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Senior Social Work Practitioner and an Ambassador for the City Sikhs Network, Kiran Grewal, shares her views on what more could be done to help victims of domestic abuse within the Sikh community.

What barriers are there in reporting domestic abuse?

When it comes to reporting domestic abuse, every community faces challenges such as fear of being judged, fear of what the perpetrator may do when he or she discovers the disclosure and fear of how others within the community may react.

For Sikh communities, domestic abuse remains a taboo subject for which there is still a lack of acknowledgement that both genders can be victims and what constitutes as domestic abuse. There is a trend of not speaking out, even to family members due to fears of bringing “shame upon the family” which is not helped by some elders in the community still considering physical and emotional abuse to be the norm.

Communication can also be difficult if English is not their first language as help is often delayed due to the time it takes to source an interpreter. In my opinion, the government should consider making a wider range of interpreters readily available across agencies.  Personally, I am can speak both Punjabi and English, a skill that ensures I can undertake suitable and appropriate intervention if the victim’s first language is Punjabi, but not all social workers are bilingual nor should it be a necessity if appropriate resources are provided. 

What support would help victims?

Within my current role within the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) team, I sometimes work within the Barnardo’s Screening Tool (BST) domestic abuse team. This has provided me with a strong understanding of how and when the police refer cases of domestic abuse through to children’s services.

From my experience, further funding is necessary to improve support services in any community, especially for male victims. Over five years ago, I wanted to write a dissertation on male victims of domestic abuse, but my research was compromised by the lack of charities for male victims and limited academic research. Today, there still remains a strong taboo in respect of male victims, and it is not a topic openly discussed.

Victims also need to be informed of the services available to them. For this to happen, other professionals who already have one-to-one contact with families need to have a better understanding of the role of the social worker. The community perception is still very much “social workers take children away from families” when, in reality, every attempt is made to ensure the child is safe whilst in a parent or guardian’s care. 

How should underreporting be addressed?

I believe there needs to be awareness campaigns within the Gurdwara (Sikh place of worship) especially during busy periods. Sikhs of both genders would be educated with information regarding domestic abuse alongside teachings from Sikhi where men and women share equality under the eyes of God (Waheguru Ji). A campaign should also target many individuals across all generations as well as professionals to ensure that there is an improvement in knowledge of domestic abuse and local support services. Not only would this break down the barriers and challenges of reporting domestic abuse, it could eventually achieve a normalisation of speaking about such concerns.

This is comparable to what my colleague Paul Eggett, a cognitive behavioural therapist, shared with me: “Such educational promotion not only increases the likelihood of reporting, but also enhances the wider community context for individual reflection on both their own and others attitudes and behaviours.” Yet, the challenge in this would be communicating with different committees within Gurdwara’s.

What inspired you to be a social worker?

I believe you need to have a calling and passion for social work. As a Sikh female and second generation British Indian in the UK, I am the first in my family to work within social work. While it was not highly respected amongst extended family members, I am also blessed with a close non-judgemental family unit, who have supported my career path in life and continue to motivate me to progress and facilitate change. 

Also, my mother is my key inspiration and strength, as during my childhood, she instilled a strong moral compass in me and taught me to understand hardship from the perspectives of others using an empathetic and supportive approach for positive change. This is one of the reasons I became a social worker and an ambassador for the City Sikhs Network; a registered charity providing a voice for British Sikhs. I am extremely grateful to my team where I work for giving me the time to commit to this and to my consultant at Sanctuary, Kamruz Zaman, who listens to me and is passionate about helping me to promote change.   
It is my personal belief that we all have a duty to make positive change within society. Since I know the barriers associated with domestic abuse, I ensured a speaker from a local domestic abuse charity came along to our ‘Recipe for Success’ event in June. 

This event enabled almost 100 people from different generations of Sikhs to be made aware of domestic abuse, the support services available, and to engage in reflection and dialogue to promote positive change in the community, which I hope to continue to do. 

Kiran would like to thank Asif Sabir, Paul Eggett and Jasvir Singh OBE, for their support in helping her with this article.

Author biography

Kiran Grewal is a Senior Social Work Practitioner, who has significant experience working within MASH, Duty and Assessment, and Care Management Teams. She has managed a variety of complex Child Protection, Child In Need, Looked After Children and court cases including chairing strategy discussions. Outside of work, she is an Ambassador for the City Sikhs Network where she hopes to promote positive change within the Sikh community.

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