Early in my counselling career, I had to face the uncomfortable reality that as a male raised in a patriarchal society, I was a beneficiary of the structural imbalance of power over women. So, when confronted with the opportunity to get involved in trying to stop violence in the home against women and children, I felt like I had an obligation to do so. My gender is mainly responsible for the problem, so I felt and still feel a duty to be a part of the solution.
Greg Yee began counselling in the early nineties as a relationship therapist for large organisations including: LifeCare, the Salvation Army and Unifam. He then turned to private practice and has since conducted over 12,500 counselling sessions. Greg was introduced to domestic violence counselling in 1992 and was trained in the Duluth Model, a pro-feminist psycho-educational program from the United States aimed at inviting male perpetrators of domestic violence to address their violent behaviour in group sessions conducted over the course of 18 weeks. After some years as a co-facilitator of the men’s program, he became the co-ordinator of a domestic violence program which provided counselling and support for women and children as well as the men.
During the course of his career, Greg has seen significant change in the way domestic violence is regarded. In the ’80s and early ’90s, programs for perpetrators in Australia was relatively new, and the work he was involved in in 1992 was controversial at the time. For many years up to that time, domestic violence was not seen as an expression of patriarchal domination or male privilege, but instead attributed to relationship issues within the home.
Greg focuses on addressing the culture that creates an atmosphere conducive to abuse and violence, normalising all forms of violence in the home. There is a traditional and very common style of parenting that involves the misuse of power and is therefore abusive, damaging and a contributor to long-term trans-generational family abuse. Sadly, this form of parenting is often ignored or condoned. Greg believes that any serious attempt to stop violence in the home must include strategies to identify and address this form of abuse. Children need protection and a safe environment in which to develop.
In this abusive style of parenting, the parents see it as either their right or their responsibility to shape and mould their children into the form they believe is best. Often what they think is ‘best’, in actual fact is best for them and not the child (will cause them the least trouble). This is a power-based activity where submission to their will is achieved through creating fear, guilt and shame. These parents use words such as discipline and punishment to force their children to conform, using both physical and emotional violence. Any child who challenges or resists is deemed to be defiant, rebellious, selfish, stubborn and strong-willed. Greg has actually been told by parents who used this model that they had to ‘break the will of their son’, for his own good. They could then re-shape him according to their preferred design.
Greg does not necessarily consider all of the parents using this authoritarian model to be bad parents. Often their motives and intentions are good but they are misguided in their parenting style. ‘I have found that when parents come to understand the authoritative model of parenting in which children are not seen as empty vessels that need to be shaped and moulded, but rather as seeds in which character and personality are already embedded, they discover a relational way to parent that is not adversarial.’ In this model, parents use their power wisely and appropriately. The children have voices that are heard, respected and encouraged. Rather than trying to shape or mould, these parents attempt to guide, support and refine. They are like gardeners playing an active role in helping and watching their precious seeds grow into the fullest and healthiest expressions of the unique plants they want to become.
By focusing on and addressing an underlying culture that creates an atmosphere conducive to abuse and violence, Greg is intent on stopping the cycle of violence at the earliest possible point.