The Wounded Helper

People who work with survivors of sexual and/or domestic violence are motivated for many, many reasons. Sometimes, their motivation comes from their own experiences of sexual/domestic violence and abuse. For me, my experiences of abuse was a key motivator in volunteering for Rape Crisis – I wanted to help challenge a culture that allows/minimises/normalises the abuse of women and children.

When working in areas that expose you to acute distress – mental health services, violence support services, social work – sometimes, as a worker or volunteer you can experience burnout. Having support systems – such as good clinical supervision – can help in some ways, but sometimes the nature of the work can make its mark. This can develop in several different ways:

All of the above are very natural responses to distress. For those of us that work with people who experience trauma and distress – whether we are survivors or not – we may react similarly. 

However, if you are in a position of power, if you are a care-giver, if you advocate on behalf of others, it is important that you attend to your well-being as the consequences are dangerous.

This has been played out recently on twitter. A woman who offers support and advocacy to survivors of domestic violence has exhibited behaviour that I and many others consider dangerous, damaging and abusive. Despite many voicing their concerns to her, she continues to exhibit this behaviour. As a result, many of us – including domestic violence support agencies – have decided to pursue safeguarding action regarding her behaviour.

I do not doubt that this woman believes that she is helping. But it seems to me that her desire to be heard, to help, is now at any cost and if her behaviour harms others, so be it. This is deeply disturbing.

From my perspective:

  • If YOU disempower a woman who is attempting to take control of her life, that is abusive
  • If YOU try to control a woman who is a survivor of domestic violence, that is abusive
  • If YOU try to intimidate a woman who is asking you to stop controlling her, that is abusive
  • If YOU put scare quotes around the word victim, when you claim to be an advocate for survivors, that is abusive
  • If YOU breach a woman’s confidentiality, by printing identifiable information in the public domain, that is abusive.
  • If YOU threaten to reveal even more confidential information, that is abusive

I am talking to YOU. And if any part of you recognises any of these behaviours in yourself, please get help and support – for your sake and for others. If YOU continue to behave like this, the consequences will be devastating.

To all survivors, you need to know that this behaviour is not common-place. There are many wonderful organisations that can help you. I have included these organisations below.

I believe you.

 

Violence and abuse support services:

www.rapecrisis.org.uk – Rape and sexual violence support services for women and children

www.womensaid.org.uk – Domestic Violence support service for women and children

www.broken-rainbow.org.uk  – Provides support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans* (LGBT) people experiencing domestic violence.

napac.org.uk – Support, advice and guidance for adult survivors of any form of childhood abuse – sexual, physical or emotional

www.respond.org.uk – Respond provides a range of services to people with learning disabilities, including both victims and perpetrators of sexual abuse

www.ashianasheffield.org  – Aims to help prevent murder and serious harm to black, Asian, minority ethnic and refugee women in England, Wales and Scotland as a result of domestic abuse and forced marriage and honour-based violence. Also supports children and young people.

 

Mental health and emotional well-being support services:

www.mind.org.uk – mental health charity for people affected by mental ill health

samaritans.org – 24-hour support for anyone experiencing distress, despair or suicidal thoughts.

 

Services for reporting professional abuse:

www.popan.org.uk  – WITNESS is a charity that aims to promote safe boundaries between professionals and the public to prevent abuse.

Professional Boundaries (guide) – A guide for people who have experienced abuse of power by professionals

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51 thoughts on “The Wounded Helper

  1. I am with you all the way. I had similar concerns as that unfolded. You are quite right to remind us all that we must take care and monitor our own behaviour and presentation as ‘helpers’ in any capacity.

  2. Thank you – it is an approach that I apply to myself and need to act upon at times. I appreciate your comment very much as it seems many people are becoming increasingly concerned. Thank you.

    1. Thank you. Sadly she seems to be unaware and uncompromising about her behaviour – which is why we have had to act. Thank you for your comment and much love to you too x

  3. She has been exhibiting this behavior for quite some time. You are either with her or you are a bully and/or abuser. I hope that you all can find a way to get her the help she needs.

