Resilience & Child Abuse Intervention
As a leader of a CAC, I think about the importance of resilience in child abuse investigations and interventions quite often. Child abuse investigations are some of the most difficult cases that law enforcement officers, prosecutors, therapists, doctors, interviewers, advocates, and social workers have to deal with. Not only are these cases emotionally charged, but they can also be very lengthy and complex. As a result, it's not uncommon for professionals to experience vicarious trauma—a type of trauma that occurs as a result of exposure to another person's traumatic experience. Those who work on child abuse cases are particularly susceptible to vicarious trauma because they are often exposed to horrific details about the abuse that the child has suffered. Additionally, they may feel a sense of powerlessness in their ability to protect the child from further harm.
It's important to build resilience in the face of vicarious trauma for two reasons. First, if left unaddressed, vicarious trauma can lead to burnout—a state of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion that can impact an investigator's ability to do their job. It can cause a wide range of negative psychological consequences, including increased anxiety and depression, changes in self-perception, substance abuse, and difficulty trusting others. Second, vicarious trauma can also impede an investigator's ability to empathize with victims and witnesses.
However, there are a number of things that people can do to build resilience in the face of vicarious trauma, including establishing healthy personal boundaries, participating in regular supervision and debriefings, making time for self-care activities like exercise, connecting with supportive colleagues and networks outside of work and seeking professional counseling if necessary.
While many resilience strategies rely on the individual, I firmly believe CACs like CALICO can - and should - play a role in building the resilience of our partner colleagues who bring children to our center and/or provide treatment to the children afterward. This year, CALICO is renewing its commitment to promoting countywide resilience by providing opportunities for our team members to connect with one another and network outside of their specific cases. We are starting by hosting a taco lunch for our 29 partner agencies on September 21st, in appreciation of the hard work they all do to achieve justice and healing for abused children. Then, on November 4th, we are starting a new quarterly “Coffee with CALICO” morning, where the team can pop into our main office and enjoy a cup of coffee and morning treat with one another before taking on the day. Together, we can make each other stronger. I look forward to seeing those of you who work with CALICO at one or both of these events! For those of you who work elsewhere, what are ways you strengthen your resilience?