Domestic violence, rape, torture and enslavement affect women and children around the world. Crimes are committed behind closed doors and the power and control exercised by the abuser over the victim compounds the secrecy in which many women and girls live.
The prevalence of forced marriage, the threat of honour killings, the emancipation of women, where religious or cultural barriers still exist, are critical factors in understanding the prevalence of people who are victims of abuse. The lack of respect for women and girls is a major cause of HIV/AIDS still at pandemic proportions in Africa and Asia.
Members of the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) work with both the victims and the offenders every day to change these behaviours. Today, 25 November, the UN not only marks the trauma of the victims but acknowledges the work to end violence.
An increasing number of countries are recognising that special consideration has to be given to these crimes. In 1971 Erin Pizzey set up the first shelter for women victims of domestic abuse in the world, in London. The growth of support, initiated often in the NGO sector has developed into concrete governmental responsibilities that are now reinforced by laws to protect people from harm.
Policy makers and legislators listened to victims and social workers who have evidenced not only the trauma experienced by the victim directly, but the secondary damage caused to children within the family who see a parent being beaten or raped. In some countries not only is legal action taken to ensure that the victim is protected from the offender but social workers can now intervene in families on behalf of the children to work with them and their communities towards safe family life. Scotland is one example where the law changed in 2011 to safeguard children where domestic violence is an issue.
The media no longer shies away from portrayal of domestic violence in films and TV shows. The public discussion has changed. However this is not universal and some leaders around the world still fail to see the damage being caused to people in our communities.
Take for example Azerbaijan. As a society based on traditional values, social problems are placed on the shoulders of individual responsibility. The general context is challenging both the social workers and the individual facing domestic violence. Whilst the public administration is making efforts to create possibilities for the employment of social workers this is still a work in progress.
In the constitution, family violence is a problem which must be managed by the family. Social workers and students in social work realize that this concept does not work in reality and those affected cannot solve these kind of problems alone. Students in social work and social workers in Azerbaijan do not want to leave the victims of domestic violence alone in this situation of vulnerability.
At the moment the only way to deal with the problem is that social workers enhance their professional competences. They try to improve their skills to react professionally to the problems even if this is not yet part of their job description.
The new generations of students in social work start to discuss the problems and they start to learn. With their professional approach and demonstrating potential solutions they contribute to changing the society. In Azerbaijan this is the most realistic approach at present, as nobody else feels responsible or in charge of dealing with a lot of social problems including domestic violence.
Today the social workers and students will create a space where they learn and share information on domestic violence. And they activate media to join them in this process of exchange of information. This is a space where they benefit and increase their knowledge and competences. With this approach, the young generation of social workers increase the awareness about the profession of social workers and about the specific social problems, such as domestic violence, but also seek to inform civil society.
In some countries, like Romania, the help is being offered through NGOs, moving towards government involvement. Under the Emergency Department and together with the Romanian Association of Social Workers (ASproAS) social workers from emergency units are bringing a real support for the victims of domestic violence and victims of sexual violence. the social workers in the emergency units create a excellent, comprehensive social work services that assist women in a difficult moment of their life.
Social workers have a key role in working with others to create transformational change, particularly in our Social Protection Systems, http://www.ifsw.org/policies/the-role-of-social-work-in-social-protection-systems-the-universal-right-to-social-protection/ IFSW calls upon all its members on this special day for the protection of women and girls to be involved with experts by experience, our communities and our politicians to make sure violence is not inevitable.