Six months ago, an Athens, Georgia social worker was murdered. She was fatally shot in her home, according to Joe Johnson in Online Athens. Natania Jarrad was just thirty years old and the authorities still have no leads.
Jarrad was a social worker for Advantage Behavioral Health Systems. She was also head of that agency’s “Assertive Community Treatment Team.” Her fiancé found her dead in her home in June. To date, not a single arrest has been made.
“Any determination of how Jarrad came to be shot will likely come down to the results of scientific tests of evidence and autopsy results that has yet to be completed at the heavily-backlogged Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Division of Forensic Services’ statewide crime laboratory,” writes Johnson. “Those findings may not be available for another three months… [As of November,] the Crime Lab backlog was just under 37,000 cases…”
Meanwhile, Frank Maponya, reporting in Sowetan Live, says a social worker was shot dead at home in early December. Limpopo social worker Muzila Thinavhuyo, who was 45, was shot several times by a gang of gunmen emerged from hiding. No motive is yet known. No arrests have been made.
As horrible as these incidents are, they are not rare enough. Social workers have been murdered before and will be murdered again. They are not always killed because of their jobs; people are murdered every day in the modern world and some of these are just coincidences. The fact is, however, that too often social workers face threats of violence and death from clients and relatives of clients.
Social workers are often ill-equipped to defend themselves, too, as the average social worker is not exactly an armed action star ready to take on all threats. A large percentage of social workers are women, who tend to be smaller and weaker than those who threaten them. The sad reality is that many social workers live every day with the threat of violence. Even a social worker whose clients are happy may find herself or himself the victim of threats or actions by someone peripherally involved with case work. A violent boyfriend, an angry husband, a mother who has lost custody of her child… the possibilities are endless.
Worse, however, is the fact that while the threat of violence is only too well known, little is being done to make social workers more safe. How many murdered social work personnel will it take before those in power take notice? When will decisive action on this issue be taken? And if those in our government do acknowledge the issue, what can be done to make our nation’s social workers more safe?
As with so many problems we face in the social work profession, there are few easy answers. What would you do? Have you ever felt unsafe on the job? How did you handle it? We welcome your input on this contentious issue.