What a Career in Domestic Violence Really Looks Like
RAFT Team, April 23, 2019
There are many roads that can lead to a career that works to end domestic violence.
Some pursing a career to end domestic violence grew up in homes that openly and actively supported human rights. Others were influenced by situations in the home or the community that highlighted the need for greater social justice. And some working to end domestic violence are survivors themselves who want to help others trapped in abuse. No matter what the impetus, most want to help others get to a place of greater freedom and confidence.
You can advocate for and support survivors in a myriad of ways.
A career to end domestic violence could range from case manager to shelter worker, social worker to strategic planner, law enforcement officer to legislator. The opportunities are endless. Additionally, work is greatly needed, deeply meaningful, and intensely rewarding. But working a career to end domestic violence is not easy.
Consider the following truths when pursuing a career to end domestic violence:
Days can be long.
No matter what type of job you pursue, some days are long. When you work with those affected by domestic violence, your emotions get pulled in a million different directions. Your heart can break and then become elated At the end of the day, it’s hard to leave your work at the office. If you’re a case manager or shelter worker, every single day looks different than the day before. Most of the time you’re in a reactionary mode rather than working as instigator. All this can wear down your body, your mind, and your heart. It’s difficult to remember that you get a fresh start tomorrow.
Circumstances can be difficult.
You’ll need fortitude and creativity to navigate effective solutions. There are times you’ll wish you could sweep away all hurt and trauma. People will make decisions you don’t agree with. Lawyers will find loopholes for perpetrators. You’ll want to take people home with you and let them sleep on your couch. Kids will cry. Shelters will run out of extra space. Much will be out of your control. As such, it’s difficult to remember that your job is to take the next best step forward.
We’ve found that a few simple practices can help you avoid burnout when working against domestic violence.
Most individuals working a career to end domestic violence find the task to be all-consuming. If you’re not careful, after a few years into your career, you can easily find yourself experiencing burnout. To avoid this, we recommend a few simple practices:
Boundaries need to be enforced.
While we can’t always leave work at work, time on the clock after hours should be the exception, not the norm. When you’re with friends and family, be fully present with them. Be intentional about what fills that time and space. Remember that working with survivors is your profession. This means you get to conduct yourself as a professional, not a charity. Emotional intimacy with clients is tempting, but maintaining a professional boundary allows you to sustain yourself and your career for years to come.
Self-care is essential.
Working in a career to end domestic violence generally affects every piece of your heart. Most who pursue this career have deep passion and feel every setback personally. But passionate work must stem from the overflow. When you keep yourself healthy both physically and emotionally, you’ll be much more effective in your work. Exercise. Eat good food. Drink lots of water. Pursue hobbies. Schedule down time. Build your relationships with friends and family. These habits will fuel your work and help make you more buoyant and flexible on a daily basis.
Gratitude must be daily.
When you’re working with survivors, you see a lot of evil. You’re daily in the trenches with trauma, and studies show that second hand trauma can have long-term consequences. The good news is that you get to choose your perspective and focus. A daily gratitude practice can keep you positive and enthusiastic. Start a gratitude journal. Make it a dinner-time discussion. Keep the good things at the forefront of your mind and you’ll find much more satisfaction with life in general, not just in your career choice.
Whatever path you follow to pursue a career to end domestic violence, the choice means being part of positive change.
This career choice means you get to be part of the solution. And you get to witness survivors bravely moving forward towards thriving. With healthy boundaries, consistent self-care, and a daily gratitude practice, you’ll truly be able to thrive.