What Compassion Accomplishes

15. How to Support Survivors While Supporting Yourself

November 02, 2021 WCA_Boise Season 1 Episode 15
What Compassion Accomplishes
15. How to Support Survivors While Supporting Yourself
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, WCA's Clinical Services Manager Megan discusses how loved ones can support survivors while setting up boundaries that allow them to take care of themselves.  

If you or someone you care about have experienced domestic, dating or sexual violence please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or one of the WCA's 24-hour hotlines (Sexual Assault:  208-345-7273; Domestic Abuse:  208.343.7025).

Follow us on social media!
@wca_boise

For more information and resources, check out our website:
wcaboise.org

Contact us at outreach@wcaboise.org 

Intro:

Welcome to What Compassion Accomplishes, a podcast dedicated to sharing information, ideas and resources about domestic abuse and sexual assault. The topics discussed in this podcast, including survivor stories, supportive services and domestic abuse or sexual violence can be difficult, and we urge you to listen with care. Our hosts are not licensed counselors or mental health professionals. If you or someone you care about have experienced domestic, dating or sexual violence, please call the WCA's 24 hour hotline at 208-343-7025 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233. You can also find more resources in the description of this podcast.

Cory Mikhals:

Hi, and welcome to another episode of What Compassion Accomplishes. I'm Cory Mikhals along with Chris Davis. Hi Chris!

Chris Davis:

Hi, Cory. It's great to be here.

Cory Mikhals:

It is. Well, we are, you know, firmly into fall now and heading towards winter; the weather's changing.

Chris Davis:

I'm just here in my puffy coat, my boots and tights

Cory Mikhals:

Well, fall is always so great.

Chris Davis:

It's beautiful, the leaves change color. And then you'll have the bright sunshine; we firmly we get four full seasons in Idaho. And you might get them in the same day sometimes.

Cory Mikhals:

At times, yes, we have! All right. Well, now who are we going to be talking to today?

Chris Davis:

We have our fabulous Clinical Services Manager, Megan in the house today. And Megan is a really fantastic person to talk to; she's got a lot of really wonderful experience. She's also just a really bright, sunny person to be around. And so I'm really excited to have her here and hear her perspective and hear some of the amazing things that she has to share with us, not only from her personal experience, but also just her kind of thoughts anecdotally about how to interact with folks and some of her thoughts and her feelings about some of the things that we talk about a lot on What Compassion Accomplishes, you know, we can go on tangents, and we just have a good time talking. So I think she's gonna have a lot to share with us. I think we're gonna have a good time.

Cory Mikhals:

Well, welcome.

Megan Raimondi:

Thank you.

Cory Mikhals:

And I have to say, she is a brave soul too because it looks like, based on the helmet, that you rode your bicycle over to the studio.

Megan Raimondi:

I sure did.

Cory Mikhals:

And it is windy as all get-out out there.

Chris Davis:

I can hear the leaves flowing around outside as you're looking at her bike helmet. Megan writes her bike to work almost every day, though. She is a die hard. Yeah.

Megan Raimondi:

It's one of the ways that I take care of myself in this work. The biking, like it's like a physical way to leave work at the end of the day and kind of bike it away. As I head home, I

Cory Mikhals:

I was gonna say it has to, because I know when I'm on my bike, or you know, my motorcycle -- either way -- I always call it my wind therapy. And sometimes after an especially stressful day, an emotional day, and all those things are things that we you know, deal with, to be able to just kind of release that. Totally, exactly. Yeah, I love it. Now, why don't you talk a little bit about what got you started with the WCA? Who you are, what brought you here? Sure, happy to. So my name is Megan and I'm the Clinical And here you are. Services Manager. I've been with the WCA just over a year now. And just about a year ago, I moved back to Boise. So I grew up here, went to high school here and then moved away for college and have lived all over the country since then. Most recently, I was in Sacramento, California doing very similar work at a DV/SA agency there. And, you know, with COVID and life changes--I have a three year old toddler and she's the best and I'm not biased, I'm sure--we were just really missing Idaho and it was less easy to get here with COVID safely and so we came back and visited and while we were here last summer, I was like well I wonder if the WCA is hiring. And

Megan Raimondi:

I know, I'm so grateful. And I volunteered at they were, and here I am! the WCA in my very... I went to St. Joe's Elementary School, right down the road when I don't even know what we did. But I remember it was a YWCA at the time and I remember being down, I think we were in the thrift store is my guess from like my piece together memories, but so I've always associated it with great things, and I love being back and being a part of it. Yeah.

