Working in the field of criminal justice, probation, victim advocacy and social services is a noble path. It gives an individual the ability to change the course of another person’s life. The role gives someone with the opportunity to initiate change and influence people’s behavior. This doesn’t come easy as with the different characteristics of people – some may be hesitant or downright uncooperative. It takes patience, mindfulness and knowledge of trauma-informed practices to effectively implement lasting and profound changes to victims of domestic and sexual violence.
To talk about the practice of mindfulness in the social work profession is Allegany County Probation Department’s Sara Mahoney. A specialized officer with 13 years’ worth of expertise in the field, dealing with domestic violence and sexual assault response, as well as strangulation cases. She’s on her way to obtaining a Master’s Degree in Psychology.
Sarah leads the webinar and discusses the various aspects of mindfulness in victim supervision including:
- The concept of mindfulness where an individual practices compassion and non-judgment.
- Examining the disparity between how other people see victims, how the victims see the circumstances surrounding them, and recommendations on how to approach the victims to bridge the disconnect.
- The blame game that tends to get played when attending to victims that are often rooted in our own attitudes, culture, and experiences.
- Verbatim examples that illustrate how we may tend to unintentionally perpetuate victim-blaming and what to do to reduce this tendency.
- The elements that surround trauma that may go as far back as childhood, the events and details during the incident itself, and post-incident where the victim needs to deal with so many things and people.
- Anecdotes and quotes that provide a look into the dynamics and what transpires in abusive relationships.
- Shifting paradigms and positive positioning to bridge the gap between service providers and victims of DV and their definition of success.
- Why victims do not report abuse that includes psychological, cultural and practical reasons.
- Ways how retraumatization is triggered within the abusive relationship and within the system
- Mitigating the risk of retraumatization for the victim through mindfulness.
- Techniques to make victims contact positive by fostering an honest, non-judgmental, and open relationship that provides reassurance, assistance, and active participation from the victim.
- The most important aspect of mindfulness practice through self-care and awareness of one’s own limitations.
- Areas tackled during the Q&A segment are on:
- Working with other parts of the system that aren’t practicing mindfulness.
- Getting others to practice mindfulness and use mindful language.
- What to use in place of the word ‘victim’.
- Using motivational interviewing on victims.
- Using mindful language during urgent scenarios.
- “Using mindfulness strategies to help a victim explore barriers to healthier choices. Great presentation! Thanks to the presenter, moderator, and Justice Clearinghouse.” –Anthony
- “This was so helpful and Sarah gave some great advice in communicating with victims, and we not always going to like our victims. Thank you!!” –Kelle
- “The entire webinar was interesting and very helpful. This webinar actually reinforced my feelings on how to handle a victim. Sometimes others cannot see things through the eyes of a victim and will do or say things in a negative sense about the victim and their actions. Thank you so much and God bless you.” –Shelia
- “Such an often overlooked perception of the victim in the system and well detailed on how to not re-victimize. Great information.” –Rebecca
- “I really liked the pre-incident, during incident and post-incident part. It really gets you thinking on how an individual is thinking when they have been in a DV/SA incident.” –Delphine
- “I found it was important to raise awareness about the language used when referring to clients. It is a very sensitive time for them and you want them to feel comfortable with you as their advocate.” –Lisette
- “First let me say thank you for a very good presentation, it was to the point and met my expectations. Nothing particularly stands out [because] the entire webinar was awesome. Thanks again.” –Dennis