- Chanchez M. Smith
In this paper, I will discuss generalist social work practice with victims of a violent crime. The following elements will be included: a clearly defined victim population of my choice; the nature of the crime; ethical issues that may affect social work practice or that could impact practice with the population that I chose, or value conflicts that a social worker may experience (such as conflicts between professional and personal values, personal and client values, or professional values and client values). Policy issues that may influence social work practice will also be included.
Violent crime is defined as an action or deed that results to causation of bodily harm and physical injury to another person. Violence has been a part of human history (Garland, 2012). Since the onslaught of evolution when early men settled their scores by means of brawl to the present day when the vice has taken up a widespread and more encompassing concept, it seems that violence will remain a part of human history for the foreseeable future. Previously, violence was used as means of indicating displeasure at a second party’s sayings or deeds. It was also used as a way of marking territory and making conquests. In some communities and groups, violence was used in induction and initiation into certain levels of the society. Today, apart from the factors mentioned above, violence has taken up a different form and is a target of both the defenceless and otherwise. There are different types of violent crime. These include assault, armed robbery, kidnapping, homicide (for instance murder) and sexual assault crimes among a host of others. People from virtually all walks of life can fall victim to these types of crimes. In particular, violence against women and children has become common in today’s society. Women have been on the receiving end of violent crimes of various types, most commonly rape and sexual assault (Stith, McCollum, Amanorâ€Boadu, & Smith, 2012). Children on the other hand are more commonly the victims of kidnap and assault.
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The role of the society with regard to occurrence of violent crimes is of immense importance when trying to establish the causative factors and means and measures of countering the vice. As social beings, our interactions, thoughts, actions and sayings are largely determined by our environment and upbringing. Thus, the society is largely involved in the making of violent people. Research reveals that most people who exhibit elements of violent behaviour have an underlying problem attributable to the society. This could be due to a troubled childhood in which the parents divorced when the offender was young, or lack of parental care (due to other causes such as being raised up in a children’s home), drug and substance abuse, mental problems or even poverty. Poverty is strongly linked to a number of violent crimes, most commonly robbery, kidnappings and gun violence. The society is also involved in the punishment accorded to such people and the way forward in terms of correction and rehabilitation. Through legislation of laws and making of rules that govern a people, the repercussions of violent crimes are and should be spelt out. In that way, those tempted to engage in such crimes are deterred. This aspect should be two sided such that the correctional aspect should also be factored in. The role of the society in rehabilitation of offenders with regard to violent crimes is immensely important. A system that allows the offender to realize the mistakes he/she made and work towards amending them will serve a greater purpose than that which only highlights the faults made without a clear means of overcoming and changing the violent nature.
This paper highlights women and children as the victim population that bears the brunt of the most commonly committed and the most heinous violent crimes. In the case of children, those aged between five and twelve years have a higher predisposition while in the case of women, all age groups are generally susceptible (Barner & Carney, 2011). Notwithstanding the country or region, violence against women and children is becoming increasingly common. Further, the rate at which such offences are being carried out is alarming with research revealing that in spite of this, most cases go unreported altogether. Take an example of Australia, a country largely considered to be peaceful and exemplary with regard to crime management. A research conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics with regard to Personal Safety revealed what was becoming a disturbing trend. The research was carried out in 2005 to measure domestic violence and sexual assault directed towards women. According to the findings, about 5 percent (363,000) of the women in the country experienced some form of violence, either by people known to them or unknown offenders in that year alone. Among the people known to the victims, most cases involved husbands, particularly with regard to domestic violence. Findings from the study also revealed that 1.6 per cent (126,100) of the female population had experienced sexual violence. Further, 33 per cent (2.56 million) of women in the country have experienced physical violence since they were fifteen years old. 19 per cent (1.47 million) have experienced sexual violence since they were 15. From the results, one can draw that one out of every five women has experienced sexual assault since they were fifteen while one out of three has experienced some form of violence (Daly, 2012).
