Supporting survivors of domestic abuse as a social worker

As a social worker, part of your role is to support and protect survivors of domestic abuse. In this blog, we provide a brief overview of how to do this without putting the service user in danger.

1. Educate yourself on domestic abuse

The official UK Domestic Abuse Act defines domestic abuse as: 

  • physical or sexual abuse
  • violent or threatening behaviour
  • controlling or coercive behaviour
  • economic abuse
  • psychological, emotional or other abuse

For the definition to apply, both parties must be aged 16 or over and ‘personally connected’.

Personally connected’ is defined in the act as parties who:

  • are married to each other
  • are civil partners of each other
  • have agreed to marry one another (whether or not the agreement has been terminated)
  • have entered into a civil partnership agreement (whether or not the agreement has been terminated)
  • are or have been in an intimate personal relationship with each other
  • have, or there has been a time when they each have had, a parental relationship in relation to the same child
  • are relatives

As a social worker, it is crucial you have an in-depth understanding of the dynamics of domestic abuse, the different types of victims and the emotional impact of domestic abuse. 

2. Safety first

If you notice any warning signs of domestic abuse or if a service user chooses to open up to you about their traumatic experience, the first thing you need to do is get them to a safe space. This should be a private room where the individual can express their concerns without fear of judgement or harm. 

3. Show your support

It is paramount that you show the individual that their experiences, feelings and responses are validated and that you believe and support them. Allow them to reveal as much information as they feel comfortable with, and be an active listener throughout.

4. Be collaborative 

Build rapport with the survivor, work collaboratively and be empowering. Avoid making assumptions and always be aware of the safest methods of communication.

5. Point them in the right direction 

Provide the victim with information on their legal rights and options, such as restraining orders, emergency shelters, and counselling services. Explain the steps they can take to protect themselves and their loved ones. 

6. Resources, resources, resources 

Connect the victim with community resources, such as domestic violence hotlines, support groups, and legal advice.

For further advice on how to support domestic abuse survivors, check out this useful BASW guidance document

Call 0203 8929 340 to chat with a member of the Social Personnel team or browse our social worker roles here.

carlette Isaac

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