Rethinking Domestic Violence: The Social Work and Probation Response

By Audrey Mullender | Go to book overview

Preface

Researching and writing this book has not been easy. It is harrowing to be immersed in graphic accounts of physical and sexual assaults and of emotional degradation over a long period of time, as all those living and working with these realities know. Like other authors before me (see Kelly, 1988b, pp.15-19 for a powerful and intelligent account of all that is involved), I have been put in touch with painful memories—and I have been unable to avoid at every turn questioning all the male and female constituents of the relationships and assumptions, as well as the social backcloth, of my daily life. I could not have survived without the strength of the women’s networks and the female academic community of which I count myself privileged to be a part. I emerge more determined to add my small influence to all those who survive—and work to help others survive—the harms inflicted in an abusive society.

The acknowledgement in this book that social workers have traditionally been ‘part of the problem’ for women experiencing abuse is also chastening for me, as I am a social worker by training and experience and now a social work educator and writer. Yet this book is certainly not intended as another ‘social work bashing’ tome. My continued involvement with the profession rests on the belief that we are one of the best hopes for the enlightened recognition of human resourcefulness and potential for change. Women living with abuse are not hopeless victims and men inflicting it are not individual monsters for whom the only solution is to be locked up for ever and the key thrown away. The reality is at once more hopeful—because people can change (given a conjunction of justice, confrontation, support and motivation)—and more difficult, because the root of the problems is embedded deep in our society and involves all of us in confronting painful truths about our lives and ourselves. Social workers have never fought shy of such recognition, however. All our work demands that we engage with complex social problems mirrored in personal vulnerabilities. At our best, we seek to learn about the intricacies of such issues so that we can be better equipped to empower people to tackle them. It is high time we turned this best practice in the direction of domestic violence and its impact on women and children. This is the aim that underscores this book.

-ix-

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