When I was actively working as an anti-violence advocate in the field, I, like so many of my advocate siblings, was often asked, “HOW can you do what you do?” To me it always seemed a strange question — and one I might ask of an accountant or a medical assistant or someone working in retail. I guess sometimes it’s hard to understand what motivates people to do whatever it is they choose to do.
I eventually came up with something that worked. You see, regardless of the setting or the employer, what my clients had in common was trauma. And what I discovered is, that once these folks have the information, support, and inspiration they need, life can change dramatically. And quickly. I frequently compared the process to fast-forward images of plants breaking through the soil and flying into full-flowered bloom that nature videos often provide. It’s breathtaking. And so is anti-violence work.
[bctt tweet=”It’s like those fast-forward images of plants breaking through the soil and flying into full-flowered bloom that nature videos often provide. It’s breathtaking. And so is anti-violence work.” username=”AndreaPatten”]
Many of us know there are people doing this type of work… and not much more than that. It’s comforting to know that there are specially trained advocates for survivors of rape, child abuse, and domestic violence. There are people who advocate for people with disabilities and members of the LGBTQ+ community. For access to health care, safe housing, and education. A livable wage — or even equal pay. Death with dignity.
Self-Care for Advocates considers anti-violence, advocates to be the trauma-focused professionals, paraprofessionals, and volunteers in nursing (forensic, psychiatric, ER), social work, counseling, and law enforcement.
And let’s be sure to remember shelter staff, community health workers, care managers, victim service providers, dispatchers, EMTs, journalists, environmentalists, animal welfare workers, community organizers and activists. Virtually anyone who regularly has close interaction with the trauma, suffering, or crises of others can develop the symptoms of secondary trauma.
[bctt tweet=”Anti-violence advocates are the trauma-focused professionals, paraprofessionals, and volunteers in nursing, social work, counseling, and law enforcement at the intersection of health and public safety. ” username=”AndreaPatten”]
These professionals work at the intersection of healthcare and public safety to prevent, respond to, an or provide services to individuals and communities impacted by all forms of violence. The work they do is vital to the health, safety, and well-being of communities and the individuals that create them. In many circumstances this work is risky and those doing it it unappreciated and unprotected. The 2020 lack of adequate PPE for first-line healthcare workers was not a surprise to most advocates.
[bctt tweet=”In many circumstances this work is risky and those doing it are unappreciated and unprotected. The 2020 lack of adequate PPE for first-line healthcare workers was not a surprise.” username=”AndreaPatten”]
Not all advocates get the support they need to do this important work. The hours are long, the pay barely adequate, and the benefits… well in many cases that would be “what benefits?” No healthcare insurance. No educational benefits. No training allowance or retirement plan.
In a recent survey of 200 anti-violence workers, 85% of respondents scored moderate to high levels of burnout. In addition 40% reported disordered eating habits at least some of the time, while 32% admit to misusing drugs or alcohol from time to time. 1-in-20 reported experiencing daily thoughts of suicide. And the pandemic has only served to intensify their experience and add to their isolation.
Self-Care for Advocates was founded to support anti-violence workers and provides tools to mitigate some of the post-traumatic stress symptoms experienced by our friends and colleagues. The staff and volunteers are hard-working, talented, and passionate about providing high-quality, research-based tools to enhance coping-skills, mindfulness, and mental health.
[bctt tweet=”In a recent survey of 200 anti-violence workers, 85% scored moderate to high levels of burnout, 40% reported some disordered eating habits & about 1/3 misuse drugs or alcohol from time to time. 1-in-20 reported daily thoughts of suicide.” username=”AndreaPatten”]
You may be surprised to discover that even if you “could NEVER do what they do” we found a way you can help. One of the extremely lovely things about social media is the ability to amplify important messages, raise awareness, and perhaps garner additional support from your circle of friends and colleagues.
I’ve tried to make it as simple and easy as possible. If you’re on Twitter, use the “ click to tweets” embedded in the post. If not, you can share a link to this post. Or, you can click on any of the flower images to be linked to the flower fundraiser and order some plants for your own self-care. (50% of sales will go to Self-Care for Advocates. The sale runs through October — which is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.)
[bctt tweet=”Advocates can be like those they serve. When they have the information, support, and inspiration they need, life can change dramatically. And for the better.” username=”AndreaPatten”]Let’s connect on social media.