Minimising trauma in staff at a sexual assault referral centre: What and who is needed?

Elsevier, Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, Volume 74, August 2020, 102029
Authors: 
Miranda A.H. Horvath, Kristina Massey, Shanaz Essafi, Rabiya Majeed-Ariss

Introduction

This study investigates staff's perspectives on the characteristics required to work in a sexual assault referral centre and the support and training they believe sexual assault referral centres should provide to minimise the negative impacts of the work and provide a supportive working environment.

Methods

Semi- structured interviews were conducted with 12 staff, and a focus group was held with a further four staff of a sexual assault referral centre. The data were examined using thematic analysis.

Results

Findings indicated that to work in a in sexual assault referral centre staff need to be understanding, empathetic, non-judgemental, supportive, flexible and resilient as well as having coping skills. The support structures and processes staff reported as being essential to creating a supportive working environment and reducing vicarious trauma were: supervision; training; peer support and shadowing.

Conclusions

Working in a SARC is stressful and emotionally difficult work. This study provides valuable insights about the individual and environmental factors SARC staff believe are required to have a happy and healthy workforce delivering a gold standard of care to victim-survivors of sexual violence.