The topics chosen from the given scenario are domestic violence, poverty and feminism. Women's Aid (2009) defines domestic violence as physical, sexual, psychological, or financial. This takes place within an intimate or family type relationship. All forms of domestic violence come from the abuser's desire for power and control. The perpetrator is most commonly male but can be female. For the purpose of the assignment I will use the terminology domestic violence rather than domestic abuse because although the latter is the preferred term a lot of the texts still refer to this as violence.
One in four women will be a victim of domestic violence in their lifetime; many of these on a number of occasions. One incident of domestic violence is reported to the police every minute and on average two women are killed by a current or former partner every week (Women's Aid, 2009). These statistics speak volumes as to the enormous problem we as social workers face.
This assignment will briefly discuss interventions employed to ease poverty in history. Social policy and laws pertaining to domestic violence will be highlighted. Feminism will be used to mention the origins and dynamics of domestic violence. The Ecological Theory and its relevance to social work practice will be demonstrated. Personal reflection will be given and finally a conclusion will draw together the aforementioned topics.
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History and political development
Domestic abuse can be resultant of social structural factors such as bad housing, unemployment and poverty. One can not plot the history of domestic abuse because historically it was seen as a private family matter rather than a societal issue but it is possible to look at a potential causal issue: poverty.
An act which was designed to alleviate poverty was the English Poor Laws introduced in 1601 this dictated that the poor and disabled were taken care of by the working able bodied and the local parishes. The work houses accommodated thousands of poor people who had no choice but to enter these foreboding establishments if they could not find work. Prior to this the poor were cared for by charity (Marshall, 2002).
Enlightenment arose in the eighteenth century as a result of the French addressing their problem of poverty, this was more a way of thinking than a movement but this spread across Europe. This belief was that the government should reward efforts of those working and should not make those poorer when they are willing to work by failing to provide employment. (McStay Adams, 1991).
Less known for helping the poor is the contribution of religious women, one such example being the Sisters of Mercy who for many years during the 1800's provided direct aid to the poor. The Sisters of Mercy helped establish social welfare systems and according to Luquet (2005) contributed to what became social work.
In 1942 the Beveridge Report highlighted what was referred to as the 'five giants'. These were idleness, squalor, want, disease and ignorance. As a result of this a programme of employment was introduced, new houses were built, benefit schemes were initiated, free healthcare was available to everyone and free secondary education was provided by the state (Aslangul et al, 2000).
Thatcherism is the term referred to during the period between 1979 and 1991 when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister. During her time in office she was concerned with controlling Britain's money supply, known as monetarism. She began privatising public companies and introduced the controversial poll tax.
When New Labour was elected they merely retreated further from a commitment to welfare. Basically, they moved away from their traditional roots (McAuley, 2003).
Social policy and law
Social work has witnessed unprecedented changes as a result of the ever changing social policies and new laws which in turn have forced social work to adapt at an alarming rate. Humphrey cited in Davies (2008) in reference to domestic violence wrote; significant barriers are apparent when working in this area but the increase in awareness has resulted in the development of legislation, policy and practice.
The Women's Movement in Britain during the 1960's and 1970's was influenced by radical feminism from USA. The ideology of this was to campaign for equal pay, job opportunities, education, reproductive freedom, childcare, financial and legal independence and end violence against women (Dobash and Dobash, 1992).
The acknowledgment of violence in families was over 150 years ago when The Act for Prevention and Punishment of Aggravated Assaults on Women and Children 1853 and the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 (McKie, 2005).
The first legal recognition in recent history was given to domestic abuse and the women's need to escape from violence in their homes with the introduction of The Domestic Violence Act 1976 (Pascall, 1997).
Interagency collaboration is essential when working in the area of domestic violence. Working Together provides comprehensive and detailed guidance for professionals (Department for Education and Skills, 2006). To protect the victim of domestic violence the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 is in place which can be used to protect someone from behaviour which causes psychological injury. The Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 extend this power (Brayne and Carr, 2008). The Adoption and Children Act 2002 was amended to include the definition of harm, which now states 'impairment suffered from seeing or hearing the ill treatment of another'. Those vulnerable because of domestic violence or the threat of violence are given priority for housing according to the Homeless Act 2002 (Alcock, 2008).
Chung et al (2001) reported that the government suggested to gp's to consider routinely screening women for domestic violence to try and increase rates of identification. However, it is only recently that this concept has been implemented in midwifery but has yet to become commonplace in general practice. This is disappointing because more women are seen by gp's. Also, women may see their doctor about something which may appear unrelated but as Humphreys and Thiara (2003) explain depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and self harm are so prevalent amongst abused women these are referred to as 'symptoms of abuse' which could be picked up and acted upon by gp's.
Dutton (2007) wrote that psychiatry in the early twentieth century had determined that women remain in abusive relationships because the punishment fills an unconscious need in them. Fortunately, this viewpoint was seen as victim blaming by feminists.
Feminists all share the same basic philosophy of wanting fairness and equality. There are however several feminist theories such as radical feminism. It was feminists who first highlighted domestic violence and other taboo issues which were previously beyond public scrutiny because it was thought these belonged to the private sphere of the family (Hester and Pearson cited in Trevithick 2005).
Research shows there is a link between domestic violence and child abuse. Women with learning disabilities have been found to be vulnerable as are physically disabled women (Humphries cited in Davies, 2008).
A very powerful statement by Stacey and Price cited in Pascall (1997) wrote domestic violence is a way men assert power over women. Foucalt (1979) disputes this suggestion because he says power is not used against another and power is not seen as a property or possession. Karl Marx highlighted women's inequalities and their oppression within society but capitalism was mentioned as being the main reason for this (McAuley, 2003).
According to Harris (2005) feminists criticise the media especially the film industry for the film industry for their explicit portrayal of sex and glorifying male violence against women. Similarly, reported allegations of rape are increasing while convictions in the UK decline (McKie, 2005). This knowledge does not instil much confidence in women and in my opinion damages the feminist principles that have taken so long to construct. It must be recognised that only a small number of men are interested in pro-feminist theories and ideas.
Ecological theory, social work practice and reflection.
The ecological theory in sociology has a direct connection to human interactions. It explores the relationship of the physical environment and human culture (Macionis and Plummer, 2005). Using this theory it attempts to link violence in the family to the broader social environment. As a social worker one must recognise women who are being subjected to domestic violence and need a network of support. These include cultural, formal, informal social family networks, the closer family setting and circumstances and family history. It is important to know the policies and laws pertaining to domestic violence. Also, it is beneficial to have knowledge of safe houses, counselling services and practical support.
My personal opinion about domestic violence has not changed over the years. Although, I have recently recognised and accept the relationship between low self esteem and domestic violence. I had a fortunate upbringing and my father always instilled in me the importance of having self respect first and foremost when meeting people. I did have a friend who was subjected to domestic violence but she did not confide in me until her boyfriend had left her for another woman, which I told her was a blessing for her. The thought of someone being violent towards another human being makes me feel sick and I can not comprehend what motivates anyone to abuse another person.
This assignment has explored domestic violence, poverty, history and politics in relation to poverty. Policies and laws were mentioned which protect those subjected to domestic violence. Feminism was discussed, the ecological theory was briefly applied to domestic violence and an explanation was given to its relevance to social work. Finally, I reflected on my own thoughts and feelings in relation to domestic violence.
Having completed this assignment and read widely on the subject of domestic violence I feel this is an emotive area which requires much empathy and support. I believe the most important qualities when working with this issue is to be the victims advocate and empower them on their terms.
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