Cory Mikhals:

What is it that you do? I mean, you know, you got this fancy title. That's awesome. I'm a very fancy lady. So I get to work with our case managers and our counselors. So I manage the clinical team, which is three case managers and one case management intern. And then we have a team of six clinicians and two clinical interns. And so I get to support them all in their work. So we offer the free counseling and free case management, both to our shelter clients and community clients. And so I get to support the team that supports the clients. It's, I'm sure, very rewarding. Yes, I love it. I love getting to see the growth amongst the clients and amongst the counselors and the case managers; we've got a fantastic team of humans who just really care about each other and about the humans that we work with. And so it's really cool to see their growth as individuals and the ways that they take care of themselves and each other doing the work.

Chris Davis:

You're not in the studio, but I want to describe this big, huge smile on her face. So she's talking and talking about getting to support the case managers and the clinicians. It's it's pretty awesome. I just want everybody on the other end to imagine this big, huge smile, and a perky person. And I mean, that's just really exciting. and the energy is contagious. So just imagine that.

Megan Raimondi:

Thanks, Chris.

Chris Davis:

Yeah.

Cory Mikhals:

Well, with what you do and and what everyone does there at the WCA, yes, I mean, having the knowledge having all of that, but really, at their core, that compassion, that caring that you've referred to, that is kind of first and foremost, really being passionate about wanting to help and being there and being these advocates for these individuals that have been through so much.

Megan Raimondi:

Totally.

Cory Mikhals:

So what's the difference? I mean, obviously, it's a, it's a different person that can be able to do that, when we were, you know, just a few moments ago, we were talking about for you, bicycling is a good, you know, therapeutic activity. What is it that you look for in an individual when it comes to being at the WCA and working for the WCA and with these clients?

Megan Raimondi:

That's a great question. You know, I think it's something that we'll talk a little bit about today. But a lot of times, as individuals who come into this work, right, we have some sort of lived experience of our own, whether that's loving and supporting somebody who's been through an experience of intimate partner violence or sexual violence, whether that's our own lived experiences. But oftentimes, people who come into the work have their own experiences in their past or love people who've had experiences or know people who've had experiences, and we know how all-consuming these traumas can be. And so being able to be a part of somebody's healing journey, in that intimate way we get to as a clinician or as a case manager, is just, it really does take somebody who both is incredibly empathetic and kind and really sees the strengths in people, but also has the awareness for themselves of what they need to be doing to be taking care of themselves. And kind of engaging in that self care. We talk a lot in the field about vicarious trauma and the ways that being present to other people's traumas can have an effect on our own, you know, managing of symptoms, even if we haven't lived through anything personally, right, that we can still be really affected by other people's stories. And so really making sure that we're taking care of ourselves, but then I think that's where my role gets to come in is I get to provide that support. So we talk a lot about training, making sure that people feel confident as they do the work, you know, providing a supportive environment. So I get to meet each week with each of my staff for a full hour individually. And then we have at least one, sometimes two or three team meetings where we meet and support each other in that space, too. And so really making sure that we're able to be checking in with ourselves and checking in with the way that things... so like for example, I know if I'm not sleeping well that I need to kind of pull back and do something more for myself. So we all just kind of can check in with each other around that. But then also just people who are willing to be honest about that, right, willing to say, "things aren't going great, I need to take a sick day" or "I need to take a vacation" or "I need to work more self care into my day," "I need to make sure I'm refilling my water glass," "I need to make sure that I'm like you know, stretching in between meetings."

Cory Mikhals:

When someone has gone through this traumatic experience, for a lot it's probably been a long road getting to where they get that strength enough to be able to make the call, to come down to the WCA, however it is that they finally reach out and say, "I need help. This is not okay." It takes this entire team, and we have this great team there at the WCA, but that team has also friends and family, the people who love this individual. They don't have the training; they don't have the person that is telling them, you know, how to be able to--I don't want to say compartmentalize--but be able to help this individual that they love and care about, without, you know, completely draining themselves and coming at it from just this emotional, you know, standpoint, because obviously, friends, family, you have a different mental... a different headspace, when you're talking about someone that you love, when they may never have even realized, or if they did a little bit, the depths of what this person had gone through. What advice you give to them that doesn't have the weekly, you know, meetings to go, "hey, take care of yourself?"

