What can I do to look after myself?
Your employers should offer training and support in order to help you manage the challenges of the work. If you find that your work continues to have a negative impact on you and your relationships then you should find out what additional support your organisation can provide. This may involve further training, counselling or sometimes changes to your workload or the content of your work.
It is also important to note that some aspects of the work can be difficult to talk about or admit. Some professionals experience some signs of sexual arousal when reading material of sexual offences. This can be simply due to the brain recognising sexual language and responding to this, in which case a break from the work, by talking to a colleague or making a cup of tea, can be helpful. If professionals have any concerns that they may have an attraction to the material then they need to stop this area of work and seek professional help.
Personal boundaries - the use of personal disclosure
Depending on your role working with an offender, it can be appropriate to use personal disclosure to illustrate examples and model appropriate behaviour. You must be clear why you are sharing particular information and that it is within an appropriate context. You must also be clear with yourself what you are comfortable sharing and the reasons behind the personal disclosure.
Here are examples of when it would not be appropriate:
- Discussing personal sexual attitudes, beliefs, activity
- Personal family situation (although see below for safe references)
- Disclosing personal or family victim issues
Here is an example of appropriate sharing of personal information:
- Finding common ground with hobbies, activities
- Examples of conflict resolution
- Safe reference to family situation e.g. the offender is trying to convince you that they have no problems or difficulties in their current relationship. A response could be ‘From my personal experience of relationships I know they can have their ups and downs.’
At all times you must feel safe and comfortable within your role. Being clear on your personal boundaries facilitates your ability to maintain an appropriate role with the offender with whom you are working. You must have the ability to be assertive if these boundaries are crossed at any point.
Clear Roles and Responsibilities
How would you feel if an offender you were working with re-offended? Would you feel responsible, would you question your judgement and actions?
It can be very easy to feel a level of responsibility when an individual re-offends. You question yourself and your ability to make sound decisions e.g. did I put enough support in place, and did I consider all the risk factors?
What you must always remain clear about is that, if an offender re-offends, it is their choice and decision. You are accountable for your actions, and as long as you have made defensible decisions based on the evidence available you are not responsible for the individual’s behaviour.
Personal Support Network
Support can come from within and outside of your work. Your manager and colleagues can be useful sounding boards for advice and sharing the frustrations and emotions of the work. However sometimes they might not be available or you might find that you take some of the emotions home with you.
It is important to identify who is available outside of the work (partner, friend) to support you and what information you can share (remembering the importance of confidentiality). When deciding who you would chose to support you it is important to consider the following:
- Impact of the work on them
- Impact on your relationship
- The importance of previously negotiating beforehand with the key individual whether they are willing and able to support you.
We can all have a tendency when coping with a situation or problem to revert to avoidance tactics e.g. watching television, listening to music, keeping ourselves busy. We can also display an emotional response to a problem e.g. banging doors, shouting. These are normal short-term responses to problems, but for longer-term resolution consider the following:
- Kadambi, M. A., & Truscott, D. (2003). Vicarious traumatization and burnout among therapists working with sex offenders. Traumatology, 9, 216-230.