Story published as submitted for the contest “Story of Change”
I am a social worker, working in the field of domestic violence prevention. I have worked with the domestic violence victims for more than one year and assisted more than three hundred victims to prevent and deal with domestic violence issues. I am currently working in the cognitive counseling with domestic violence offenders. For three years, I have worked with 90 male cases and 5 female cases. I worked on assisting them in adjusting behaviors, reconciling with family members, and facing the legal consequences after an offense took place.
Five years ago, I was a student fresh out of college with a degree in social work. I didn’t know how to help the victims who suffered from domestic violence and sexual abuse including the children and teens who witnessed domestic violence at home. Notably, 90% of the victims were females. These events were not foreign to me as I also witnessed my parents’ fighting when I was young. I knew how frightened these children must be. In my childhood, I also witnessed domestic violence in my extended families. I worried about the welfare of my battered cousins but didn’t know how to help them. I was saddened by the intense hopelessness and helplessness in me.
After college, I joined YWCA of Taiwan. I benefitted by all the dynamic learning opportunities offered and particularly the commitment of caring for the needs of all the family members. Most importantly, YWCA accepted the young and inexperienced me who didn’t know what I can offer. They provided me the professional training. They encouraged me to confront the fear that I had in dealing with violent offenders. I realized that only if I experience transformation first and understand my own shortcomings before I can counsel others and understand the unspeakable pain that my client has.
A year after serving the domestic violence victims, I realized that the key to stop domestic violence was to help the domestic violence offenders. When my supervisor asked me whether I was willing to work with the domestic violence offenders, I took the challenge without any hesitation while my friends and family were worried about my decision. They perceived the perpetrators were emotionally unstable people with violent tendencies. They were concerned about my physical safety. As I am a single, unmarried, young lady without children, many doubted my ability to work with the domestic violence offenders. At the beginning, I got cold feet but with my team’s encouragement I took my first step.
My first client was a heavyset male fully covered with tattoos. He broke his wife’s ribs, leaving her hospitalized. We met at a crowded McDonald’s but I was still afraid. I held my courage and asked him “What happened”?
He cried and said no one ever wanted to listen to him.
He was under a lot of pressure and the miscommunication with his wife was painful.
He loved his family dearly. However, he didn’t know how to deal with the never ending unresolvable problems in life.
He was just like a volcano, with the accumulated anxiety and not knowing how to release them. One day the volcano exploded and ended in a fist fight with a badly hurt wife. I finally comprehended that domestic violence offenders may not be bad or evil. They could be loving husbands or they might be child loving fathers but due to the lack of training in anger management, many of the male clients didn’t know how to face their emotional frustrations. When they got angry, they resorted to violence towards their closest family members.
The cause of domestic violence is extremely complex, to the degree that my job is filled with challenges all the time. However, I find my work experiences precious. I am exposed to all kinds of life experiences. I realised in these difficult situations, whether it is the offender or victim, all parties involved suffer. They all crave to be understood. I like to share my work experience with other younger co-workers. I encourage them to learn, to take on responsibilities and to find a team that can help them grow. If there isn’t one, create one. Take advantage of all the resources and opportunities, be humble and learn from other colleague’s experiences. Not to be afraid of making mistakes because making mistake allows one to learn even more. Don’t be afraid to show vulnerability because we don’t need to be perfect. Truth is better than perfection.
Written by: Yue-Mei Lin
YWCA of Taiwan