eBook: The Biggest Social Justice Issues of The Decade (2010 – 2020)
Domestic abuse and intimate partner violence is a pressing issue – and a deadly one. According to the Violence Policy Center, which uses Bureau of Justice statistics in annual reports about female homicide victims, approximately three women are murdered every day in the U.S. by current or former romantic partners. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence reports more than 10 million men and women will experience domestic violence annually.
In this section, we will briefly explore:
• Domestic violence affects all demographics, but some are especially vulnerable.
• Social workers may interact with abuse victims in any context and specialized training is especially important to help this population.
• Children who live in violent households experience effects of this trauma throughout life.
Domestic violence – which may include stalking, physical, sexual, emotional, economic and/or psychological abuse – can affect any race, ethnic or socioeconomic subgroup, but like many of the subjects outlined in this report, the issues are intersectional.
Note that African-American women are particularly vulnerable, as are people with disabilities – according to the U.S. Department of Justice, their risk is 2.5 times higher than non-disabled people. Many studies (several incorporated in this research) have shown the numerous ways in which those who experience trauma as a child are more likely to abuse substances and develop mental illnesses later in life.
Addressing Domestic Violence in Social Work
A social worker’s focus on domestic violence issues addresses key challenges facing individuals, families and communities stuck in a cycle of abuse. Social workers work with victims of domestic violence through assessment, documentation and intervention, and in shelters, the courts or emergency rooms. Even those who do not work implicitly on domestic violence are likely to encounter victims in any context. A key challenge is that domestic abuse victims may not seek out help for that particular issue, or disclose their history or situation.
Social workers can specialize in family services or women’s issues areas of practice while earning their MSW degree. It’s only with proper training that social workers in all sectors can properly identify and support victims of domestic abuse.
Effects of Domestic Violence on Children
Although statistics vary, by some estimates, one in four women have experienced severe physical violence from an intimate partner. Likewise, one in seven men have experienced the same, according to a 2014 report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration On Children, Youth and Families.
The effects of violence are visible on the next generation and have long-term consequences causing effects such as physical, mental and emotional harm. The same report states:
“Children exposed to domestic violence have often been found to develop a wide range of problems including interpersonal skill deficits, psychological and emotional problems such as depression and PTSD, and externalizing behavior problems.”