Rethinking Domestic Violence: The Social Work and Probation Response

By Audrey Mullender | Go to book overview

Introduction

Effective action in any social sphere is impossible without an adequate understanding of the nature and extent of the problem. Chapter 1 analyses the terminology of domestic abuse and the record of social work in this field, whilst firmly establishing the fact that the greatest amount of violence is inflicted by men on women. Gay and lesbian relationships are referred to, but the main concentration is on abuse within heterosexual relationships. Chapter 2 explores information on the incidence and theories of the causation of domestic violence. In so doing, it exposes common myths—that drink causes domestic violence, that women seek or provoke the violence, and so on—which have percolated into social work practice. It seeks to replace the myths with the actual stories of women’s lived experience. The common themes that emerge—for example that men must take responsibility for their abusive behaviour and that women must be heard, believed and empowered—constitute the strongest evidence on which to base appropriate professional intervention. Social workers need, too, to understand the complexities of women’s attempts to escape: the use by male partners of all forms of abuse to prevent this; the interaction between the emotional impact of the abuse and the difficulty of negotiating the maze of legal and welfare services; above all, the crucial need for advocacy, self-help and support services to empower women through this process on their own terms.

Chapter 3 examines research into social work involvement in domestic violence in the past and why the profession has had such a bad image in the literature. There has been shown to be widescale neglect of the issue by practitioners. The most common traditional response, that of ‘keeping the family together’, may have been replaced by insisting that the woman goes into a refuge or seeks an injunction—but with no less a failure to support her in her own perceptions and choices in a highly dangerous situation, and no less a tendency to redefine cases as ‘child protection’ as if women subjected to abuse were not themselves also preoccupied with protecting their children. Chapters 4, 5 and 6 show that this is slowly beginning to change, with good practice across some whole social services departments

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