Partnered with a Survivor: David Mandel and Ruth Reymundo Mandel

Season 2 Episode 22: Minisode on Worker Safety & Well Being: The Connection Between Worker Safety and Victim Blaming

November 26, 2021 Ruth Stearns Mandel & David Mandel Season 2 Episode 22
Partnered with a Survivor: David Mandel and Ruth Reymundo Mandel
Season 2 Episode 22: Minisode on Worker Safety & Well Being: The Connection Between Worker Safety and Victim Blaming
Show Notes Transcript

In this third installment of the multi-part minisode series on worker safety and well-being, Ruth and David explore the connection between worker safety and victim blaming.   In a just over  15 minutes , David & Ruth discuss: 

  • How a lack of knowledge of how fathers' choices impact families and engagement skills with men hamper  work with violent fathers
  •  How these gaps can be worse for fathers from communities where racism has led to the further vilification of men, as being dangerous, irresponsible, or irrelevant
  • How this lack of knowledge, skills and confidence can lead to workers feeling unsafe about engaging fathers who have been violent, which leaves the worker to focus on survivors' choices as means to keep children safe
  • Victim blaming results when the survivor doesn't act in accordance with agency wishes

In the second half of the minisode, David and Ruth outline some steps agencies can take including:  

  • Training  workers to have the skills and confidence to assess the influence of all father’s choices on the family functioning- not just seeing the mum as the responsible for the functioning of the home. 
  • Training workers in the skills and confidence to engage fathers , even ones with histories of violence
  • Prioritize whole- of- family work including incorporation in to reflective supervision
  • Require regular conversations about worker emotional and physical  safety in domestic violence cases as a regular, proactive part  of supervision
  • Create a culture where workers know that expressing safety worries is normal, and  that they will be supported around strategies for safety, not judged for disclosing fears
  • Ensure that domestic violence case are  explicitly mentioned in any worker safety policy 

About the  worker safety and well-being minisode series   
The goal of the series is to address the critical issues of worker safety and well-being as a critical aspect of domestic violence-informed systems. This is a series for frontline staff across child protection, mental health and addiction, courts and other systems. We hope it will validate their experiences. This is also a series for human resources managers and organizational leadership. Setting policies and procedures to address worker emotional & professional safety in the context of domestic violence cases is essential to creating a domestic violence-informed agency.

Topics in the series include:

  • When workers are targeted by the perpetrator of one of the clients
  • The connection between worker safety in engaging perpetrators and mother-blaming practice.
  • When workers are being targeted by their own perpetrator (through the workplace and at home)
  • When workers own experience of abuse are triggered by their work with families
  • Managing your own fears, as the worker, about the safety of the family.

Listen to the introduction to the series
Read the Safe & Together Institute’s white paper on worker safety

Now available! Mapping the Perpetrator’s Pattern: A Practitioner’s Tool for Improving Assessment, Intervention, and Outcomes The web-based Perpetrator Pattern Mapping Tool is a virtual practice tool for improving assessment, intervention, and outcomes through a perpetrator pattern-based approach. The tool allows practitioners to apply the Model’s critical concepts and principles to their current case load in real

And we're back and we're back. This is another Minnesota episode, or Minnesota keeping a row of Minnesota Minnesota Soda Minnesota partnered with Survivor right there. That's right. Well, this is partnered with a survivor. I'm David Mandel, executive director of the Safe and Together Institute. 

And I'm with Stearns Mandel and I am the e-learning, communications and strategic relationship manager. And we are not in Minnesota. 

No, no. We are on Texas land in Connecticut, where the traditional owners have been the Texas people, part of the larger Algonquin Nation, 

which is a living and thriving nation. That's right. And we are doing a Minnesota series on worker safety 

and well-being and well-being. That's right. Yeah. And this is the third episode in that series, and the last one we did was the one on on how workers could be targeted by clients. Yes. And this one is about the connection between worker safety and. Engaging perpetrators. And mother blaming, correct? 

That's right. So you can you can frame. Go ahead and frame the initial piece of the problem here 

in your mind. OK. So workers have often not been supported through education training to have this operational, practical understanding of how fathers influence child and family functioning. So this means that when they go on to work with families, they don't have a map when they see problems in the family that that allows them to explore and go back to looking at how might a male caregiver be influencing truancy or medical issues, not getting medical care or or other neglect issues, you know, or behavioral problems? 

And this stems from not believing that male caregivers are impactful to the well-being of their children. 

