Domestic violence (also known as interpersonal partner abuse) is a pattern of assaultive and coercive behaviors, including physical, sexual, and psychological attacks, as well as economic coercion, that adults or adolescents use against their intimate partners.
Domestic violence is not an isolated, individual event, but rather a pattern of multiple tactics and repeated events. Unlike stranger-to-stranger violence, in domestic violence the assaults are repeated against the same victim by the same perpetrator. These assaults occur in different forms: physical, sexual, and psychological. The pattern may include economic control as well. While physical assault may occur infrequently, other parts of the pattern may occur daily. One battering episode builds on past episodes and sets the stage for future episodes. All tactics of the pattern interact with each other and have profound effects on the victims.
Domestic violence includes a wide range of coercive behaviors with a wide range of consequences, some causing physical injuries and some not. However, all are psychologically damaging. Some acts are crimes in most states (such as physical assault, sexual assault, menacing, arson, kidnapping, harassment), while other battering episodes are not illegal (such as name-calling, denying access to the family automobile, control of financial resources). While the intervening professional sometimes must attempt to make sense of one specific incident that resulted in an injury, the victim is dealing with that one episode in the context of a pattern of both obvious and subtle episodes of coercion.
How Social Workers Help
Social workers provide myriad services to victims and perpetrators of domestic violence. Direct services to victims of domestic violence include counseling and support through shelter programs across the country, individual counseling through private practice settings, court advocacy through county victim service agencies, and social justice community organizing efforts to prevent domestic violence from occurring in the first place. Social workers provide services to perpetrators through voluntary and court mandated batterer intervention programs. As professional committed to social justice, domestic violence is a social justice issue.
Direct Service Providers (Women's Advocate, Shelter Program). Social workers provide services to victims of domestic violence through shelter programs across the country. The context in which services are provided is empowerment and advocacy oriented.
Community Education Coordinator. Many shelters across the country have a Community Education Coordinator on staff who may be a social worker. This person is accountable for managing all types of community education from professional development and training to providing speakers for civic or social groups.
Social workers provide therapy to victims of domestic violence while they are in a shelter or living in their community. Social workers also serve as executive directors of domestic violence organizations.
On the state level, social workers staff domestic violence coalitions and provide training and technical assistance to shelter programs across their respective states.
Source: Some of this information is taken from Understanding Domestic Violence: Preparatory Reading for Trainers by Anne L. Ganley, Ph.D. in Domestic Violence-Child Protection Curriculum by Susan Schechter, M.S.W., 1995.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Association of Social Workers or its members.
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