The role social workers play in addressing intimate partner violence (IPV), also known as domestic violence, often goes unnoticed. In recent years, intimate partner violence has been labelled a ‘significant public health issue’ by the Centers for Disease control and Prevention.
What is intimate partner violence?
According to the CDC, some of the behaviors that are classified as IPV include ‘physical violence, sexual violence, stalking, and psychological aggression/abuse.’ Additionally, intimate partner violence can include financial abuse, controlling behaviors, and other patterns of power and control as outlined by The Duluth Model.
How do social workers address intimate partner violence?
To put a stop to IPV and abuse, social workers have been at the “forefront in preventing domestic violence and treating domestic violence survivors.” Social workers can and do address IPV at all three levels of the social work profession, including the micro (individual) level, mezzo (community) level, and the macro (policy) level. To appropriately respond to victims of IPV, social workers primarily ensure that they are trauma-informed, upholding the responsibility of further educating oneself post-graduation, and using evidence-based methods when addressing or intervening with clients and constituencies.
Addressing IPV at the individual level
Other things social workers do to address the issue of IPV, at the micro level, includes working one-on-one with victims to facilitate resources, advocating on behalf of the victim(s), and bypassing obstacles that otherwise stand in their way of obtaining justice.
Addressing IPV at the community level
At the mezzo level, the social work response is more community centered and includes interventions and treatment of the victim and their child(ren), increasing general knowledge of the issue in the community (especially for law enforcement and health care professionals), and increasing the awareness of resources in the area.
Addressing IPV at the policy level
Finally, at the macro level of social work, practitioners may work against the societal norms that perpetuate public health issues such as IPV, including gender inequality, or they may be working to amend or eradicate laws that prevent or make it more difficult for victims of IPV to safely flee their perpetrators.
In conclusion, social work practitioners’ roles and responsibilities in addressing IPV may not be widespread knowledge, however, that does not dispute the difference that the profession has been fighting to make in the lives of victims and their families. In the future, we can expect to see social workers continuing to offer their support and helping hands through a variety of ways including shelter programs, individual counseling, court advocacy, and much more.
By: Emily M. Gillum, EKU Online BSW Student
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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, November 2). Preventing intimate partner violence | violence prevention | injury center | CDC. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved April 5, 2022, from
Domestic abuse intervention programs www.theduluthmodel. (n.d.). Retrieved April 5, 2022, from https://www.tessacs.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/PowerandControl.pdf
National Association of Social Workers (NASW). NASW – National Association of Social Workers. (n.d.). Retrieved April 5, 2022, from https://www.socialworkers.org/News/1000-Experts/Media-Toolkits/Domestic-Violence