The Meandering Social Worker

wandering : wondering : learning

Archive for the tag “domestic violence”

Social worker suspended again despite domestic violence plea

Social worker suspended again despite domestic violence plea.

There is something particularly sad about this case, a social worker suspended from practice resulting from problems that arose when she herself was a victim of domestic violence.  No doubt there are some gaps in the story, there always is, but on the basis of what has been reported here in Community Care it appears that this social worker has been rather harshly treated.

In a nutshell, “the social worker’s misconduct involved being intoxicated, verbally abusive and obstructive to police who were called out to her home”.  She lied to the police by taking responsibility for an incident her partner committed because of her fear of reprisals and had been “subjected to a long period of violence by her partner”.

The HCPC concluded that the social worker concerned “did not have insight into how her behaviour in her private life could damage the reputation of the social work profession” and had not submitted evidence of “remedying her conduct”.

This report from Community Care raises a lot of questions.  What is not clear in this report is what is meant by ‘remedying her conduct’.

Does it refer to recognising that being verbally abusive and obstructive to the police (who are fellow professionals) was not appropriate?  I can only hope that the social worker concerned would agree that it wasn’t appropriate.

Does it mean ending the relationship?  What’s not clear from the report is whether the relationship is still ongoing and what support she (and possibly her partner) has received regarding this relationship, if any.  She should have some understanding of the impact of domestic violence on victims (including the children of victims), not least through her training and work experience and hopefully would want to protect herself from continuing to be a victim in this situation.  However, as we all know, all the training and knowledge in the world doesn’t make it any easier for the victim to escape from a violent relationship.  Considering the high level of stress caused by being in a DV relationship and considering that social work is a stressful occupation I would have thought being on long term sick might have been an alternative, and more caring and supportive option, than suspension (there is no indication whether or not that was considered).

Or does it mean demonstrating how her relationship and the consequences of her relationship is damaging the reputation of the social work profession?  This is a challenging one, on which much of the HCPC decision turns.  Yet I cannot help but wonder how much it really does damage the profession.  There are certainly some who would appreciate knowing that social workers are human and can suffer the consequences of difficult situations, while others might find it a reason to look down on them.  It certainly shouldn’t be current behaviour but for it to have been experienced in the past should be seen as valid experience rather than something that damages the image of the profession.  I wonder if the panel considered how she would handle a situation of a service user asking her about her own ‘run in’ with the police?  It could be used as a discussion point on what is not appropriate and why.

Or does it mean that social workers should not become intoxicated (woe to social workers, police, teachers, nurses, doctors and most other professionals in that case!).

Elsewhere it has been commented that social workers’ lives are no more ‘squeaky clean’ than most people’s.  But sometimes it feels as if the message is that they should be.  And, social worker or not, short of more information, this report looks rather like a case of victim blaming: a victim of domestic violence she has been blamed for the consequences.

 

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I wasn’t hit

“It never occurred to me I might be a victim of domestic violence. After all, I was never hit, there were no bruises or broken bones. It was only one day when I was talking to a couple about the effect of their domestic violence on their pre-school child it occurred to me that I too was a victim.

The child’s developmental timetable was not going to wait for them to sort it out. I didn’t have children and could deal with my unhappy situation according to my own schedule, and the shocking recognition of that situation as domestic violence.

I was not hit, but I was being subjected to psychological, emotional and sexual abuse that had been progressively escalating over nearly fifteen years. But were those behaviours domestic violence? Relationships are complicated and drawing the line between normal and OK behaviours and abuse is not easy. Not everyone considers threats and threatening behaviour to be harmful or ‘violence’.”

In 2012 the UK Government published a new definition that includes non-physical behaviours as domestic violence: “Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass but is not limited to the following types of abuse: psychological, physical, sexual, financial, and emotional. Controlling behaviour is: a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour. Coercive behaviour is: an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.”

“My experience fit that definition. My then husband punished me for not being a ‘good wife’, by his own definition which he refused to tell me, through sleeping in the spare room, and later threatening to leave. He cut me off from friends and associates by dropping out at the last minute from social engagements and events as punishment for my not getting ‘it’ right until I stopped making plans or accepting invitations, and forcing me to choose between him and friends because he believed they didn’t respect him. His mannerisms and voice were aggressive to me and others, although he insisted he was expressing frustration and not aggression. He told everyone he met I was having an affair (when I wasn’t). And he tried to surreptitiously force on me sexual practices I had explicitly refused.

My own behaviour was affected. I was ‘walking on eggshells’ and when I sensed the atmosphere change I tried to escalate things to get the next showdown started and over with. Typical behaviours of a domestic violence victim.

But he didn’t hit me: I had no reason to end the relationship, or so I thought, until the day he raped me. I found a strength and determination I didn’t know I had: miraculously I managed to get him to leave, resisted the suicide threats and became one of the rare group of women who don’t take several attempts at terminating a relationship (the average is 7). Perhaps because I had never been hit.”

Why don’t more victims leave sooner? Why do so many keep going back? Sarah Buel suggests some answers in her Fifty Obstacles to Leaving aka Why Abuse Victims Stay.

With psychological, mental and emotional abuse many may not even recognise what is happening. The destruction of self-esteem and self-confidence make facing the future alone that much harder. Family and friends often don’t understand: they can’t see the scars. And surely, if it’s all your fault, all your inadequacy, then shouldn’t you just stay where you are and try harder to get it right? The abuser is usually so reasonable, so plausible. They truly believe they are right to behave as they do.

