Welcome to the March issue of Membership Matters. March is a busy time with celebrations for Women’s History and Social Work months. The theme for Social Work Month is “Social Work Matters,” and for Women’s History Month, “Women’s Education – Women’s Empowerment.” Here’s how I connect these themes.
The first class session in a social work course on domestic violence is always exciting. Students introduce themselves and tell why they want to take this course. The first time I taught the course (1998), students said it was an interesting topic. Four years later (2002) they said they wanted to work in a domestic violence shelter. And this spring 2012 semester, students said, “It doesn’t matter where we work we need to know about domestic violence.” I show them the Domestic Violence & Social Work Fields of Practice Wheel I developed to demonstrate the linkages between our profession and domestic violence and they say: “Tell us something we don’t know.”
I facilitate their learning about the domestic violence movement, universal screening, protective orders, risk assessments, safety planning, oppression, social and economic justice, and the intersections of gender, race, place, citizenship status, age, sexual orientation, and disability. We talk about helping women identify their strengths, the true meaning of empowerment, resiliency, culturally sensitive practice, and ethical dilemmas. Students who are also survivors and the young women exposed to their mothers’ abuse as children share their stories, and we marvel at their resilience and determination to make a difference.
When students have that “ah-ha” moment and recognize that we are all abuse survivors, I know that these new social workers will matter because they “get it;” they understand that education about domestic violence means empowerment for all women including themselves.
Thank you to TCFV for recognizing the many contributions that individual social workers have made and continue to make as front line advocates and as members of the leadership teams of many shelters and organizations. By breaking the silence about domestic violence, we have engaged a profession toward healthy relationships and have laid the groundwork for much needed collaborations.
Associate Professor, School of Social Work, University of Texas at Arlington
TCFV Friend Member