Domestic violence is a term used to describe physical, emotional and sexual abuse that occurs between members of the same household. A domestic violence social worker is a direct service social worker who specializes in assisting the survivors of domestic violence as well as their families. She may work in a shelter, a hospital, or a university. Individuals can refer themselves to domestic violence social workers or be referred by medical doctors, community workers, school officials, and emergency rooms.
When an individual is referred to a domestic violence social worker, the social worker conducts an assessment -- either oral or written -- to determine if the person is experiencing domestic violence. He will also assess the level of danger she is currently experiencing in her home environment.
Domestic violence social workers are specially trained to provide counsel around ways to increase the physical safety of individuals escaping domestic violence. They work with victims to determine where else they can live in the short-term, and walk them through the steps of placing a restraining order. They might also refer individuals to a support group or to psychotherapy.
If a social worker determines that an individual is in need of emergency shelter -- meaning she has nowhere else to go that is safe -- he networks with area shelters to find a safe and confidential location where she can live in the short-term. He also coordinates her transportation to the location and helps her to secure food and crucial household items for the interim. A social worker in a residential setting might also help with securing long-term housing for a victim of domestic violence.
Once a client is stabilized, the social worker then monitors the client's progress by meeting with her periodically, conducting follow-up assessments, maintaining contact with all of her collateral service providers (primary care physician, psychiatrist, etc.), and helping her set short- and long-term goals. Follow up is essential after an individual leaves an abusive relationship, as the period directly following the separation is when most people return to their abusers.
Other duties of a domestic violence social worker might involve monitoring an emergency hotline, conducting outreach to health clinics and schools, and holding support groups for domestic violence survivors.
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