Thursday, February 25, 2016

Domestic Violence and Safety

One thing to remember about the ASWB test questions (and real-life social work practice, too) is that there is a priority placed on client’s safety and well-being.  That’s why there undoubtedly will be questions related to a social worker’s legal duty to report suspicions of abuse/neglect of children, elders, and dependent adults. 

But consider a question about domestic violence.  Domestic violence—also known as intimate partner violence—can include physical, sexual, mental, emotional, and/or economic abuse of one partner to the other.  It is usually rooted in the abusing partner’s desire to exert power and control over the victim.

A key thing to remember about DV questions on the exam is that domestic violence is NOT reportable to the local law enforcement or any other entity.  If a child is physically assaulted during a physical attack (accidentally or on purpose), that would be a mandated report to child protective services, but a social worker is not required to report physical violence between two adult partners.  Remember the distinction when you’re taking the exam.

Image credit Pixabay

A few other things to know about domestic violence:

A major goal when working with a victim of domestic violence is to help ensure her/his safety, along with that of any children in the home.  Helping the client come up with a safety plan is of utmost importance.

If the client is out of physical danger and has a safety plan in place, then a social worker might focus on psycho-educational topics.  One initial topic that is important for both the clinician and the survivor to understand is the cycle of abuse.  In short, the cycle looks like 1) tension building, 2) explosion/abuse, 3) apologies and honeymoon phase, and repeat.

Clinically speaking, family therapy and couples counseling are NOT recommended interventions for a domestic violence situation.  There is no way to ensure a victim’s safety in counseling, and often as a result of speaking freely in counseling, the victim is punished more by the abuser later.  Individual therapy for the survivor, and a separate counseling program for the abuser, are preferable treatment plans.

Thanks for reading and study well!

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