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How to respond to victims of domestic violence

In the social work field, you will likely encounter victims of domestic violence at some point during your career. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that intimate partner violence affects millions of Americans. According to a 2010 CDC survey, over 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men in the country have experienced some level of physical violence by a spouse or partner in their lifetime. 

Whether you directly work in women's shelters or come across problems during home visits, you need to know how to appropriately respond to victims of domestic violence, especially in regard to their mental health. Abuse can cause long-term mental health problems, if let untreated, could impact a victim's quality of life or care. Here are a couple of ways to respond to your clients in this type of situation: 

Don't force them to talk
When speaking with people who have experienced domestic violence, it's important to not force them to speak until they are ready. You can affirm that if they ever need to talk, they can with you, but don't push them to reveal information before they are comfortable doing so. Once they do decide to talk, ask direct questions and avoid making promises you cannot keep. Furthermore, affirm that the violence was not their fault. 

Refer them to a licensed professional
At times, your clients may experience significant mental health issues as a result of the domestic violence. Consider referring them to a licensed therapist or professional should you feel like they need more help than you can provide. This decision is especially important for clients who express thoughts of wanting to harm themselves or others, where you should seek emergency help immediately.

At ProSolutions Training, we offer online social services training courses, such as "Mental Health: Signs, Challenges, and Responses." Contact one of our representatives today to learn more about our extensive course catalog.