That's right. Good or bad important. They're not looking at their importance, right? And so that means that in addition to that, they often don't have the they haven't been given. They have been trained, are expected to have skills to engage with fathers mentored by violent fathers right now, the confidence or the experience to do that. So again, so if you have these two things, a lack of a mental map and then a lack of experience around engagement, and then both those things are amplified when you talk about violent fathers, right? That that issue and now we have an issue about fears about making things worse, fears about confronting someone violent about their behaviors. And and so that's exacerbated by this lack of of a framework for kind of building rapport with men in general, just a lack of experience building reporting in general. So, so. When we look at this issue, it can even be worse if we're talking about men from marginalized communities where those men have been further vilified as being dangerous, irresponsible, irrelevant. So. So it's like like I'm top of on top of the top. 

We have the inability of the system to focus on the right person in a lot of levels. But how does that dump into worker safety? 

Well, it means that when they are looking at issues of child safety and well-being and that's not just child protection, it could be Family Court could be lots of different places. 

See housing, mental 

health, kinds of places. They're always thinking about kids, right? Right. That that gap or those levels of resistance or fears about safety means that if I've got a job to keep kids safe, then I'm going to focus on the path. I'm comfortable with familiar. And then culturally, I have higher standards and expectations around which is the mom. So there's a direct connection with that lack of skills, confidence and experience, working with fathers that working with violent fathers. Right. That really makes it really creates this environment or supports an environment where, mom, you've got to do this, mom, you got to. If the kids are going to be safe, you've got to go to refuge, you've got to leave the relationship you've got. And we've got this kind of perfect kind of storm around this. And so this is the connection. Mm-Hmm. OK. And you know, there's there's tons of stories I can tell you about when workers have actually address their fears have been supported that actually it changes the way they work with the entire family, not just with that right father, but it allows for more partnering with survivors. So when when we think about what agencies can do about this, 

well, let's define a little bit more of the danger to workers because I feel like you've defined the problem with not working with men. But what happens in that environment that creates danger for workers when they don't know how to engage in this way? 

Well, well, the danger for workers comes with their their feelings of not feeling safe. Psychologically, them feeling like they they're not prepared. So what you'll get is, is actually you won't get somebody saying, I'm scared. They'll say things like, I can't find him. Or even if I found him, he wouldn't change. And so a lot of the the kind of signs on safety aren't presented by workers as I'm unsafe. 

Well, if you don't know a person's pattern of behaviors in the first place, you're operating within a lack of utilizzato information about your your safety risks and the dangers involved. And that is a that's a primary flaw in the system when it doesn't gather those patterns of behavior. 

Ican't tell you, as part of the inception of the model was asking workers, Can you tell about the perpetrator's pattern of behavior, including has he ever targeted people outside the family? And they didn't know most of the time? Right? And so so this idea of you asking me this question about what's the danger? The danger is often unformed. It's it's just there. It's it's it's it's kind of an assumption. It's it's often not really codified. And so we don't codify it. When you don't explicitly focus on it, you're you either make it worse than it is in your mind. You make it less than it is in your mind. You ignore it. And so I think, you know, it's interesting your question about how does it show up as danger to workers? Well, I think it shows up in kind of a shared kind of avoidance. 

Well, I can see that shared avoidance and lack of documentation and lack of focus on that pattern of behavior as a potential threat to workers safety can lead to a lot of different types of harm. Then if you think about how many calls police officers go on for domestic violence and we're working in an incidence focused system that really hasn't gathered together the information about whether or not that perpetrator has a gun, how many times the officer has visited that house, if there were threats made to the officer, if there were threats made to social workers so that we can really look at and risk assess the the the reality of that abuser and what they could do to different types of workers within the system. 

And I think this is where racism and stereotyping can really play in the lack of actually a formal way of kind of assessing danger to workers and thinking about risk. Because you start in a lot of cultures that we're working in, there'll be a lot of attribution wrongly of greater levels of violence to to to black man to digits, man to poor white men. And and people will make mistakes and sort of think if somebody is educated, if they're white, if they've got a good job that they're automatically less of a danger to them or right and or their family. And you know, and so that's that's a real problem when 

making those analyzes based off of things that are that are rooted in biases and assumptions, right, rather than actual factual patterns of evidence which needs to change. 

