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Day 9 of 16: A US Caseworker’s Experience with GBV

by Jennifer Padfield, AWC Berlin member

The United Nations Development Fund for Women estimates that at least one of every three women globally will be beaten, raped, or otherwise abused during her lifetime. In most cases, the abuser is a member of her own family.[1]

Simone is a twenty year old woman with two children who, unfortunately, is one of those “one of every three” described in the opening quote. I met Simone during my time working for the Department of Child services (DCS) in the state of Indiana. In 2014, I took a leap of faith and made a career change from the legal world to working for the DCS, where I was employed until our recent move to Berlin. I had been inspired to make this change after my volunteer work with numerous non-profits.

Simone had been referred to DCS after her current boyfriend and father of her youngest child had beaten her in front of her children, throwing her into a wall giving her internal as well as external injuries. Her boyfriend was subsequently arrested for domestic abuse and child endangerment. While Simone refused to press charges against him, because she did not think the abuse was a serious issue, charges were subsequently filed against the father of her second child. Simone suffered abuse as a child, having been raped by a close family friend. She was also groomed to believe that a cycle of abuse was normal. We would frequently have conversations where she did could not comprehend that it was not acceptable to be threatened at gunpoint, or to see a man “beat his woman” because, in her life, this was the day-to-day for herself as well as friends and family.

Once Simone realized that she was at risk of losing her children, she availed herself of much needed therapy, found full-time employment, experienced a boost in self-confidence, and was doing well for herself, in general. However, after one year of DCS’s support, she became pregnant with her third child. I will never forget the phone call I received from Simone and her therapist as Simone was considering alternate, non-medical forms of abortion. Simone said, “ I have two children I am on the verge of losing, I can’t have another, I know what it takes and I can’t do it!”. Her therapist then told me Simone had thrown herself down the stairs and had taken a variety of pills she was promised would get rid of the baby. Simone then asked me if I knew how much an abortion cost, and if DCS would pay the $300.

Governor Mike Pence had recently passed a law which stated that women had to wait three days from the time of their first visit to the doctor before they were able to receive an abortion. At the time I did not think much of this law. However, for Simone, now trying to maintain employment, it meant she would have to take off of work on two separate occasions within the same week, scrounge together money to take three busses, and pay the $300.   This was difficult. Following her initial visit, where her pregnancy was confirmed, Simone was unable to return to the doctor until the following week. When Simone returned, Planned Parenthood could no longer confirm if Simone was in her last week of the first trimester or first week of the second trimester. Then she received the next piece of devastating news: Planned Parenthood would no longer be able to proceed with the abortion and Simone would have to go to a hospital for the procedure. Now she would have to make an additional appointment, take another day off of work, find transportation, and come up with an additional $200.

It was hugely frustrating as a caseworker not to be able to help make this process easier for Simone. As a caseworker, I was only able to provide her information and moral support. I was unable to provide transportation or bus passes or money for the procedure. It was disheartening to know that, while she had made the tough decision to have an abortion, because it was right for herself and her family, she was unable to move forward with this decision in the most medically sound way in light of laws and regulations.

*Abortion in the United States is legal, via the landmark case of Roe v. Wade. However, individual states can regulate/limit the use of abortion or create “trigger laws“, which would make abortion illegal within the first and second trimesters if Roe were overturned by the US Supreme Court. (source: Wikipedia)


  1. Planned Parenthood – Donate and Volunteer with Planned Parenthood. https://www.plannedparenthood.org
  2. Become a CASA – Court Appointed Special Advocate and help advocate to the court on behalf of the women and children who suffer from Gender Based Violence http://www.casaforchildren.org/site/c.mtJSJ7MPIsE/b.5301295/k.BE9A/Home.htm

[1] United Nations Development Fund for Women. 2003. Not A Minute More: Ending Violence Against Women.. Retrieved on December 4, 2008 from http://www.unifem.org/resources/item_detail.php?ProductID=7.

The AWC Berlin participates in the 16-Day-Campaign against Gender-Based-Violence.  Each day, we highlight an aspect of GBV to raise awareness and call on our membership to take one small action to fight against violence against women.

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