With WA’s family violence levels reaching shocking heights, women’s advocates are hoping to break the cycle of domestic abuse by seeking alternatives to traditional incarceration. One such alternative — a centre for rehabilitating domestic abusers — will open today in the Pilbara, bankrolled for 12 months by mining giant BHP. Communicare chief executive Melissa Perry said she was “very proud” to head the organisation that will facilitate the new Breathing Space. “We know that when men go to prison they often don’t get any therapeutic intervention at all, and they’re very unlikely to have taken accountability for their actions and change,” Ms Perry said. “Whereas with Breathing Space, there is that opportunity ... for meaningful change.” In 2019-20, there were 21,398 recorded instances of family violence in WA. Communicare also run women’s help lines and crisis-support centres to help the victims of this abuse. The new Pilbara facility will emulate the two existing Breathing Spaces in the Perth metropolitan area, both funded by the Department of Communities. More than 1000 men have already graduated from these sites, in cohorts of 10. Like 70 per cent of Breathing Space participants, Simon — whose last name is not being used to protect his anonymity — arrived at one of the Perth facilities straight from prison. He had served a 31/2 year prison sentence for assault occasioning bodily harm. Despite initially seeing the program as “bulls...,” he eventually embraced it. “(Before the program) I would just not care, or take anybody else’s feelings or anything into consideration,” he admitted. “Now, I perspective-take, I put myself in other people’s shoes — like, would I like that? No? Then I won’t do it.” As part of the program, men write an “offence-map”, taking the point of view of the victim, they write out each step that led to an act of abuse. According to program facilitator Mac, it requires abusers to stand in a partner’s shoes and say, “what were you thinking about? what was it like to be receiving those blows?”. To Ms Perry, this is the crux of the program. “These men are not intrinsically bad men — their behaviour is absolutely unacceptable. But they’re not intrinsically bad. Change is possible,” she said.