Megan Raimondi:

Yeah, that's a great question, And it's something that we see a lot, we hear a lot from support people. And I think it's such an important question, and I so appreciate when support people are willing to ask it, right and willing to say, "how can I support someone?" I think my first answer is to love them through it, right, to recognize that no matter what somebody is going through, they are still the person that you loved before that and even when sometimes it might feel a little bit harder to show up for them. But the most important thing you can do is to show up for them. You know, we hear a lot of family members talking about ultimatums or kind of some of those more intense ways of showing up for someone and those can work, but it's oftentimes actually a way that we push people away, right. So really just making sure that you're approaching it non-judgmentally; we see a different perspective than the individual. So say it's somebody who's in an unhealthy relationship, right? The person who loves them has a much different perspective than they have of their own relationship. And so you do bring a valuable perspective, but sometimes the person's not ready to see it yet. Obviously, you know, we have concern for their safety and their wellbeing and, and it's so so hard to see somebody that you love in that kind of relationship. And so, you know, obviously there are some times where it needs to be a more extreme response, but really the the response that we see that works best is just being there for them, showing up for them listening to them. And I think when we do those ultimatums, we can push the person further into the relationship because they no longer feel safe with us. And so, you know, if you tell somebody, "I can't keep listening to you if you keep talking about him, or if you keep going back to him or her," that can make them feel like they can no longer come to you. And such a big thing we see an intimate partner relationships is isolation, right? Where the perpetrating partner kind of pulls the individual away from all of their support people. And so, if you say something that makes them not feel safe, or feel judged around you, then that can just be further isolating them within the relationship.

Chris Davis:

Isn't there a way--and I've heard this before, but I want you to speak to it--aren't there ways to perhaps say, "You know what, I love you and I care about you, but it hurts me to see you hurt, so I need to step back." Sure. "But I'm here when you need me." If someone, maybe it's a mom, or a sister, or a best friend, or something who just feels like I, you know, if it's me, say, and I'm looking at Cory here, and I really care about Cory, but I am having a really hard time seeing Cory be hurt by the person he's in... knowing I've met his wife, and she's really nice. Cory is in this hypothetical relationship, right? And I'm having a really hard time as a friend and a friend, like, I just need to, for my own mental health, right, step back. Can you address that, like for me and my own mental health? Are there ways that I can express support and love but also protect myself?

Megan Raimondi:

Sure. Absolutely. Yeah. And I think that part of what we talk a lot about in the clinical world is like, how are we modeling for our clients. And I think that that can be true for friends and family too; holding healthy boundaries is a really important thing in life. Right, being able to recognize when something isn't a safe space for you. And so being able to say, you know, "I'm not in a space where I can be present to you or where I can really hold you right now in the way that you might need support, and so I'm going to take some time" or kind of holding those boundaries, modeling healthy relationships, modeling, "it's not okay, that he treats you like that or that they treat you like that." And, yes, so absolutely, I think it's that dichotomy of how do we take care of ourselves versus also how do we show up for the individual? But, if we're not holding any boundaries, then we're just reinforcing that way that they've been taught the boundaries can't be safe. And I think we, as clinicians, we hold healthy boundaries, both for ourselves, but also for our clients, right, there's a reason I'm not gonna give out my cell phone number to a client. And it's not because I don't want to be there for them, it's because I also know that I have to take care of myself. And if I'm getting calls in the middle of the night, that doesn't work, given my work and life boundary. So yeah, we definitely have to, we have to take care of ourselves in the work. And, as you know, on the clinical side, I talk a lot about sustainability in the work, right? Like, I want to be a social worker when I am old and gray, and I want to be still loving it, right? I want to have that smile on my face when I talk about the work I'm doing, forever. And I've been in fields before, where I've recognized that it's not working for me. And it's, you know, it's that, like, healthy selfishness of being able to say, "this is not where I want to be," or "this is not where I can be while also still being the person that I am in my core." And, you know, there are so many ways that we affect the world and make it more beautiful, and for me, part of that is being a parent, right? So if I want to show up at the end of the day with my kid and be able to be joyful and loving and still believe in the good of humanity, I have to hold my own healthy boundaries in doing that

Chris Davis:

"Believe in the good of humanity," I like that. But yeah, so saying that it's okay to have some boundaries with somebody and you're still caring about them, and you still want them to be happy and healthy and whole. And it doesn't mean that you care about them any less, to lay down some boundaries and say, "you know, I can't be there for you, I can't show up for you. It doesn't mean I love you any less. I am here with you, when when you need me, I'll be here for you. But I'm just gonna go over here for a little bit because I've got to take care of myself."

Megan Raimondi:

And that's a great time to give them our hotline number, right?

