Assisting those who have experienced abusive relationships

By Veronika Cox

The Shark Cage is an interactive, eight-week program that provides a human rights framework to empowerment and healing for women who have experienced abuse in their relationships.

CatholicCare is delivering the program in all regions of the state with consistently positive feedback from participants:

 “I’ve got a lot more tools in my ‘Life Toolbox’ to help move forward in life.”

“I can use the Self Care Continuum in my daily life.”

“Everyone was very understanding of one another. It was fun, easy to understand.”

CatholicCare Specialised Family Violence Services (SFVS) Counsellor Mel, who works out of CatholicCare’s Devonport and Burnie offices, explained that the program is based on the Shark Cage® Framework, a group of psychological interventions developed to help workers and clients understand and reduce abuse in women’s lives in a non-victim-blaming and empowering way.

“The program covers a range of topics all with the common theme of recognising when a person’s behaviours or actions are violating your human rights,” Mel said.

“It does this by exploring healthy/unhealthy relationships, boundary setting, human rights, abusive behaviours and the impacts, self-care, connecting mind, body and feelings, and recognising potentially abusive or exploitative persons.”

As part of its Department of Social Security Specialised Family Violence Services funding requirement, CatholicCare provides group work options for people impacted by family violence.

“Shark Cage was chosen as it is evidence based, and due to its continued success and relevance since its implementation,” Mel said.

The program runs over eight consecutive weeks and each session is two-and-a-half hours.  Facilitators are qualified counsellors with considerable experience of working within the family violence counselling space and each has been trained in Shark Cage® delivery by psychologist Ursula Benstead, the creator of the Shark Cage® Framework.

“So far, the feedback for the North-West group has been very positive,” Mel added. “Participants have indicated they are not only learning, but they are also feeling stronger within themselves.”

Mel stressed that the Shark Cage® Program is different from many others.

“Assessments are completed prior to inclusion in the group to establish it is the right time in the client’s journey to benefit fully from participation. Part of our assessment process includes ensuring we allow enough time for potential clients to be able to attend pre-group sessions to prepare them for group if needed.”

In addition, 14 practitioners (counsellors and school counsellors) from around the state completed the Shark Cage® for Young Women training which focussed on how the Shark Cage framework may be used specifically to work with girls aged 12-17 years.  This training opportunity is timely as recent research suggests that violence and abuse are increasingly prevalent in teenage relationships.

The Shark Cage® for Young Women group provides a framework within which young women are supported to learn about their human rights, manage strong emotions, build self-worth, and develop assertiveness skills.

If you would like to know more about the Shark Cage® Group Programs and when they will be available in your area, contact 1800 819 447 and ask for Mel (Devonport & Burnie), Keisha (Launceston), or Flick (Hobart).

The Shark Cage® is a registered international trademark of Ursula Benstead.

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