Your Role

Your role as a social worker in a particular organizational context will shape who you are likely to see as clients or patients, how they are likely to present themselves, and will determine some parameters of your response. Issues of intimate partner violence never appear independently from other issues in people's lives.

  • If you work in a dedicated domestic violence service, most of your clients will have self-identified as dealing with issues of intimate partner violence. You are likely to see mostly women and many in situations of severe violence, and you may have primarily an advocacy role.
  • If you work in a health, mental health, substance abuse or community setting, most of your clients will not present with intimate violence as their primary concern. Sensitive screening is important. You are likely to see a wider range of violence situations, more people dealing with "common couple violence," more situations where the degree of risk is unclear. Issues of violence may not be a priority in your clients' view.
  • No matter where you work, issues of violence will be related in complex ways to other important difficulties in your clients' lives.
  • If you work with people whose cultural context and background are different from your own, you have the additional challenge of sensitive and respectful response to their assumptions and norms about gender and violence, without abandoning a position of supporting non-violence and safety.
  • If your work context supports treating couples or families as a unit, it is particularly important for agency policy to reflect best practices with respect to safety of all family members.