Domestic Violence Training Project
Social Workers' Perception of Educational Needs for Work with Victims and Perpetrators of Domestic Violence
Abused women, children and their perpetrators have emerged over the past 20 years as groups requiring a broad range of social services and legal interventions. Many of the battered women's shelters and services for victims of domestic violence were developed through grassroots mobilization of private and community resources and many had a strong feminist identification (Davis, 1994). More recently, linking of domestic violence with child abuse and neglect, the conceptualization of family violence and a family-focused treatment perspective have raised fears among some that a network of social services will return the issue of violence against women to the arena of family life and it will be treated through therapy and not as a social problem requiring social and policy changes. Additionally, program planners have addressed the pervasiveness of domestic violence in the context of the historical oppressed role of women in society. The battered women's movement has helped scholars, researchers and practitioners understand that theory and practice must be modeled around the lives of those who are most affected by violence (Williams, 1998).
Social workers encounter victims and perpetrators of domestic in a variety of settings. Battered women and children are found in medical settings where injuries are treated, in family service agencies where they seek counseling, in public service agencies where they may have been referred for child abuse and to seek assistance (Davis, 1987). Social workers also find victims and perpetrators among immigrants and refugees in mental health settings, where they may seek treatment for chronic depression or post traumatic stress, and in substance abuse programs. The developmental and chronically disabled are particularly vulnerable to victimization. In all of the fields of practice settings and in various agencies, domestic violence is a critical issue. How well do schools of social work prepare professionals to diagnose and work with victims of violence?
This study will report on a survey of 76 social workers regarding their perceptions of educational preparation for practice with victims and perpetrators of domestic violence, and their perceptions of training needs in relation to their current practice. A preliminary analysis of the data indicate that thirty five percent did not feel that social work education had prepared them for practice with victims and perpetrators of domestic violence. While a majority (58%) are sensitive to and screen for domestic violence, over 95% of the respondents felt they needed special training to work with victims and perpetrators of domestic violence. An overwhelming majority (98%) indicated a need for specialized training with perpetrators of violence. This survey was part of a social work training and research initiative for preparation of African American and other minority social work students and practitioners for work with victims and perpetrators of domestic violence.
Davis, L. (1987). Battered women: The transformation of a social problem. Social Work, 306-311.
Davis, L. (1994). Social services for battered women: are they adequate, accessible, and appropriate? Social Work, 39 (6), 695-704.
Williams, O. (In press). Healing and confronting the African American male who batter. In R. Carrillo & I Tello (Eds.). Healing the Spirit: Men of Color and Domestic Violence. Springer Publication.