“When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to go it alone – and quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird in front.” – Cheryl Craig
Every day we are inspired by survivors’ resilience, determination and hope. For many victim advocates, having the opportunity to support survivors can be the fuel to continue the work. However, working with survivors also comes with challenges. Especially for advocates who have experienced abuse themselves, listening to a survivor’s story can bring back traumatizing memories. Self-care is essential to advocates’ well-being, the survivors they serve and overall organizational health.
We are all aware of the consequences of poor self-care. At the organizational level, it can affect staff morale, work performance and lead to excessive staff turnover. According to Real Tools: Responding to Multi-Abuse Trauma by the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, lack of organizational support is an important factor contributing to vicarious trauma and burnout.
Organizations wanting to promote self-care amongst their staff can simply start by “flying in V formation,” just like the geese! By flying in a V, geese create uplift for the bird immediately following. As a result, the whole flock adds at least 71 percent greater flying power than if each bird flew on its own. When the head goose gets tired, it rotates back in the wing and another goose flies point.
Supporting self-care for staff needs to move beyond a focus on encouraging individuals to be kind to themselves, it must integrate comprehensive self-care strategies into organizational policies, management practices and office routines. Organizations can learn from flying flocks of geese and promote constant communication among members, be actively supportive of their staff and model self-care especially when a member of the team needs some breathing space.
The Summer eNewsletter highlights useful and creative resources from NRCDV to encourage self-care amongst service providers working with survivors.