This article from the Chillicothe Gazette explains how do survivor advocates cope and avoid “compassion fatigue” while helping sexual assault victims heal.
“The goal of survivor advocates is to provide emotional support, resources, and referrals to individuals who have gone through a sexual assault at the hospital. They also handle a variety of cases from domestic violence to child abuse and elder abuse. On the clinical side, forensic nurses go into the emergency department to complete a sexual assault examination among other things. Both roles can be equally as taxing emotionally.”
“The program reported 80 percent of its victims were females last year and 40 percent reported from a surrounding county. Adena advocate program coordinator Heather Welshimer said they’ve had people travel as far as two hours to have evidence collected because many small ER departments in southern Ohio don’t offer forensic nursing services.”
“In order to become an advocate, Welshimer said people must complete a 40-hour training through community partners, like the Ohio Alliance in Sexual Violence, or an online training program combined with training at Adena, which incorporates role play into training that’s specific to serving special populations. Training covers a range of topics from victim rights and trauma-informed care to male survivors to campus sexual assault and Title IX, she added.”
“Advocates’ training, Welshimer said, specifically focuses on self-care training that talks about building an individualized self-care plan and identifying positive coping mechanisms. The advocate program also processes cases quarterly in a session where they sit and “talk about any boundaries, triumphs they’ve had” or anything bothering them, added Nicole Bullock, another program coordinator, who has extensive volunteer work.”
“You have to have an outlet, you know, a way to cope,” Andrea Crace, a sexual assault nurse examiner, said of their roles. “And then we also have each other. We’re a tight-knit group. We lean on each other a lot. If we’ve had a case that’s really bothering us, or we just need somebody to listen to us for five minutes or to just listen to us cry, we’ve all been there and we all do a great job of being there for each other.”
Read the full article here.