Domestic Abuse Advocates are a key source of support for victim-survivors who experience abuse from an ex/partner, providing emotional support (involving listening to experiences and traumatic stories) and practical support (e.g. housing or legal support). But helping survivors can have negative effects on the Advocates; specifically, they can develop Vicarious Trauma.
Vicarious Trauma is caused by transference of the trauma effects experienced by survivors to Support Workers after being accumulatively exposed to them while providing care. Support workers cognitive schema/thought processes in various areas can be disrupted by hearing traumatic accounts, and they can also experience changes in their memory systems and affect. Alternatively, support workers can develop Vicarious Resilience, which encompasses the growth and positive feelings which develop from supporting others through trauma.
My research aimed to qualitatively explore experiences of vicarious trauma in Domestic Abuse Advocates (such as refuge and community workers), and how they manage trauma levels to ensure they can continue to provide support to others. It also examines organisational and individual factors (including own experience of abuse) which can have an impact on experiences of vicarious trauma and vicarious resilience.
This research was conducted using Participatory Action Research principles, and offered creative methods to participants, specifically the use of the Sandboxing method.
Conference Presentations Regarding this Project:
– ‘I don’t have anything else to give’: Vicarious Trauma in Domestic Abuse Advocates’ and Impacts on Sustainability – British Society of Criminology Conference 2023, University of Central Lancaster, June 2023
Upcoming Conference Presentations:
– Reflections on using the Sandboxing Technique in Exploring Vicarious Trauma/Resilience with Domestic Abuse Advocates – European Society of Criminology Conference 2023, Florence, Italy, September 2023
– ‘I look at my husband and think, do I even know you?’: Domestic Abuse Advocates’ Experiences of Vicarious Trauma and Vicarious Resilience – Thinking Theory, Research and Practice: The Feminist Politics of Social Justice Conference, Liverpool University, November 2023
My other research interests include Violence Against Women, Interpersonal Violence, Substance Misuse, Crime Prevention and Rehabilitation.