Monday, March 8, 2010

Social Justice Challenge for March: Domestic Violence and Child Abuse

2010 Social Justice Reading Challenge

The Social Justice Challenge for March is one I’m familiar with. I am concentrating on Children and Families in my Social Work program, and I also come from a family rampant with both forms of violence.

  • What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of domestic violence and child abuse? My family, and my clients. Children, women, men. Humanity.
  • What does domestic violence and child abuse mean to you personally? I come from a family with multiple generations of abuse. My maternal grandfather was beat with chains. He in turn ruled his house with an iron fist – literally. The abuse, in some form, has trickled down throughout my family. Half of the women in my family have endured domestic violence relationships, multiple times. I am not sure how I escaped all of this. Some of it was personal choice, some of it was having a mother who made different choices. Now, my mother wasn’t perfect. I mostly remember her ridiculous temper (very common character trait in my family) and her 5’ tall self scared the crud out of me growing up. But, she loved me so deeply. So unconditionally. I think that makes the difference.
  • What is your current knowledge of domestic violence and child abuse? I am not all knowing, but I’m learning a lot about it. I do know that is prevalent, and while we strive to make changes in how people handle personal turmoil/conflict/stress/anxiety, it is a VERY difficult thing to eradicate. Some of it's learned, some of it's personal choice. Some of it's not knowing how to handle situations properly.
  • Are you aware of the resources available for men, women and children who find themselves in domestic violence and child abuse situations? In my area, yes. There are also multiple internet resources, which lead to local resources.
  • Have you chosen a book or resource to read for this month? I desperately want to read Push, but I don’t own the book yet. I’ve seen The Burning Bed and The Color Purple, but never read the books. I am going to check out, because I would ultimately like to work with adolescents on these very issues.
  • Take some time and think about what potential action steps you could take. (I’ll have a post dedicated to this shortly). Continue working with my clients, and educate those around me as much as possible.

"At least half of the exercise I get everyday comes from jumping to conclusions."

No, I’m not referring to Office Space (although that is one hell of a great movie). This quote was presented to me in a Cultural Competency training today, and it really stuck. We all have personal biases, and make stereotypes, assumptions, and generalizations about people different from us. The culturally competent worker recognizes this about him/herself and works to push those pieces of themselves to the side, and fully respect the person, accept their differences and learn more about them.

Cultural Competency is the new buzz word. It is so very important in today’s world, where globalization is bringing all walks of life together in personal and professional situations. It is of utmost importance that professionals working directly with people – health care providers, social service providers, etc. really grasp and apply this concept in order to be effective at their job.

The elements that we need to follow:

  1. Awareness of one’s own culture (and of other’s)
  2. Understanding the dynamics of differences
  3. Awareness and acceptance of differences
  4. Development of cultural knowledge
  5. Celebration of diversity

As we say in Social Work – START WHERE THE CLIENT IS. Ask questions! Don’t assume you know what is best for that client. What is best for you might be downright offensive and ridiculous to another. How would they solve a problem? How do they cope with life’s difficulties? What is their perspective of the problem?

It all starts with the person. And no one person is the same. So leave the generalizations at home. Be open and respect diversity. We need to realize that we are all human, but we all bring a great uniqueness to the table, which makes us all very interesting. Ignorance is where conflict arises. You don't have to agree with someone's way of life, but respecting and accepting that is how they live THEIR life, would make the world one hell of a better place.