For survivors of domestic violence, having a network of people to rely on is essential in the healing procedure. However how can individuals best offer that support?
Jennifer Guthrie, an assistant professor in interaction studies at UNLV’s Greenspun College of Urban Affairs, immersed herself in field research study to better comprehend the best ways to help survivors.
It’s challenging for many people to understand what to say or ways to offer effective support, Guthrie said, but the most unexpected finding was that communication barriers also occur in between survivors and the shelter personnel who help them.
Guthrie is the co-author of three research articles detailing the experiences of domestic violence and drug abuse survivors. She carried out the research study as a graduate student at the University of Kansas with her co-author and doctoral consultant, Adrianne Kunkel.
Their third post, “ Survivor: Women’s Stories of Navigation and Tensions in a Domestic Violence Shelter,” analyzes survivors’ experiences living in a females’s shelter, communication barriers between survivors and employee who helped them, and if survivors felt empowered. In February, their analysis won the Western Journal of Interaction’s Impressive Journal Post Award.
Guthrie and Kunkel completed volunteer training to qualify as shelter advocates and then conducted qualitative research study for almost 3 years. For about four hours a week over a 15-month period, they addressed the crisis hotline, looked after the shelter citizens, talked with citizens, and attended staff and volunteer conferences. They also conducted thorough interviews with 28 female survivors of domestic violence who remained at a shelter in the Midwest. The ladies remained at the shelter for approximately 21 days. Some individuals had multiple shelter stays.
In the interviews, survivors showed their obstacles and revealed that they often didn’t feel comfy speaking with personnel about how they felt or exactly what they required.
” In one way, the employee was another hard relationship the survivor needed to browse,” Guthrie said.
This overthrew the researchers’ presumption that locals would naturally feel comfortable getting in touch with the shelter staff, who are trained to help women gain independence from their abusers.
These relationships, nevertheless, often mirrored the power battle that numerous women were simply getting out of with their abusers, Guthrie said.
The ladies had problem with the push and pull of having to stand on their own, however also needing to depend on personnel to manage their scenarios.
One woman required help to change the eyeglasses harmed by her abuser prior to she might take on task interviews. The female knew that the old glasses, held together by masking tape, would impede her opportunities of getting a task. It was a case of needing to be reliant in order to acquire independence.
The fact that survivors go through stages of physical and emotional injury at various rates contributes to stress with team member, Guthrie said. Some females may right away find resources to get back on their feet and get control of their lives. Others have a hard time adjusting to surviving on their own and should relearn actions that come easily to others.
Ladies felt the have to show their self-reliance in order to acquire more aid and verify that they was worthy of an area in the shelter. If they made strides– such as lining up job interviews– the survivors’ understanding was that they ‘d get more aid and resources. If the women felt they lagged, they noticed an absence of support.
The lack of aid might come from a misconception of what society generally thinks of domestic abuse survivors, Guthrie stated.
A “pure victim”– a helpless person terrorized by a monstrous partner– is viewed more sympathetically than somebody whose experiences might be more complicated. “Staff may be more sympathetic and see the females who are selecting themselves up by the boot straps,” Guthrie stated. “If you see a survivor who appears unwilling to help themselves, then you are less likely to assist them too. Nevertheless, survivors face numerous barriers when aiming to escape a violent relationship.”
Interaction barriers also occurred from staff burnout, Guthrie stated.
Shelters across the nation are understaffed and employees are underpaid, overworked, and underappreciated, she noted. Staff members in nonprofits and shelters often do not have job security as shelters need to apply for grants and fundraise to keep positions. Using several hats can trigger burnout leaving little time for the shelter personnel to supply emotional support to survivors.
Through their analysis of the interviews, Guthrie and Kunkel can use shelter employees perspective and recommendations.
” Part of our feedback to shelters was to bear in mind everybody copes differently,” Guthrie said. “Understand where folks are coming from and their lives might be made complex, but that does not imply they are not worthy of support or care.”
Guthrie and Kunkel suggested that personnel, as much as possible and to the level their work day permitted it, humanize their relationships with the ladies and their children by doing things like playing with them.
They likewise recommended that shelters commit staff particularly to listening.
When shelter citizens spoke to staff about the abuse they withstood, it was tough for women to supply a linear story of the injury they experienced, so their stories would sound chaotic.
” For some survivors, the more they inform their stories, the more it can help facilitate the healing process. It ends up being much easier to cope and see how strong they are and how they will continue to be strong,” Guthrie stated.
The majority of shelters have a 30-day stay policy. The researchers recommended removing that policy when possible, though they acknowledge it may be hard to do. Lots of shelters are operating on shoestring budgets and don’t have adequate beds for their community requirement.
To counter staff burnout, Guthrie and Kunkel recommended reframing the circumstance. For example, sometimes shelter staff felt they stopped working when some of the ladies left the shelter and returned to a partner, only to come back once again to the shelter.
” It’s not a failure. It’s a success that individuals returned and acknowledged they required the help,” Guthrie said.
Survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault will want to a wide variety of people for help and approval. This network might include faith leaders, good friends, or people at a work environment. They, too, can utilize Guthrie and Kunkel’s work to comprehend verbal and nonverbal messages of social support for survivors of domestic and gender-based violence.
Continuing the Research
Guthrie is continuing her research study to establish programs for shelter personnel in your area. She teaches courses on gender-based violence, domestic violence, and sexual assault. She studies what’s thought about the “dark side of communication,” like problem locations and deceptiveness. She likewise studies how individuals use their strengths in times of struggle.
In the classroom, she shares insights from her time as a shelter advocate. Toward completion of her volunteering experience, Guthrie got an illustration from a survivor she met at the shelter. The drawing illustrates the female as puzzle pieces– each piece representing attributes the woman likes about herself.
“The pieces that protrude the most are ‘I like myself’ and ‘Now I feel more entire and total,’ and ‘liking the new me,'” Guthrie stated.
The drawing is printed in Guthrie’s dissertation. She utilizes it in class lectures and public presentations. It’s a tip of why she has committed her expert career to supporting survivors of domestic violence.
“To me, it represents the journey of recovery, coping, and rising self-esteem. The drawing also acknowledges how strong they have actually been– it reveals why we utilize the term ‘survivor’ to highlight strength,” Guthrie said.