Every March, social workers across Canada recognize National Social Work Month to acknowledge the important contributions they make to our society. City of Edmonton social workers decided to use this opportunity to discuss four topics in a blog series. The series will the walk you through domestic abuse, suicide prevention, innovation and the City’s drop-in services. The series will showcase one blog post a week for the month of March. The City of Edmonton celebrates our social workers and their contributions to making Edmonton a safer more vibrant city for all.
Does a troubled economy directly link to domestic abuse?
Domestic abuse is about power and control, says Jennifer Kuefler, a social worker with the City’s Domestic Violence Intervention Team. When the abuser is unemployed they can feel ashamed or angry at their inability to provide. In a family where abusive behavior is already present the stress can increase the frequency of the abuse. The victim – who is used to breaks in the abuse when their partner is at work – no longer has any kind of relief. The victim can feel more monitored or controlled.
“Family violence isn’t caused by poor job prospects,” says Jennifer Kuefler. “In these relationships, the abuse was always present. What we are seeing this year are already dangerous situations becoming more volatile.”
“Economic slumps provide the abuser with leverage,” says Jennifer. “They excuse their behaviour by saying they are stressed out or something similar and it appeals to the victim’s emotional state.”
Jobs place a control on the abuser, for example alcohol and drug abuse are kept in check because they are required to go to work. Without these controls or expectations, a situation can quickly spiral out of control. While financial stress can be present in relationships, a healthy relationship will cope very differently than a relationship where abusive behaviors are present.
“The most common advice people hear is ‘why don’t you just leave?’ That doesn’t reflect the reality of the situation,” says Jennifer.
“The victim is often made to take on burdens of the abusive relationship. Things like credit cards will be in the victim’s name, so the financial debt is accrued by them alone. The abuser might make them cut off contact with friends and family, so they are isolated. When there are children involved, it’s even more difficult to break from the cycle.”
If you suspect someone you know is being abused, try to offer support. Let them know they are not responsible for someone else’s behaviour, help them connect with resources in the community and most importantly believe in them and offer to help. Often, you’re the last person they feel they can talk to.
Abuse is not always visible because it can come in many forms other than physical violent behaviours. Emotional, verbal, psychological, economic and sexual abuse all have damaging effects on individuals. Learn more about forms of domestic abuse here.
Jennifer encourages anyone interested in finding out more to visit the City of Edmonton Community Services website, call The Individual & Family Well -Being Team at 780-496-4777 or The Today Family Violence Help Centre at 780-455-6880 for more information.