Client violence and workplace safety are relevant issues for all social workers across practice settings. This entry addresses why and how social workers may be targets for a client's violent behavior, and what we know about who is at risk of encountering violence. Understanding violence from a biopsychosocial perspective, identifying risk markers associated with violent behavior, and an introduction to guidelines for conducting a risk assessment will be discussed. The entry concludes by identifying and describing some general strategies for the prevention of client violence.
Christina E. Newhill
Katherine van Wormer
This article defines restorative justice and describes the models most relevant to social work. These include victim–offender conferencing (sometimes incorrectly referred to as mediation), family group conferencing, healing circles, and community reparations. Restorative justice is an umbrella term for a victim-oriented method of righting a wrong, promoting healing following a conflict, including war, and/or providing a safety in the aftermath of violence (for example, child abuse). Such restorative strategies have their roots in the rituals of indigenous populations and modern-day religious practices, as stated by restorative justice pioneer, Howard Zehr. Restorative justice, as defined by the Social Work Dictionary is “a non-adversarial approach usually monitored by a trained professional who seeks to offer justice to the individual victim, the offender, and the community, all of whom have been harmed by a crime or other form of wrongdoing.” This emerging model for resolving conflict and/or righting a wrong focuses on repairing the harm done by an offense by involving the victim, the offender, and the community. This article identifies resources on restorative justice theories and strategies with special relevance to social workers and to mental health professionals, as well as school and correctional counselors. At the micro level, restorative justice is played out as conferencing between victims and offenders—for example, by way of family group conferences and healing circles. At the macro or societal level, restorative justice takes the form of reparations or truth commissions—to compensate for the harm that has been done, for example, when mass persecutions of people have taken place. The magnitude of the situations covered under the rubric of restorative justice ranges from interpersonal violence to school bullying to mass kidnappings to full-scale terrorism and warfare. Restorative justice refers not only to a number of strategies for resolving conflicts peacefully but also to a political campaign of sorts to advocate for the rights of victims and for compassionate treatment of offenders. Instead of incarceration, for example, the option of community service coupled with substance abuse treatment might be favored. From the offender’s standpoint, accountability and truth-telling are stressed, as the offender typically offers to make amends for the harm that was done. From the victim’s standpoint, a key theme is empowerment, through receiving an apology from the wrongdoer and receiving the support of caring participants.
Judy L. Postmus
Sexual assault or rape affects millions of women and men in the United States; however, it is only in the last 30 years that it is being considered a social problem. During this period, many policies at the state and federal levels have attempted to address sexual assault and provide legal remedies for victims. However, sexual assaults are still the most underreported crime in the United States and are accompanied by bias and misinformation that plague our response. Social workers play a crucial role in offering services to survivors and advocating for more education and awareness in our communities and universities.
Social work practice is best understood and practiced when taking into account the local context. The urban context of social work practice may share much with suburban and rural contexts but also brings with it unique problems and opportunities.