Healing the Healer: Exploring Barriers and Solutions to Supporting Workers in the Domestic Violence Sector

Katrina Milaney PhD, Lisa Zaretsky, MSc, Carrie Mcmanus, Becky Van Tassel


Individuals who work with Domestic Violence (DV) survivors are often exposed to traumatic events that can leave them feeling overwhelmed, distressed, and susceptible to experiences of trauma themselves. The purpose of this exploratory study was to understand the health and wellbeing of staff in the DV sector to build capacity around providing safe and supportive working environments. A focus group was conducted with 40 members of a local domestic violence collective while surveys were completed by 61 professionals within the DV sector. Thematic analysis of focus group discussions and descriptive analysis of survey data highlighted primary barriers to supportive and safe organizational cultures including the work environment, leadership, and supervision. Specifically, supervisors and organizational culture play a significant role in contributing to employee health and wellness. Results suggest the need for increased importance on the role that senior/executive staff must take in protecting their staff from trauma-related harms, including focusing on trauma-informed supervision, structure, self-care, education and training, agency policies and the safety of the work environment. Future research could explore the impact of prioritizing the role of senior and executive staff in creating a safe working environment while informing new policies and strategies for mitigating staff burnout.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.22158/assc.v3n2p65


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