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THE ACTIVE INVOLVEMENT OF FAMILY AND FRIENDS IN THE PROCESS OF HELPING SURVIVORS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

Andrej Mtel Summary According to author of this article is possible to claim that the family and friends play one of the key roles in the process of helping survivors of domestic violence, especially in the process of social inclusion of shelter clients. Professional counsellors ought to at least know about the importance of the social context and the role of close relatives and recommend them to the client. If possible, it would be suitable, with the approval of the client, to contact and actively involve them in the process of counselling and therapy of their relative.

Key words: domestic violence, violence against woman, family, friends, help, shelters.

The author of this article defines domestic violence as a long-term exploitation of power, which takes place in family or partner relationships, but also after break-up, usually in the scope of a shared dwelling. Domestic violence includes not only physical and sexual forms of violence, but also psychical abuse and social and economical hardship. The survivors are usually children, women, seniors or other persons who are unable to defend themselves duly from the power abuse.1 In the cases of domestic violence it especially applies that the person, who has undergone a trauma, can recover solely in the context of relationships, nobody can recover from trauma in isolation.2 One of the first international documents dealing with the elimination of domestic violence Recommendation of the Council of Europe no. R (85)4 about violence in the family3 (1985) - puts emphasis on the role of family members, especially in the scope of secondary prevention, in terms of early identification and settlement of conflicts. In later international documents, where the domestic violence is viewed in the wider context of gender-based violence against women, the professionalization of help given to survivors of domestic violence is highlighted. By employment of specialized professional counselling the important support role of family and friends in the process of help and assistance to women,
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Mtel, A. Domce nsilie ako socilno-patologick jav. In: BARGEL, M. MHLPACHR, P. et al. Inkluze versus exkluze dilemata sociln patologie, 2010, p. 112. 2 Herman, J. L. Trauma a uzdravenie, 2001, p. 185. 3 Council of Europe: Violence in the Family: Recommendation no. R (85)4 adopted by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe and explanatory Memorandum (COE.M.1.1/86 VI 1986).

who became survivors of domestic violence, can be, to a great degree, left out. The fact that a woman has undergone abuse in her partnership or family does not necessarily mean that the family, in which she was raised, cannot be a place of protection, refuge and support for her. In this context irtkov speaks about non-professional help to victims of domestic violence.4 Parents, siblings, distant relatives or friends may considerably help a woman, experiencing domestic violence. Such a woman needs a trust-worthy person to provide her with emotional support, i.e. help her release emotions, talk, cry or yell out. The wider family can also provide the woman also with social and economical help. The family should function as a place of unconditional security and support, where the survivors can undergo all natural phases of coping with the undergone trauma. The American psychiatrist and psychotherapist Judith Lewis Herman writes about the need of social context, which provides the victim with affirmation and protection, helps the victim contact a witness of the event and form and alliance. For each individual victim this social context is formed by friendship, love and family relationships.5 On the other hand, there is a certain danger that close relatives will react improperly to the case of domestic violence and will thus further traumatize and victimize the woman. A typical improper reaction is snubbing. While talking about the traumatic experience she might hear: Leave it be, forget about it, it will change somehow. In the next stage everybody will try to avoid this awkward topic in an attempt to forget about it. Trivialization of the situation and claiming that the woman is sick (or disordered) usually by the family of the aggressor is connected to the snubbing. But the most improper reaction is the demonstration of support to the aggressor. In such a case it is necessary for the woman, who is experiencing domestic violence, to abandon a certain part of her natural social environment. The intervention and counselling by professionals is then the only way out of the circle of violence. According to the first representative research of violence committed on females in Slovakia (2002), seeking help of relatives or neighbours predominates with the Slovak women who experienced repeated violence from their intimate partners. Out of the women, who experienced strong forms of violence in their present relationship, 54,2 % sought the help of their relatives and neighbours, with lighter forms of violence it was 40,6 %.6 This finding was confirmed also by the last representative research on the occurrence and experience of women as victims of violence committed on females in Slovakia in 2008. 65,5 % sought help of their

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irtkov, L. Pomoc obtem (a svdkm) trestnch in, 2007, p. 126-130. Herman, J.L. Trauma a uzdravenie, 2001, p. 23. 6 Bodnrov, B., Filadelfiov, J. Domce nsilie a nsilie pchan na ench v SR, p. 81.

