Otherwise referred to as family violence, spousal abuse, intimate partner violence and domestic abuse, Domestic violence is a behavioral abusive pattern by both or person in an intimate relationship such as cohabitation, marriage family or dating. It takes many forms including domineering and controlling patterns, threats of abuse (emotional, physical or emotional), physical aggressions (biting, hitting, slapping or kicking), intimidation, and covert abuse, which includes deprivation of financial assistance and neglect. This paper discuses domestic violence as a social issue, focusing on the social policies and workers’ contribution to its alleviation. A look into the history of domestic violence reveals tremendous improvements in this issue, in regards to its severity, frequency of occurrence and nature. Traditional societies had accepted domestic violence, specifically wife battery. Because of this, perpetrators faced no consequences whatsoever. However, with the origin of feminist movements and equality activism, awareness and education, domestic violence achieved publicity as a social concern. With the need to understand perpetrators, and help people change their perceptive on domestic violence, it became necessary for Governments and educational institutions to incorporate it into curriculums. Soon, the government, with the help of human rights groups, placed policies to warn against domestic violence. These policies also protect victims by offering guidelines on how and where to seek help.
This issue has received global attention, especially from human and women’s rights activists. There are different perceptions of the issue regarding its definition, awareness, and documentation, in different countries. However, its general definition is that it the infliction of physical or emotional pain by one partner to another. Physical abuse involves contact, thus causing bodily harm such as injury and pain. It includes hitting, biting, slapping, choking and pushing. it may also include denial of medical care when a victim is in need or deprivation of other necessary functions such as sleep. Recent studies have also included the psychological harm that an abuser puts into the victim by inflicting pain on other targets such as pets and children. Sexual abuse refers to the use of force or threats of force in obtaining sex, where the other party is not willing. Another category of domestic violence is emotional /mental/ psychological abuse, which includes public or private humiliation, information denial, control, isolation, blackmail or denial to money resources. Emotional abuse may be defines as a behavioral pattern that threatens, controls freedom, intimidates and undermines the self worth of an individual. Damaging an individual’s self-esteem by constant criticism is also a form of emotional abuse.
In addition to the above forms of violence, there is also economic abuse, which includes one partner controlling the access of the other to financial means, as well as exploiting a spouse’s financial resources. In an attempt to understand this issue and make it end, many theorists have tried to explain its causes. These theories include social, psychological, behavioral and resource theories. No single theory can effectively explain domestic violence. Social exchange theory explains that the pursuit of rewards and avoidance of costs and punishment are the fundamental drivers in human relationships. In this case, costs include marriage dissolution, loss of personal status, or defense by the victim. Social learning theory, on the other hand, explains that violence is learnt. It suggests that when a person is rewarded after being violent, they soon become violent. Consequently, they can learn violence by imitating violent people. This explains why children who witness violence usually end up being violent. The feminist approach argues that domestic violence stems from patriarchal societies and practices, which assign responsibilities and control to men. Finally, the psychological explanations dwell on the personalities of the barterer, and their mental health. It explains that domestic violence results from faulty personalities and psychological make up.
Domestic violence is present in all countries, cultures and age group. Therefore, it affects a wide fraction of a country’s population, from all religious, educational and socio-economic backgrounds. In addition to this, it happens in both heterosexual and same sex relationships. Those at greater risks include women with lesser resources or those with higher vulnerability as well as girls experiencing psychiatric or physical disability. In most cases, domestic violence also affects children, directly or indirectly. The extent of domestic violence is hard to ascertain as some people fail to report abuse. However, other studies show that one American woman, in every four women are either physically abused or raped in intimate relationships. The cases are severe as most of them are injured or killed. In the United States, the assault estimates range from two to four million cases per year. Similar studies suggest that a majority of women murdered at work are cases of former or current partners. The likely victims of domestic violence include housewives and disabled women. Disabled women category includes women residing in refugee camps as well as those with physical and mental disability. Women who depend on their spouses for financial support are also more likely to experience violence compared to those who work. Additionally, men with patriarchal attitudes were likely to become abusers, as they believed that domestic violence should be legitimate (Parrish, 2009).
This violence usually results to other mental health effects such as anxiety, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, substance abuse and panic attacks. In addition to this, it may trigger psychotic episodes, suicide attempts and homelessness. Further from these, children who experience the abuse go through development problems, aggressive behaviour, school difficulties, low self-esteem, and psychiatric disorders. Domestic violence also leads to other social problems such as divorces and homeless.
Because of the above problems and the prevalence of this issue, many countries have put into place policies and positions for social workers who help victims survive the effects of domestic abuse. Social work is a human service disciple whose basic goal is to support families and individuals cope with their problems by providing a multidisciplinary approach of looking at the problems. For efficiency and effectiveness, most social workers are attached to and work closely with professionals and agencies. This discipline is part of a governmental human service delivery as it functions as a link between clients of the government and government resources for example legal consultations to deal with social and legal issues, training to achieve employment and welfare payments to achieve financial assistance. Social workers work in proximity with medical doctors to offer medical care to victims. They also work with psychologists and counselors to offer psychological help and counseling. Lastly, they are engage to school personnel’s, in order to help them identify children in need of aid. Social workers help individual’s live productive lives in their environments. To do this effectively, they engage the help of families, local religious leaders, relatives and community elders (Humphreys, 2000).