Chris Davis:

Yeah and then offer those resources and then say, you know, "I am over here," and you're doing it in a way that's not attacking the person they're in the relationship with, not putting them down, not going there. But saying me for me, I've just got to take a timeout, I'm gonna go over here and take care of myself, care about you, right, but you're establishing that boundary. And so that's a way too that I don't think people really think about. Again, the job and the work I do is outreach and communications. I do a lot of outreach out in the community; we hear this from a lot of people like "they just won't listen. I keep telling them and telling them, I love them and they don't see it, what do I do?" Well, you may just have to take a step back until they're ready. It has to be their choice, you can't force them. And the more you try to force them, the more you're pushing them away. So you're offering resources, you're telling them you care about them, and sometimes that's all you can do. And sometimes the best thing you can do is say "I'm here when you need something" and you keep offering resources, but if it's harming you, and frustrating you, and harming you, you know, you might just have to take a step back and leave it at that. Like "I am here when you need me. I'm gonna go over here in my corner, maybe plant some flowers, work in the yard, check-in every so often and say I'm here when you need me. I'm here, you know when and if you need me and I love you."

Megan Raimondi:

I think the thing that we often forget when we talk about it is how much emotion is involved in the actuality of the relationship, right? Like if you love somebody, and you see them in such pain, and you're worried about their safety and well being, it's not easy to hold those boundaries, it's not easy to listen to them and not want to just shake them into awareness or think, you know, if I tell them every single thing this person has done wrong maybe they'll... but they know, right? We talk in the clinical world a lot about motivational interviewing; it's this idea that you really have to help them come to the decision, right? The client is the expert in their own life. And I, for example, right? If somebody is thinking about stopping smoking, right, like they know what the... it's not like, they don't know, the health risks

Chris Davis:

They know it can cause cancer.

Megan Raimondi:

Right? Or the health costs and concerns, right? And so if I just tell them, all that's gonna do is be annoying, right? And make them not feel safe to talk with me about why it's hard for them because they're going to feel judged. So if we can come at it in a way where we can support the person and help them kind of think through, you know, what is stopping me from leaving this unhealthy relationship. If they recognize it's unhealthy, and if they don't, then helping them, you know, helping them see it in a way that's supportive and caring that validates that they're not alone in their experiences, while also telling them that it's not normal, right? "Not every relationship looks like him or her threatening you, at the end of the day. Not every relationship involves physical harm. And there are resources to help you when you're ready to talk more about it." Because even for me, right, I'm a counselor, I've known many people in domestic violence relationships, I am trained to be there with them. And when I love them, or care about them, and I'm sitting there with them, it's a very different feeling right, then when I'm in a clinical room and have that hat on, because I'm emotionally invested. And so I have to be able to take the step back, and a lot of times that looks like helping them get their own help externally too.

Chris Davis:

Right, where there's going to be no judgment. Because I think when that comes into play, and you think you're going to be judged, or "I should have known better, and these people who love me are going to expect that I will have known better," or all of those things that come into play--the shame, the, you know, the judgment--those things are huge for someone who's in that situation. And a lot of times, those are some of the first things that come out of the mouth of... if it's a parent, a sibling, you know, somebody who thinks they're their children or their, their brother, their sister, whatever, you know, they could have been so much, or they can be so much. And then these things come into play, right?

Megan Raimondi:

And that's such a good point, right? Because it's so important that they have people that love them that they can go to, right? And so if we're saying things out of love and care, but it's coming out to the person as, "well, this isn't a safe person,' because right, there's still love in the relationship, and that's where I think it gets really confusing is, you know, there was a reason your daughters were with those people. And we can't always see it, because we see the concerning aspects or the aspects that we don't love, but they have to get to a place where they're ready to see that. And yeah, it's, it's tough.

Cory Mikhals:

We've said this over and over again, it really does come down to... and this i frustrating, as you know, Chri , you were saying in outreach wh n you're talking to people who a e just going "they just won' listen, I love them, and I'm eeing this going on, and why do 't they get it?" That's a very t ugh thing to be able to do is watching that person. But I thi k the biggest thing to take ou of all of this is you have o take care of you and be ready o be there for them when they're ready.

Megan Raimondi:

Well, and I think you can say, you know, that's not an okay way to treat somebody, right, or it's important that we're able... because it also feels really icky to not say anything, right? So even if they know it's really important, many clients come to counseling when they're still in the relationship. And it's really important that they hear

Chris Davis:

And "I care about you, and I want you to be in the responses that we give that it's not okay, but not in a way that's demonizing the other person, or that's making them feel stupid for staying, in a way that's helpful and supportive and kind of welcomes the conversation to continue. So that we can continue to bring light to what's problematic within the relationship and also that they deserve health and safety. treated with respect," "Here's some ways that I, how I would like you to be treated, you know, here's some ways I like to be treated, and I would like the same for you in a relationship." And I think those are some things if you were concerned about somebody, those are ways you can identify things and show your support without, as you said, demonizing or pointing out or making, you know, pointing out the faults in that other person they're in a relationship with if they still are, and making it such that you're pushing them toward that other person and away from that support you're trying to offer.