relatives and neighbours (with lighter forms of violent relationships it was 40%); 92,7 % of women experiencing strong forms of violence from their ex-partners sought help of their family and friends (with lighter forms of violence it was 45,3 %).7 As a part of his doctoral degree studies at the Trnava University (2006 - 2009), the author of this article carried out a specialized applied research in two selected shelters, which provide accommodation, social help and counselling for the victims of domestic violence.8 Both these social care facilities are run by a non-governmental organization and they are situated in Western Slovakia in the area of Zahorie. The object of the research was domestic violence. The primary object of research were women, who repeatedly underwent a trauma caused by violence, as a consequence of which they left home and went to shelter. The objective of the research was conceptual. It aimed to point out the positives and flaws of services for survivors of domestic violence and to lead to improvement of their quality and extent. The purpose of the research was to improve the quality of complex services for women who experienced domestic violence. From the point of view of methodology, it was an integrated research. The starting point was a qualitative research and an inductive approach. The results of the qualitative research were consecutively processed by means of application of quantification, comparison and categorization rules. The design of the research was a combination of open topical face-to-face interviews, which were partially structured and with open questions and an analysis of archive materials. The researched time period was between 1 st June 2002 and 30th March 2009. The data capture took place from January 2008 to 30 th March 2009. Primary research sample were adult women, which had been clients of selected social care facilities and were diagnosed with domestic violence. Out of the 169 clients of these social care facilities, 113 (67 %) women were staying at them because of domestic violence. Within the scope of identification of persons, who helped these abused women, apart from specialized professionals they stated also the help of their biological relatives and friends throughout various stages of their breaking of the circle of violence. Among the fourteen activities stated as undertaken before the staying in shelters, 17 % of the respondents stated they had sought the help of biological family and 13 % of friends.

Bodnrov, B., Filadelfiov, J., Holubov, B. Reprezentatvny vskum vskytu a sksenosti ien s nsilm pchanom na ench (VAW) na Slovensku, p. 70-71. 8 Mtel, A. Nae monosti pomoci enm obetiam domceho nsilia, 2009.

Chart no. 1 Activities of women before their arrival in shelter.

On the basis of the interviews I am convinced that the archive materials concerning this group are insufficient. During the interviews I found out that if a womans parents are still alive or she has any other relatives and it is not them, from whom she is running, she seeks their help. In the group of clients of shelter, the limitation of the relatives is usually the impossibility of providing the abused women with long-term accommodation. Friends belong to important non-professional (laical) subjects of help, too. Disproportions in results of the oral interviews and the study of the archive material convinced me that the questioning and of the clients on admittance to shelters is not sufficient. Therefore, I propose these as standard questions on admittance of a new client to a shelter: Have you sought help of your relatives? If you did, specify who it was. What did they help you with? What were they unable to help you with? Have you sought help of any of your friends? How did the help you? Can you evaluate positive and negative experiences with the help of your relatives and friends? Concerning the distribution to the shelter, 6% of women stated that their family or friends helped them contact the shelter (chart no. 2).

Chart no. 2 Distribution of the clients to shelter percentage rate

Concerning accommodation, the family had an important role also after the stay in shelter. 17 % of women stated as the place of their subsequent accommodation was their relatives (parents, siblings, grandparents). The stay in shelter in these cases contributed to a change in the attitudes of the relatives towards a more active help in the sphere of accommodation. I have mentioned above one case of departure of a woman to her friends place with the perspective of long-term accommodation.

Conclusion To sum up, it is possible to claim that the biological family plays one of the key roles in the process of social inclusion of shelter clients. Professional counsellors ought to at least know about the importance of the social context and the role of close relatives and recommend them to the client. If possible, it would be suitable, with the approval of the client, to contact and actively involve them to the process of counselling and therapy of their relative. In the Slovak law no. 448/2008 about the social service the workers in social services are reminded to cooperate with the family to create conditions suitable for the return of the receiver of the social service to his or her natural environment.

References

BODNROV, B., FILADELFIOV, J. 2003. Domce nsilie a nsilie pchan na ench v SR. Skrten verzia zverenej sprvy z vskumu. Bratislava : SPR, 2003. BODNROV, B., FILADELFIOV, J., HOLUBOV, B. 2008. Reprezentatvny vskum vskytu a sksenosti ien s nsilm pchanom na ench (VAW) na Slovensku. Zveren sprva V . 2224. Bratislava : IVPR, 2008. COUNCIL OF EUROPE: Violence in the Family: Recommendation no. R (85)4 adopted by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe and explanatory Memorandum COE.M.1.1/86 VI 1986. IRTKOV, L., VITOUOV, P. et al. 2007. Pomoc obtem (a svdkm) trestnch in. Praha : Grada, 2007. HERMAN, J. L. 2001. Trauma a uzdravenie. Bratislava : Aspekt, 2001. MTEL, A. 2009. Nae monosti pomoci enm obetiam domceho nsilia. Skalica : Alija, 2009. 200 s. ISBN 978-80-970083-1-4. MTEL, A. 2010. Domce nsilie ako socilno-patologick jav. In: BARGEL, M. MHLPACHR, P. et al. Inkluze versus exkluze dilemata sociln patologie. Brno : MSD, 2010. ISBN 978-80-87182-12-3, p. 108-117. Zkon . 448/2008 Z. z. o socilnych slubch a o zmene a doplnen zkona . 455/1991 Zb. o ivnostenskom podnikan (ivnostensk zkon) v znen neskorch predpisov. Author doc. PhDr. ThDr. Andrej Mtel, PhD. Department of Social Work St. Elizabeth University of Health and Social sciences, Bratislava andrej.matel@gmail.com

Quotation MTEL, A. 2011. The active involvement of family and friends in the process of helping survivors of domestic violence. In: Clinical social work ISSN 2076-9741, no. 3, 2011, p. 105-114.