As regards children, kidnapping is arguably the most common type of violence faced by most countries around the world although there are a significant number of cases involving child battery and assault too. A country synonymous with child kidnappings is Mexico. In Mexico, drug cartels have formed a formidable force and combining this with connections in the justice system and money to burn, are causing all sorts of trouble to authorities. However, the people with the greatest headache are parents, particularly rich folks. In Mexico, child abduction is often carried out with the intention of demanding ransom. The money is then used to service and propagate other criminal activities. On the other hand, killing of children is carried out for a more disturbing purpose; to prove to the world their ruthlessness and to exert their authority! Human rights groups in Mexico estimate that between 2006 and 2010, 994 youngsters (below 18 years) had been killed in drug related violence. Adding the number of those abducted and exposed to other forms of violent crime results to the figures multiplying more than 100 fold. Interestingly, when it comes to international abductions, Mexico and the United States have a lot in common. This is highlighted by the fact that most children abducted in the US find their way to Mexico where they can be used as bait to demand ransom or sold to childless couples. In the same way, a good number of kidnapped children in Mexico are moved to the US where they find new families.
Nature of Sexual Assault and Child Abduction
Sexual assault and domestic violence against women is not only demeaning and degrading but also comes with a great deal of emotional turmoil to the victims. There have been cases of women committing suicide after falling victim to sexual assault. In other cases reported, the victims become withdrawn and may develop a negative attitude towards men. It is also common to find women suffering from mental problems such as stress and depression after incidents of sexual assault and violence. In some communities and regions, the blame is usually placed on the woman’s head (Daly, 2012). This makes the recovery process even more difficult as the victim is made to feel like she brought the misfortune upon herself.
Child abduction usually culminates to a whole lot of problems, not only to the victim but also to the society. Many abducted children are used as a bargaining chip for demanding ransom. However, in other cases, child abduction is carried out with a different intention, one of which is child pornography. This has been an emerging issue in which children are kidnapped and forced into engaging into sexual acts. These are then taped, recorded and sold. The business of sexual exploitation of children is becoming common. This is attributable to the high levels of profits made by the people engaging in such outlawed activities. For instance, in Atlanta, children as young as eleven years of age have fallen victim to the activities of unscrupulous people in the name of pimps. To the child victim, the introduction to a corrupted world at such a tender age may change the outlook of their lives and the nature of their future. Such children usually end up becoming drug addicts posing a new challenge to governments and the society. They may become social misfits, who end up engaging in outlawed activities as a way of ‘paying back’ for what they went through. The victims may also become withdrawn and develop psychological problems as a result.
Ethical Issues involved
Most studies reveal that a significant number of cases of violence go unreported. In particular, cases of domestic violence against women are usually hushed up within the confines of the house. Domestic violence and even sexual assault are usually regarded as private incidences that need not be shared with the rest of the world. In some communities and regions in the world, a woman suffering physical violence in the hands of their husbands is quite normal. In others women who fall victim to sexual assault are largely viewed as the orchestrators of their own downfall; they are often believed to be the reason for the assault in the first place. This could be through their way of dressing, mannerisms or other factors. As a result, women in such communities suffer in silence knowing that the community would judge them harshly if they reveal the goings-on. What victims who fail to report cases of violence do not realize is that keeping quiet instead of reporting or talking about it does more harm than good (Garland, 2012).
Failure to report the crimes may pose a challenge with regard to development of strategies and solutions for overcoming the vices. To begin with, it is difficult to point out victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. Even if they could be pointed out, without their willingness and cooperation it would be difficult to come up with a solution. Failure to report the ordeal in the first place amounts to lack of cooperation. In addition, by failing to report the crime, the victims directly and indirectly contribute to the continuation of the crime. For example, in the case of sexual assault, failure to report rules out the chance of tracking and nabbing the offender. This means that any other woman out there is a potential victim. In the case of domestic violence, failure to report denies other victims the courage to speak out and potential victims are also denied justice as they come into a society where the status quo is already predetermined.
