Domestic violence is a difficult topic to talk about. But what if there is also a language deficiency or intellectual disability involved? We developed a tool for the Municipality of Rotterdam.
Social workers in Rotterdam come into contact with all kinds of complicated problems. A careful approach is essential, especially with sensitive subjects such as domestic and sexual violence. But how do you have conversations with someone who does not master the language well enough or is not cognitively strong enough? For some groups a verbal intake is not sufficient and a special approach is needed.
Cocky Ruitenberg, domestic violence expert at the Municipality of Rotterdam, knocked on Flatland’s door with a very clear question: can you design a set of cards? Because if someone can point or nod, you’re already half way.
Recognition in a drawing
The municipality of Rotterdam wanted to develop the discussion cards for social workers, because there are sometimes clients who cannot indicate whether and what form of abuse is taking place in their home. This applies to very young children, or people with mild intellectual or verbal disabilities. In these sad situations, it is essential that you as a care provider act carefully and that you are absolutely sure what is going on.
When asked: “Has it ever happened that …. ?”, a social worker can put these cards on the table. The purpose of the conversation cards is to be very clear – and sometimes quite explicit. It is important that someone can recognize his own specific situation in a drawing. Because if you’ve been living in a situation like that all your life, and that’s all you know, you don’t always know what’s normal.
Difficult topics to be discussed with the use of cards
Sometimes it is easier to point to an image than to put a violent event into words. The cards can help with this. Originally, the cards were developed as support for discussing domestic violence with people with disabilities, because working with visual materials has great added value for that group. But the cards can also be used with people who find it difficult to put things into words, or with non-native speakers.
The conversation cards are 57 images of forms of domestic violence and child abuse. This occurs in all walks of life and in all cultures. That is why it was decided to depict animals so that there are no references to status, rank and/or culture. With these cards it is mainly about the action itself that is depicted.
Clear, but not too specific
Such a deck of cards isn’t new: there are already cards with human figures. But a depiction of people is much more explicit and can therefore be misunderstood. For example, someone does not recognize his own situation, because the depicted person looks very different than at home. For that reason, we wanted to avoid gender, height and skin color, but at the same time be very clear about the situations and actions. After all, it’s about making difficult topics open for discussion.
In three sessions we developed the cards in co-creation. During the first session we analyzed the assignment, we made the first concept and we came up with the idea of the animals. We have outlined all situations and made categories into physical, sexual and emotional violence. The second and third sessions were for drawing details and validation. And to make the tool available to everyone, they can be found online so that people can download their own selection of cards.
The cards are very well received. The social workers (fortunately) do not use the cards on a daily basis, but they have already proven their strength several times. And they find it extra convenient that it is a handy package that you can easily put in your bag.
Drawing and visual thinking has a lot of added value for social work. This was the start of a great collaboration, in which we developed more visual tools for the teams and social workers in the city of Rotterdam.
Start for longer collaboration
These cards are part of a bigger collaboration between Flatland and the Municipality of Rotterdam regarding social work. This project was followed up with more projects: we are often involved in professionalization processes. Together we developed a visual handbook about domestic violence. We support the content of this manual with animations to explain more complex topics, such as system theory, transfer roles and secure relationships.
In addition to concrete tools, we also helped the Rotterdam social teams to align their working methods. The conversation cards therefore differ from our other services, because this is a very tangible tool for care providers to use in practice. And perhaps for that very reason an éxtra valuable Flatland project.
Flatland's creativity, intelligence, professionalism and patience are great to work with. They make everything I can think of, better.Cocky Ruitenberg Expert domestic violence - Municipality of Rotterdam
Drawing for social impact
Visual consultant Vera is proud of the project: “Even though it was sometimes confronting to get into this matter, we have made something very tangible that can really contribute to someone’s life. That I can apply my drawing skills in such a valuable cause, makes this a dream job.”
Vera Buitenhuis - van Groos
Want to know more about this project or talk about a visual tool for your issue? Contact Vera, she will be happy to tell you about it.Email Vera
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