANGE to 88802. All correspondence will be treated in confidence.’

Featured Image: University of Bristol


For help and support on domestic violence, these services provide free helplines:

  • National Domestic Violence 24 hr Helpline for women experiencing abuse: 0808 2000 247
  • RESPECT Phoneline: Confidential helpline offering advice, information and support to anyone concerned about their own or someone else’s violent or abusive behaviour. Monday-Friday 9am-5pm: 0808 802 4040
  • Men's Advice Line for men experiencing abuse: Monday-Friday 9am-5pm: 0808 801 0327
  • National LGBT Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0800 999 5428

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