The voice of a social work student
Domestic violence is a human rights issues, it is not a private trouble but a social problem. Domestic violence does not discriminate on socioeconomic status, race, class, gender, religion or sexual orientation; people across the globe are affected by it. Domestic violence presents itself in many forms this includes sexual, physical, emotional and psychological abuse. The effects on victims are significant and can included depression, hyper-vigilance and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Before the 1980s in western nations domestic violence cases were not considered ‘proper’ police work. In the United States of America there was a historical resistance to make arrests in relational to domestic violence. This attitude was also present in Australia. Numerous studies have found this attitude towards domestic violence due to a belief that women had provoked this behave upon themselves ( Newbold & Cross, 2008 ) . Thankfully a growing awareness of domestic violence began in response to the women’s liberation movement. The first Domestic Violence Awareness Month was held in October 1987. Since, the implementation of legislation across many countries occurred, such as the Domestic Violence Act 1995 New Zealand, Violence Against Women and the Family 1995 Ecuador and Violence Against Women Act 1994 America. Today forty-four western countries have legislation against domestic violence. Only seventeen countries have legislation to criminalize martial rape, twenty-seven countries for sexual harassment and twelve countries for female genital mutation (Unicef. (n.d.). It is absurd to think that only a small number of countries have legislation to criminalise these brutal acts.
For social work practitioners there are many challenges faced with working with either perpetrators or victims of domestic violence. Essentially social workers are dealing with a well-entrenched issue. Social workers will encounter the impacts of domestic violence across all domains of practice (None in Three). They need to have skills to assess risk and ensure the safety of children and victims. A social works role is to increase awareness and education about domestic violence including how it presents itself, the different forms of abuse and most importantly, the different avenues for seeking help. Social workers are responsible for advocacy; this includes making submissions for policies, campaigning for effective programs for both victims and perpetrators (Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers, 2008). Social worker working alongside victims of domestic violence may even be required to present evidence in criminal proceedings. Social workers are also faced with the challenges of gender and sexual orientation, as domestic violence in same-sex couples is also a great issue. Recognition in terms of literature, media and public awareness is largely focused on heterosexual domestic violence. Social workers need to be aware of the consequences of this on the LBGT community. It is also important to have an understanding of the specific challenges that this community are confronted with. Social workers are also confronted with the challenges of working with immigrants and the beliefs and values that they hold.
Together, across all professional disciplines we need to work to ensure the safety of victims and to implement effective programs for perpetrators. Victims need to be reassured that they will be heard, that there is no excuse for domestic violence.
Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers (2008). Code of ethics & Bicultural code of practice (Revised ed.). Christchurch, New Zealand: ANZASW
Newbold, G., & Cross, J. (2008). Domestic violence and pro-arrest policy. Social Policy Journal of New Zealand, 33, 1. Read here
The University of Huddersfield. Social Workers’ Views on Domestic & Gender Based Violence (2016). I am a social worker I stand against domestic violence. Retrieved from http://www.noneinthree.org/social-work.html
Unicef. (n.d.). Women Progress and Disparity. Outlawing violence against women: A first step. Retrieved from https://www.unicef.org/pon97/p48a.htm