“There is a cost to interacting with suffering.”
As advocates, survivors, and those who serve survivors, we daily witness other’s pain, which can result in our vicarious trauma. It’s also known as burnout, compassion fatigue or secondary trauma. Such trauma is “the cumulative toll of being exposed to the suffering of other humans, living beings, or the planet.”
For DV/SV advocates and programs, our challenge and “part of the brutality in doing this work is that there’s an increasing need among people, animals and the planet and, at the same time, decreasing resources […] Inevitably you will be faced with the very difficult challenge of trying to hold on to your dedication and commitment while simultaneously trying not to get attached to the outcome in a way that is detrimental.”
From Lauren Van Dernoot Lipsky (see interview at:
Ms. Van Dernoot Lipsky also co-authored Trauma Stewardship, an Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others with Connie Burk. In her interview and book, she addresses the signs of vicarious trauma, which look similar to the trauma responses of survivors. Refreshingly, she takes advocate self-care further than bubble baths. While a soak in the tub could definitely be an important part of some folks’ self-care plans, often times, our conversations around advocate self-care don’t go further than the suds: they don’t acknowledge the complexities, challenges and essentiality of holistic advocate self-care. For example, she explores how the “suck-it-up ethos” — the idea that one is less dedicated to the cause if one puts in place healthy boundaries — can inhibit honest discussions about advocate self-care. She offers many suggestions for how programs can create safe spaces for all of their staff’s self-care. Reading this interview could be the start of new self-care plan for you.