On the emotional cost of working with domestic violence in a Pandemic

It was late last week where I realised I had hit the wall. I, like many others, have been trying to continue working, homeschooling small children, and still stay on track with the work that I am doing. However, what I hadn’t taken into account was the ongoing emotional cost of working in such a sensitive and personal subject matter as domestic violence and abuse.

I have worked in the gender-based-violence sector for my whole working life. At different points this has taken different forms- from front-line community support, to refuge support work, policy work, and now teaching and research. The subject matter is always personal- the personal is always political after all, and it is almost impossible to take a step back from it as an activist, a woman, a survivor. When my career started to take a step back from front-line advocacy, to go ‘up river’, I remember thinking that the intensity would cease- I was no longer wondering who would pick up the phone to seek support, what unknown traumas and difficult circumstances I would assist a woman to navigate. Working in policy and training was more emotionally safe, problems were more rationalised, the barriers more predictable.

However academic life is about intensive knowledge production- it is about writing and writing and writing some more- designing, delivering, then responding to research- thinking through writing. Shoe-horning this into a full life with other commitments and responsibilities is one thing, but doing it during a lockdown, no schooling or outside support, no breathing space, is another entirely. I have found myself writing about DVA every waking moment that I am not dealing with home-schooling and I have found the intensity to be both triggering and unsustainable.

When I was thinking about writing about hitting my own wall last week, I thought about those who were still on the front-line but now working from home- offering advocacy and emergency planning with no separation from their private lives and those they are dealing with. That too must feel a monumental task and I hope those who are carrying that burden at the moment are finding time and space to look after themselves.

Sometimes ‘self-care’ can just feel an added pressure in the modern world- another chore for us to be doing when there are so many more pressing matters. Indeed, ‘self-care’ has become commercialised- buy this diet, pay for yoga classes, be better, pressure.

But going ahead in this lockdown I have realised I need to prioritise my own well-being more when working with such sensitive data and material. The DVA sector and those within it rightly pride ourselves for being a sector led by survivors- but we need to consider the personal costs this involves to keep going for years to come.

These are not normal times and sustaining our wellbeing longer term is a must.

1 thought on “On the emotional cost of working with domestic violence in a Pandemic

  1. Dearest jade, what a wonderful job you do, I’m So proud of you for your strength and resilience. Wish granddad could witness this, but maybe He is. Send to ken as well. Yes darling, you must care for yourself, you Do a wonderful job as a mother, wife and worker But where would they be without you, so take A breather, love the lucky stone, peaceful. It’s hard to convey just how lucky I feel to have You, Pia and Stuart will come good I’m convinced Lots of love precious girl, Nan xxx

    Sent from my iPad



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