Managing Vicarious Trauma: Comparisons between Survivor Professionals and Non-Survivor Professionals in a Domestic Abuse Context

Lead Research Organisation: Cardiff University
Department Name: Sch of Social Sciences

Abstract

I propose to study how coping strategies and dealings with vicarious trauma in the violence
against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence (VAWDASV) field vary between survivor
and non-survivor professionals, and whether there are differences in the strategies and
tactics used by survivors. This thesis would focus on the workers rather than managerial and
organisational support, such as clinical supervision. This is because if workers are in the same
organisation, they should in theory receive the same support; therefore, varied responses
between survivor professionals and non-abused staff may be what affects differences
between their vicarious trauma levels. As stated in my cover letter, vicarious trauma is
prevalent in the VAWDASV field, as professionals are constantly exposed to upsetting,
disturbing and potentially life-threatening events on a regular basis. This thesis could explain
and promote effective resilience tactics which could drastically reduce the practical problems
surrounding vicarious trauma in the VAWDASV field, whilst proving new insights for
academics.
Research Questions: How do survivor professionals manage the vicarious trauma which is
gained from working in the VAWDASV sector? Are there tactics which are used by all survivor
professionals? Does this differ to how non-survivor professionals manage trauma?

This thesis would fill a noticeable academic gap where there is a lack of understanding of
experiences of vicarious trauma for staff who are supporting the victims of crime, specifically
the differences between survivor and non-survivor professionals.
Developing this understanding and linked recommendations to build resilience and improve
professional experiences and practice could be of direct relevance to those working with and
for victims of violence against women. For example, this research could contribute to Welsh
Assembly government policy and actions, particularly strategies linked to the introduction of
Rhiannon Maniatt BScEcon (Hons) MSc - Research Proposal for ESRC Funding PhD
the VAWDASV (Wales) Act 2015. Increasing the resilience in VAWDASV professionals fits with
the national objectives set out in the VAWDASV (Wales) Act 2015, through ensuring that staff
are well trained and capable of providing 'high quality' support to survivors of abuse
(Objectives 5 and 6 of the VAWDASV (Wales) Act). Therefore, the findings from this thesis
could contribute to actions which the Welsh Government could propose for services.
As well as academic and policy ramifications, there are practical contributions which would
stem from this research. Findings from this research could show more effective ways that
VAWDASV workers could deal with their vicarious trauma, applying resilience tactics which
are used by survivor professionals to all VAWDASV workers for their everyday practice. By
improving their resilience to vicarious trauma, there would be fewer hours of work lost due
to poor mental health, and it would follow that there would be fewer resignations due to
vicarious trauma. The practical contributions would also expand further than the VAWDASV
sector, as if there are collective responses across survivor professionals which reduce
vicarious trauma, these could also be applied to other high impact careers, including police
officers, social service support workers, and even paramedics and emergency first
responders.

Publications

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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P00069X/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
2434043 Studentship ES/P00069X/1 01/10/2020 31/03/2024 Rhiannon Ceri MANIATT