In this fifth installment of the minisode series on worker safety and well-being, Ruth and David discuss the prevalence of histories of abuse amongst professionals and how agencies can proactively shape their human resources, training and supervision to this reality. One of the main takeaways from this episode is that having staff who have abuse histories can be a real asset for an agency that addresses domestic violence in the families they serve.
Research shows that a variety of professionals include health and child welfare have significant prevalence rates for histories of domestic violence, sexual violence and child abuse and neglect. McLindon, Humphreys and Hegarty found in one study of female personnel at medical facility in Australia that at “….45.2% (212) of participants reported violence by a partner and/or family member during their lifetime, with 12.8% (60) reporting both. ” A Spanish study found that a ” total of 1,039 health professionals participated in the study. Of these, 26% had suffered some type of abuse. Among the men, this prevalence was 2.7%, while among the women, it was 33.8%.” A 2003 United States study found that 1/2 of child protection workers had histories of intimate partner violence.
David & Ruth discuss the significance of this data including:
The research suggesting that workers with histories of abuse may be more sensitive to the issue, including working harder to keep children with survivors
But can also lead to victim blaming, collusion with perpetrators, lack of engagement with perpetrators, fears and stress
Keeping with their solution focused approach, David & Ruth discuss what agencies can do including:
Build policies and training to reflect the assumption that staff includes survivors of domestic violence
Review HR and Employee Assistance Programs to see if this is an identified issue
Develop communications and supervision strategies that start with new workers around their own histories and how to take care of themselves
Name indicators or areas of concern
Fears and resistance around engaging perpetrators as part of job
Symptoms of stress like self medicating
Rigid views on issues of domestic violence
Aggressive and abusive behaviors toward colleagues or client
Look to use lived experience experts on your staff as a resource
Create an employee lived experience advisory group that allows survivors to provide input as both survivors and professionals into agency policy and practice
Create a confidential peer support network—lived experience experts who are trained to help other survivors on staff, supporting each other to bring their “A” game to work
Train supervisors to keep focus on professional behavior while supporting workers to get the help they need.
References Mieko Yoshihama, Linda G Mills. When is the personal professional in public child welfare practice?: The influence of intimate partner and child abuse histories on workers in domestic violence cases. Child Abuse & Neglect, Volume 27, Issue 3, 2003, Pages 319-336.
McLindon, E., Humphreys, C., & Hegarty, K. (2018). “It happens to clinicians too”: An Australian prevalence study of intimate partner and family violence against health professionals. BMC Women’s Health, 18(1), 113. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12905-018-0588-y
Carmona-Torres JM, Recio-Andrade B, Rodríguez-Borrego MA. Intimate partner violence among health professionals: distribution by autonomous communities in Spain. Rev Esc Enferm USP. 2017;51:e03256. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1980-220X2016049803256
About the worker safety and well-being minisode series The goal of the series is to address the critical issues of worker safety and well-being as a critical aspect of domestic violence-informed systems. This is a series for frontline staff across child protection, mental health and addiction, courts and other systems. Listen to more minisodes on worker safety.
More About The Podcast
You asked, we answered. Amidst our current, global political and social upheavals, during movements, activism and testimonies, legal cases, fear and victim-blaming – we’ve heard your voice asking for clarity, insight and thoughts about how all of this is reflected in the Safe & Together Model. Many of the stories and news pieces we hear about from our partners all over the world involve complex questions, yet the beginnings of change and hope are based on the sound, simple principles of the Model.
To that end, in our new podcast, “Partnered with a Survivor,” S&T’s Executive Director and Founder, David Mandel and Ruth Stearns Mandel offer a raw and intimate glimpse into their personal and professional partnership and what it means to truly partner with a survivor, raise a family based on S&T principles and engage in social change at every level. This is a podcast for practitioners and parents, partners and employers, coworkers and friends – and anyone else who may want clarity, understanding, hope and healing.
What does it mean to give consistent consent? What is coercive control? How do you probably see it or feel it every day? This is a podcast you’ll wish you had heard when you were a teenager. In unsure, confusing times, it’s our goal to widen the audience for the Safe & Together Model-associated material to survivors, their family members, and even perpetrators. For professionals familiar with the Model, it will offer another angle on the issues addressed by the Model. For those who don’t know Safe & Together, it offers a connection to the themes and ideas behind the work.
These podcasts are a reflection of Ruth & David’s on-going conversations which are both intimate and professional and touch on complex topics like how systems fail victims and children, how victims experience those systems, and how children are impacted by those failures. Their discussions delve into how society views masculinity and violence, and how intersectionalities such as cultural beliefs, religious beliefs and unique vulnerabilities impact how we respond to abuse and violence. These far-ranging discussions offer an insider look into how we navigate the world as professionals, as parents and as partners. During these podcasts, David & Ruth challenge the notions which keep all us from moving forward collectively as systems, as cultures and as families into safety, nurturance and healing.
Note: Some of the topics discussed in the podcast are deeply personal and sensitive, which may be difficult for some people. We also use mature language to describe some feelings. Finally, we use gender pronouns like “he” when discussing perpetrators and “she” for victims for two reasons: 1.) statistically, more men are perpetrators than are women when it comes to domestic violence, abuse and coercive control; and 2. For clarity’s sake, sticking with one pronoun causes less confusion for the listener. We know there are many men who are in abusive relationships and we are not invalidating their situations.
About the podcasters: David and Ruth are committed to creating systems and cultures of nurturance and safety. David Mandel founded the Safe & Together Institute which trains systems in domestic violence aware practices from a child safety lens. Ruth Stearns Mandel is a survivor of complex abuse, child abuse and domestic abuse growing up in a cult. She is a former teacher and trainer using her experience to clarify messages and complexities around abuse and survivors.