A social worker is also likely to come against values that challenge his/her own beliefs. For instance, coming from a more free and liberal society to interact with a community in which violence against women is considered part and parcel of life, the social worker may find it hard to adjust to the new set up. What he/she consistently views as wrong and unacceptable is, on the contrary tolerated.
In Mexico, reporting of crimes is almost certain not to occur. The ruthlessness with which the drug cartels handle their victims is beyond imagination. Reporting such crimes only earn the persons involved a ticket for graver repercussions. Research reveals that even the media, including newspapers are forbidden by the cartels not to report incidences of crime; they have no choice but to abide. More specifically, child abduction is a common occurrence but which occurs right under the noses of the authorities and the society but the cases are hardly reported. In the same way, the activities that the children are made to undertake (such as child pornography) are difficult to report even by those who are not directly involved in the crimes due to ethical concerns. For example, it may appear ethically inappropriate to report cases of sexual molestation and exploitation of children in light of the unspoken taboos that revolve around sex. Even to a social worker, sometimes it may come with a level of discomfort when talking about sexual issues with children as the centre stage. This may directly contradict the values of a social worker who does not believe in premarital sex or any other kind of sex apart from that between married people.
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Policy Issues that may Influence practice
Violence directed towards children and women can only be successfully managed with input from all stakeholders. This includes the victims, the society and governments. In particular, governments have a major role to play as they determine much to do with policies and legislations (Garland, 2012). If the government supports and encourages a free and liberal society, it will advocate for measures that provide a platform for reporting and subsequently dealing with offenders. This will serve to give the victims a voice and an assurance that their plight is taken into account. Provision of such an avenue should also be accompanied with measures that help the victims recover from the ordeal. This may include providing counselling programs and keeping the victims under watch to observe their progress and recovery In addition, policies that promote the role of the society and social workers in aiding victims of violence go a long way in aiding the management of the vice.
Social Work Practice with Victims of Violent Crime
The role of social work with regard to helping victims of violent crime cope is vital for their recovery and healing. In most cases, social workers engage victims in talks that though may seem and sound simple yet actually achieve a lot. The experience of sharing alone is enough to take a whole load of burden off the victim’s shoulder (Gitterman, 2013). In the process of sharing, the social worker gets the chance to interact with the victim at a personal level and to empathize. This is very important for the recovery of the victim. He/she needs to feel that someone understands the ordeal they went through, the predicament they are in and that the person is willing to listen and even offer pieces of advice.
Social work may also act as an eye-opener to the goings-on in the society. Through knowledge, skills and experience, the social worker may be able to unearth facts about the community that were previously unknown. Facts to do with their beliefs, values and culture may offer insight into their way of life (Gitterman, 2013).
Violence against women and children is not a problem restricted to particular countries or regions. Rather it is a global menace (Barner & Carney, 2011). According a 2013 global review of data, 35 per cent of women all around the world have experienced some form of violence. In some countries, the findings are even more alarming with reports of up to 70 percent of women having fallen victim to violence. Research also reveals that of all women who were killed in 2012, about half died in the hands family members or better halves. With this information in mind, it is important that communities and countries around the world demand for more from their governments and from themselves in the fight against violence directed towards women and children. The causes and the outcomes of violence against women and children stem from and affect the society at the end of the day. Therefore, the solution should come from the society in the first place.
Barner, J. R., & Carney, M. M. (2011). Interventions for Intimate Partner Violence: A Historical Review. Journal of Family Violence, 26(3), 235-244.
Daly, K. (2012). Conferences and Gendered Violence: Practices, Politics, and Evidence. Conferencing and restorative justice: International Practices and Perspectives, 117-135.
Garland, D. (2012). The Culture of Control: Crime and Social Order in Contemporary Society. University of Chicago Press.
Gitterman, A. (Ed.). (2013). Handbook of Social Work Practice with Vulnerable and Resilient Populations. Columbia University Press.
Stith, S. M., McCollum, E. E., Amanorâ€Boadu, Y., & Smith, D. (2012). Systemic Perspectives on Intimate Partner Violence Treatment. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 38(1), 220-240.
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