So let me tell you one story and let's talk about agencies can do one story in the positive is presented a case. This is part of a project in Australia, and they're very scared of this guy. They had to work with him, and the workers developed a really robust safety plan for meeting with him in the office, picking a room with two exit so they couldn't be trapped having a third person outside. And and so they really developed a very robust plan for their own safety. And then they're engaged with him, met initial resistance, but they persisted despite the resistance. And by the end of the that that engagement, he identified a problem and he was they were talking about what he could do to make changes. And I don't believe they would have actually persisted. Yeah. If they didn't feel safe. Right. And so if you think about somebody's response for child safety, who doesn't engage somebody or kind of backs off at the first level of resistance or doesn't try to find them, but still has a job to keep kids safe? Well, they're going to keep going back to that mom. Mom, you need to do this, mom. You need to do that. Mom, you need to leave. And so I see every time I see workers feeling more confident and supported and expected to do these engagements, not without the support, because they need it. That I see now this success in that work with that person, that male caregiver, it's it's often going to be a success for that work with a survivor because she's going to not look at them and go, Oh, you're just as scared of him as I am. You know, workers kind of resist. Survivors are watching them and they're going, you don't want to talk to him. 

Well, it's not even watching for whether or not they're they're comfortable and feel safe to talk to him. It's whether or not they can see through those manipulations as well. 

And I think that's right. That's right. And that's that's where the thinking has to be, you know, sophisticated and actually right, you know, be grounded in perpetrators patterns. OK, now can I want to talk about what agencies can do? Do it all right. You're ready. Yeah. OK. One is obviously to train workers to have the skills and confidence to assess the influence of all father's choices on the family farm and not just seeing the mom as the responsible party for the functioning. So I think we need this foundation of just working with dads and we need this foundation. That's not just dads are great. 

Dads matter and their choices matter. 

Well, not just add matters. Actually, dads choices matter. This behavioral focus is so important to the work, right? And then have them really have the confidence to assess it and then engage, you know, both those things, even with histories of violence. And that becomes part of the it's not just a one off, it's a special population. It's just the way you work with families, right? OK. Make whole of family work a priority for the agency top to bottom and incorporate this in and reflective supervision. And that means that it's not up to individual workers to prioritize engaging men. It's for agencies to think about the entire family, and this is about being good allies to adult survivors. Child survivors is is don't just think about those violent fathers as being sort of just the bad guy that people need to get away from. But they really need to kind of we need to really engage and work with in a non naive way. Mm hmm. Make conversations about worker emotional, physical safety, a regular, proactive part of of how we engage or part of the supervision around engaging with families said domestic violence is a factor. And so it's it's supervisors and team leaders. Managers can't wait for the worker to bring it up, right? They need to actively explore. You have to have a 


right? You need to start out assuming that these are going to be fraught cases for workers and there's 

going to be conflict and there's going to be threats. 

Get ahead of it. You better bring it up. Discuss it, make normalize it for workers. 

Ithink that planning for it is is a is a is a level of negligence which which really puts workers in positions that are dangerous and will lead to bad practice. And it is going to be counter and counterintuitive, counterproductive to our goals, really not having a plan 

and and letting workers know setting our culture. Workers know that sharing worries will not be charged, right. I think workers often have a fear that I will be told I can't do the job. I'm not strong enough. I'm not tough enough. These are hard families. So just that culture of not judging for sharing worries. And then lastly, to make sure that domestic violence is explicitly mentioned in any worker safety policy. And and there's a lot more we could talk about like like threat assessment, team meetings and stuff like that. I'm not saying it's the totality, but when I reviewed worker safety policies for four agencies that are going into the homes and communities, I almost never see domestic explicitly recognized as a potential worker safety issue. I see very generic language. I don't see it addressing that dynamic. And so I think that's something agencies need to take since 

we know that domestic violence perpetrators have a high rate of criminality, including violence towards other people, terrorism and those type of criminality behaviors. We actually have to plan for it, right? You have to assume that this person is perpetrating in multiple places and abusing many different people in many different settings, 

at least have that as a framework of of assessment. Yes, because that's not necessarily true in every case, right? 

But we have to know it's a potential. 

We have to know it's a potential. Okay, so here we are. This, so is a sprint from me. I've always like, like saying, are we doing this in the right time? But I think we're right at time. Yes. So when you've been listening to our Minnesota series around worker safety and well-being, we're trying to drop some knowledge in little bite sized chunks. 

And I am restrains Mandel e-learning and communications and strategic relationship manager. 

Iam David Mandel, executive director of the Safe and Together Institute. 

If you would like more information, please go to our website. Safe and Together Institute Dot Com or Academy Dot Safe and Together Institute dot com and we are out.