Megan Raimondi:

And really just, I mean, a lot of what I say is "I believe you;" those simple statements of "that's not okay, I'm really sorry that happened to you." I try not to ask a ton of questions, because I think that can feel judgmental.

Chris Davis:

And, you know, exhausting for that person.

Megan Raimondi:

Yeah. And in the counseling room, we talk a lot about like, kind of why are you asking, right? Where is this coming from? And we know that the clients who come to us have oftentimes worked within many broken systems, right? We know there are a lot of broken systems that surround survivors and where they already come in with a lot of judgment on their shoulders. Even society can kind of put forth some blame on the victim through casual conversations and whatnot where it's not intentional, but a lot of times clients come in and they already feel they feel like it was their fault. They feel shameful. They feel embarrassed. And so we're already working against that, even when we haven't even said anything, right? And so really thinking through, you know, how can we be a person they can build trust with? How can we be a person where they don't feel judged? And sometimes even a simple question of, you know, "well, why didn't you leave that night?" if we're kind of gathering information, but even that can be read as...

Cory Mikhals:

"What's wrong with you?"

Megan Raimondi:

Yeah. And so really just being thoughtful about kind of why are we asking the questions we're asking, where are we trying to go with this question? Do I need to know, right? Is this my curiosity coming into play? Or is this really going to be beneficia for me as a support person to this individual?

Chris Davis:

It's, "do you need something right now? Do you need a ride somewhere? Are you okay?"

Megan Raimondi:

One question I ask a lot is, you know, "what can I do to support you right now?" "In this moment, what can I do to support you? Do you want me to help you find resources, do you want me to take you to a counseling appointment?" Right, you can really accompany them through. But the benefit of asking what they want or what feels right to them and giving options is super helpful, because it's not telling them the right thing to do, it's giving them choice and agency within it, while also making sure that they don't feel abandoned or, you know, left on their own accord.

Cory Mikhals:

I know I sure do appreciate what you do--and everyone there at the WCA, and the resources and the care and just the the individuals that you are. So from someone on the outside and and from, you know, a parent and a member of society that just wants people to be better, you know, and to work towards that point in our world where we don't have to worry about this. We're nowhere close yet, unfortunately. But having these conversations, having these moments of being able to put it out there so that people know there are people who care and you're not alone. And when you're ready, the resources are available.

Chris Davis:

Yeah. And if anybody's listening out there right now, and you are supporting someone going through this, or you've struggled with worrying about somebody, we want you to know that you're not alone, you're not the only one who's struggled with the situation or the thoughts. And there's resources out there--you can call our hotline, you can reach out for some information, because it's really, it's a difficult situation. Struggling with finding the right words, or the right way to support someone in this situation. It can be really difficult; it can be really draining. And so we want we do want you to know you're also not alone. We are in this together, so there's help and resources out there. So reach out for yourself, if you're concerned about someone, reach out. We just want y'all to know you're not alone.

Cory Mikhals:

Well, thank you for being on with us.

Megan Raimondi:

My pleasure.

Cory Mikhals:

Be safe riding the bicycle back.

Megan Raimondi:

Well, you see my helmet because I am a safe cyclist. Okay

Chris Davis:

And we hope that everybody around you is safe as well. Because you know, we aren't... it's a windy city, but we have lots of recreationists, we're heading into the winter time and you know, Megan, keep us in your thoughts. And if there's something else you want to chat with, about what compassion accomplishes, we'd love to have you back.

Megan Raimondi:

Awesome, thank you.

Cory Mikhals:

Thank you so much. And now on our next episode, we're actually going to have someone back from one of the early episodes.

Chris Davis:

Yes, Maya is coming back to talk about the impact of domestic violence on communities of color. And Maya is one of our client advocates, working in our shelter and directly with our clients during direct client work. And I'm very excited to have Maya back with us.

Cory Mikhals:

All right.

Chris Davis:

I love it when our program staff comes and talks with us because that's a very unique perspective and they offer a lot of insight so very, very excited. Tune in. Thank you, Megan. Share this, like it, listen to our other episodes. We've had a lot of great guests on What Compassion Accomplishes and the alwas amazing, Cory, thank you very much.

Cory Mikhals:

Always my honor. And so we will talk on the next episode of What Compassion Accomplishes.

Intro:

Thank you for listening to this episode of What Compassion Accomplishes. Again, if you or someone you know has experienced domestic abuse, dating or sexual violence, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or the WCA's 24 our hotline 208-303-7025.