Domestic violence: new guidelines released for social workers

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Residents’ committees, social work agencies and other related institutions will have to report incidents of domestic violence to the police according to the “Opinions on Strengthening the Implementation of Personal Safety Protection Order System” published on March 5.

The opinions, jointly issued by the Supreme People’s Court, together with the All-China Women’s Federation, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Civil Affairs, the Ministry of Justice and the National Health Commission, include a total of 20 articles. The opinions stipulate the principles that should be followed in the implementation of the personal safety protection order system, as well as the specific responsibilities and obligations of each department to assist in implementation.

Three of the articles emphasized the role of social work.

Article 7 clearly states, “Civil affairs departments shall strengthen the training and guidance of residents’ committees, villagers’ committees, social work service agencies, relief management agencies, welfare agencies, etc. These institutions/organizations and their staff should promptly report cases to the authorities if they discover that a person without or with limited capacity for civil conduct has been a victim of domestic violence.

Article 12 clearly states that in order to adhere to the principle of acting in the best interests of minors, all departments should fully consider the physical and mental health of children when listening to their opinions or making inquiries regarding domestic violence. In addition they should provide an appropriate environment, and use language that minors can understand to protect their privacy and safety. When necessary, counselors or social workers can be arranged to assist in the process.

Article 19 makes it clear that when receiving domestic violence reports or when dealing with marriage and family disputes, all related departments may explore the possibility of offering support from social services and counsellors to help alleviate the psychological trauma suffered by victims of abuse. These services can also be used to tackle the behavior of the perpetrators, avoid violence escalating, and fundamentally reduce the occurrence of violent incidents.