Social workers usually operate along certain guidelines that make their services effective. First, the worker must establish a counseling relationship with the client. This helps the client an opportunity to develop and discover himself or herself, thus make informed choices. Secondly, they must accept the client regardless of heir background, circumstance, politics, behaviour, race or status. Thirdly, social workers practice self-determination, where they encourage clients to seek self-help to obtain self-confidence. They also allow clients the freedom to make their own choices. The relationship between the client and worker should be based on trust, so workers must keep their business confidential. Workers should also show empathy to clients by being sensitive to their problems. Lastly, social workers must always remain genuine with their clients, though avoid being defensive.
Social workers work with domestic violence victims in shelters, emergency rooms, and in courts. It is also surprising that most victims of domestic violence remain in such relationships. To improve the victim’s psychological, social and economic independence, their assistance usually takes the form of services continuum. Social workers are constantly screening for the victims, and providing protection plans to offer security. Domestic violence is also a major risk for anxiety, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder and substance abuse. Because of this, the workers engage in services that help victims recover from these problems. The basic roles of social workers in this case would be offering counseling services to victims in order to alleviate traumatic and psychological stress, or counseling at the family level in order to prevent future occurrences (McCue, 2008).
The direct services of a social worker to a victim of domestic violence include supporting and counseling via shelter programs, private individualized counseling sessions, community organization on social justice in order to prevent future occurrence and court advocacy with the help of associate agencies. It is also the duty of the social worker to look at the welfare of the abuser. In this respect, social workers provide programs such as court mandated and voluntary intervention programs. Additionally, social workers provide empowerment services that help victims reclaim their social and economic capacities. This happens by offering several options such as education programs, training, professional and civic education. With the help of domestic violence organizations and psychologists, social works are capable of providing therapies. This therapy helps them cope with the emotional trauma that the violence may have triggered.
Different countries have different policies on domestic violence. National policy documents in exists in countries like Belgium, Australia, Canada, Finland, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Portugal and Norway. The aims of these policies are to inform as well as support domestic violence victims. Providing them with the relevant information on how to protect them was to seek help and how to take action against the abuser. They also commit to tackle domestic violence within different departments such as the housing department. This is because violence occurs in the family, and the victim’s housing needs are important in alleviating its consequences. Additionally, the policies coordinate with other agencies linked to domestic violence services in order to provide comprehensive solutions to the problem, such as safety measures for children or victim of abuse. The policy procedures provide victims. They recognize that though men are sometimes victims of abuse, women are the most likely victims. Therefore, the policies contain assurance services that provide women with information on how they would be supported in case of violence (BBC News, 2000).
In all policies, there are procedure and guidelines that must be followed when analyzing domestic violence cases. The first procedure is ascertaining if the case falls under domestic violence, or if falls under related anti social behaviour such as sexual harassments. If the case fits into the category of domestic violence, then the policy’s recommendations must be followed. The policies include partnerships with children and housing services, in conjunction with social landlords in order to identify and progress services. These alliances also help obtain accurate assessments when determining the type of assistance to be offered. Generally, the policies aim to ensure sensitivity, confidentiality, consistency and promptness when responding to domestic violence cases. They also aim to make available a wide range of services to aid people live safely within their homes. They ensure social works receive adequate training and support in order to enable workers takes appropriate action. Because of the complexities of domestic violence, social workers must have adequate knowledge; therefore, training programs are compulsory for those wishing to join the profession. It is the duty of a country’s policy to ensure the training is appropriate with the impending needs of citizens.
Social workers and the stated policies have had major impacts on domestic violence. In many countries especially in the western world, domestic violence is not, as severe, as it used to be. This is because these countries have well-structured policies to deal with perpetrators. Additionally, these countries’ had incorporated social work into their educational curriculum in order to obtain professional help to social problems such as domestic violence. The social work profession has improved the situation by helping victims regain their psychological, social and economic statuses, as well as helping abusers obtain intervention to stop the behaviour. Through counseling, victims can manage associated disorders such as depression and psychotic disorders. Additionally, other problems such s homelessness is tackled effectively, thereby preventing cases of children lacking families or homes. Tough laws against violence have also helped reduce these assaults. While government recognises this and inputs laws, this strategy is futile without the intervention of a social worker. This is because in many assault cases, the victims are usually traumatized and afraid of stigmatization so they end up not reporting the abuse. With silence, abuse continues silently within homesteads. However, the social workers bridge the gap between the government and victims. They bring government services to the victim while ensuring that the victim feels safe and accepted. This encourages victims to seek justice or protection from government policies (McClennen & McClennen, 2010).
The profession has also proved effective as it cuts across all the aspects o society n achieving justice and identifying victims. Social worker liaise with other professionals and institutions n the society. they are connect with neighbors and landlords who become helpful in reporting issues to the police, they work closely with teachers to alert of them of suspicious signs of children from violent homes and include medical doctors to help in medical diagnosis where necessary.
To conclude, it is important to state that these policies as well as the presence of social workers do not offer solutions to the problem of domestic problems. Additionally, they do not end the problem. Their focus is to deter future occurrences of domestic violence, and help protect and help victims cope with the issue. To be efficient, the profession requires assistance from other bodies and professionals that offer related services. These professionals include psychologists and medical doctors, teachers and religious leaders, as well as family members and neighbors. It is also upon victims to report abuse and seek help, in situations where there are no social workers. Domestic violence is a serious social problem as it affects the society’s basic unit; the family. When this happens, everyone suffers, especially children and victim. It brings even more problems to the state as it takes on responsibility of these victims. Victims also suffer related mental problems, which may end up affecting the whole society.