For Advocates: Secondary Traumatic Stress and Self Care
Lillian* loves her job as a Victim Witness Advocate in the district court. Working with victims of domestic violence and sexual assault became her passion during her senior year in college when she volunteered at the local rape crisis program. But now, a year into the work full-time, she is learning that it can be draining, if not traumatizing. She sometimes awakens at night terrified that a client’s abuser is coming after her, too. It’s just a nightmare, but she does wonder if someone will truly come after her one day. Running and going to the gym have always been great outlets for her, both building her stamina and releasing her tension. Now, Lillian is finding that she is simply too tired to pull herself out of bed in the morning to exercise. She also finds herself curt and frustrated with colleagues when so many calls and requests become overwhelming. Thinking about whether she should take a time management course or even if she is cut out for this work at all leaves her wondering if she is “burning out.”
*Lillian is a composite of Advocates and direct service workers who have come into contact with the authors. Her story represents the experiences common to many Advocates working with victims of crime.