It’s not enough to ask why victims stay. We need to ask why they leave. What is the ‘the final straw’? When all resources have been used up where does that spark to survive come from? We need better support for victims as they go through the stages to reach that final move. And we need better protection for those who are leaving or have left as this can be the most dangerous time. While professionals such as police, social and health workers have a role to play society needs to better recognise the power of domestic abuse and the difficulties victims face.

Gaslighting: Three Tactics Used to Gain Control of Your Mind

Some sound observations in here – no need to add further comment.

David Ruffley in the news

Reports of the incident of common assault by Bury St Edmunds MP David Ruffley on his then partner from the Daily Mail online.

Ending victimisation and blame comment on the news that MP David Ruffley has been convicted of common assault on his now ex-partner.

Ending victimisation and blame comment on the Jeremy Vine interview with local conservative party member defending his MP David Ruffley on his recent case of domestic violence against his now ex-partner.

After pressure from a number of different quarters on what David Ruffley described as a “private matter” of his caution for “common assault” this incident is now being re-branded for what it was, “domestic violence”.  As reported in the Independent online, a result of these pressures is that David Ruffley has decided to resign at the end of this current term in Parliament, blaming not his own actions but “the protracted media debate” and “the unrelenting orchestrated intrusion into [his] private life”.  The Telegraph online further quoted Joanna Spicer, local party member and former chairman of the Suffolk Domestic Violence Partnership, supporting David Ruffley’s decision to continue in his role until the next election, saying “[he] has been a very good MP for many years and has earned a great deal of affection and respect” and “given the wide debate locally and nationally about domestic abuse and the high standard of expectations we have of our political leaders I feel that he has made a sensible decision.”

Although David Ruffley has apologised for his actions he is not resigning because he believes what he did was wrong.  He is resigning because his position in Parliament has become ‘untenable’.  What is surprising is that even the ex-chairman of the Suffolk Domestic Violence Partnership is placing weight on the media pressure that has arisen out of his case.

The petitions and media pressure have called for his resignation and although that is being deferred to 2015 they have achieved that initial goal.  But what do we really want?  Is resignation alone right or enough?  Will David Ruffley go off in to the wilderness for a few years, until the current furore has been forgotten and he comes back as a consultant or even an MP again?  Will the argument be that he has served his penance in losing his job? A job he apparently loves.

Just consider the question of why anyone would want to become an MP in the first place.  Modern politics is a power game.  Although not exclusively it attracts men and women who want public recognition and power.  Of course that’s only public recognition for being good – as David Ruffley’s case demonstrates as soon as the publicity becomes negative they want to retreat into ‘personal privacy’.  But power is another matter.  Power can be used for good or bad.  Power is behind bullying whether in schools or employment.  Power is behind domestic violence.

In his exile will David Ruffley be given the opportunity to consider his actions, the misuse of power, and whether the way he treated his ex-partner was appropriate, whether ‘common assault’ of anyone let alone ‘common assault’ of someone you purport to love and care for, your partner, your wife, your husband, is appropriate.  From the comments of her friends this was not an isolated or first incident.  Or will he be allowed to fester in his resentment at the public furore that didn’t understand the private nature of his personal life and so forcing him out of a job he loves, embedding in him a sense of self-righteousness?

Just questions?  No need to answer them.  The answers are pretty obvious.  I expect to see David Ruffley back in the public eye in due course, having served his ‘undeserved sentence’ and without having addressed any of the reasons he got the ‘sentence’ in the first place.  I hope I’m wrong.  In the meantime let’s support the messages from Ending victimisation and blame.

 

 

 

 

Still Forgotten, Still Hurting

BOOK REVIEW:

Understanding Adult Survivors of Domestic Violence in Childhood: Still Forgotten, Still Hurting

Gill Hague with Ann Harvey and Kathy Willis. 2012. Jessica Kingsley Publishers, London. (www.jkp.com) Paperback: £22.99. ISBN 978-1-84905-096-8

This wasn’t the book I was expecting it to be.  The impression is given that this is a book for survivors as well as professionals working with survivors.  However the layout and content has a much more academic focus. 

Existing research and literature relating to adult survivors of domestic violence in childhood is next to non-existent and the authors draw instead on more generic research that looks at the impact of traumatic childhood events and experiences of abuse.  Using a qualitative approach, including the work of a focus group, personal interviews and the writings of survivors, the authors highlight the lifetime impact on individuals whose childhoods were specifically affected by domestic violence.   Chapter 8 focuses on practice and summarises the wide range of, sometimes conflicting, approaches that can be taken in helping recovery.

In looking beyond the impact on children experiencing domestic violence in the home, to how as adults they can continue to be affected by, and helped to overcome, the trauma of witnessing violence as children, this book is breaking new ground and will undoubtedly appeal to anyone working with adults: therapists, counsellors, social workers, students and policy makers alike.

Chapters 5, 7 & 9 are set aside to tell the personal testimonies of two women and one man, while other stories, quotes and poems are woven throughout the rest of the text.  The stories and poems are powerful and poignant.  Although the authors state this book is not intended as being solely for professionals, the overwhelming feel of the writing is academic.  For the book to appeal more to survivors themselves, it might have been better to have brought these testimonies together in one section at the beginning of the book.

 

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