Supporting young people around issues relating to gender-based violence (GBV) can be challenging and emotionally difficult, particularly if staff have personal experience/s of abuse. Staff need to feel valued and supported to do this work, and to be given the time and resources required to respond well.
An important aspect of a trauma-informed approach (TIA) is the emphasis it places on staff wellbeing – recognising signs and symptoms of trauma in staff and resisting the re-traumatisation of colleagues. As a staff team it can be useful to acknowledge the potential impact of Prevention work on the individual and to implement protective measures.
Key concepts to be aware and act upon in relation to this work include:
- Vicarious trauma (VT) can be characterised as a shift in the world view of the ‘supporter’, when we experience trauma through indirect exposure to another person’s trauma. Some people are more vulnerable to vicarious trauma than others, although we are all susceptible. Indicators might include: feeling unsafe, becoming increasingly pessimistic or cynical about the future. Some people might stop seeing purpose or meaning in what they are doing.
- Burnout is a state of ‘physical and emotional exhaustion’, likely to impact your mental health. There are lots of possible causes, including a dysfunctional workplace dynamic and a lack of work-life balance – a consequence of a heavy workload and lack of control over your work. Symptoms can include: unhealthy levels of stress, insomnia and fatigue, irritability and lowered immunity.
- Professional resilience (PR) – the ability to bounce back after an adversity; to develop adaptive and flexible responses to challenges. PR is a process and is achieved through a combination of self-compassion, coping strategies and self-reflection.
- Self-care. Developing an individual self-care practice can protect you from VT and burnout and starts with finding time for yourself everyday to do the things that nourish your physical, emotional, environmental, spiritual and relational health and wellbeing.
Schools should have up to date policies and procedures on staff experiencing or perpetrating domestic violence. This should include information around confidentiality, support provided by the school or counselling, the option to work flexibly and to take time off. SafeLives and the Department for Health have produced the following resource: ‘Responding to colleagues experiencing domestic abuse’.