    1. Thank you for your comment. Her behaviour appears to be coming from a place of distress – for which I empathise. We are acting to try and prevent any further damage – for her as well as others, Thank you for sharing your perspective – I appreciate it.

      1. I have a great deal of admiration for those who have stood up to her in this situation. It cannot have been easy or pleasant. None of us want to believe someone we trusted is not the friend we believed them to be.

        I hope that all of them have enough support and encouragement.

  4. Thank you for everything you’ve written here and for everything you do. Let us hope this situation can ultimately be turned to good before anyone else is harmed in any way.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Linda. It is vital that survivors do not feel silenced, frightened and intimidated by those in a position of power. I hope that things will move quickly now.

    1. I agree and it is such a shame as her premise was a very positive one. The problem is: you CANNOT pursue a goal by harming others and expect to get away with it because you are raising awareness. It is 101 safeguarding.

  5. Reblogged this on The not so quiet feminist. and commented:
    The best thing you can do to help those suffering from domestic abuse & violence, is to send them in the direction of qualified professionals ( if you aren’t one yourself). You may endanger the life of the victim if you give them false – but well intentioned – guidance.

  6. Saw a request from Eve today asking for people to get in touch if they want their chapter removed from the book. So i DMed her asking her to remove my chapter.I included details about what the chapter is about in the DM I also said i would make a donation to my local refuge after shes removed the chapter which i am very happy to do . But she says she can only remove the chapter if i contact her by e mail with full details. I cant do that because the full e mail i sent her for the book has been wiped from my e mail account. By me as i live with my husband and i didnt particularly want him to find it. Im not very computer savvy and he sometimes has to give me a hand. My chapter in the book is about the 17 year sexless marriage. She wants me to contact her by e mail for security reasons Ironic isnt it? She ended by saying to contact her by e mail so that “we can discuss it” Now my husband has NEVER been physically abusive but he would not be happy that i have talked about this outside the home.
    I find it both ironic and hypocritical that Eve is now using security reasons as an excuse after her recent behaviour. And saying that “we can discuss it” instead of agreeing to the chapters outright removal sounds like a pre cursor to bullying to me. Now as i said eariler my husband has never been physically abusive but i could be in for a difficult emotional time if he finds out.
    And what worries me is that there could be other women who have contributed to her book and are now asking for it to be removed who are still living with physically abusive partners or emotionally abusive partners. This is incredibly worrying.

    1. Elizabeth I am so sorry and very concerned about her reply. Would you mind if I shared your response on twitter? I am also collating evidence of bad practice at present and this could also be included. It is entirely up to you – let me know what you need.

      1. Portia, send Elizabeth my email. I have a copy of the book and am looking up chapters for other contributors. Send any more requests my email. I am happy to help.

      2. Thats absolutely fine Portia. The first name on my twitter account is my real one but the surname isnt . Its an old family name. I feel a proper fool. The reason i gave Eve what i did was to try to help other women going through the same emotional loneliness. Thankyou for your kindness and your help . It is very much appreciated. I so hope she is not putting any women in real danger by doing what she is. Its scary. Thankyou again Portia x

  7. Elizabeth:

    You can contact Amazon and try to have the book pulled from publication. If Eve Thomas does not have a written contract with you identifying you and your story and giving your consent for her to publish it, then Eve has no evidence that she has the right to publish it. Amazon can do this within a matter of hours if they are properly notified.

    I have posted some basic information — not legal advice as I am not a lawyer — on my blog at http://www.LindaHilton.blogspot.com “How to start taking ownership of your stolen words.” As I am also a writer who has published with Kindle Direct Publishing, I may be able to answer any questions you have, though I’ll be coming from a U.S. standpoint rather than U.K. Feel free to contact me and rest assured that everything will be kept in strictest confidentiality. Eve’s practices have upset me since the day I first saw this book offered.

    I am so terribly sorry this is happening.

  8. Hey everyone, firstly Portia thank you for this excellent blog – brilliantly written. I have some grave concerns regarding Eve’s policy for removing chapters. I’ve asked her to remove mine. She then asked for the chapter number and the charity I had nominated to receive royalties from book sales. It took me a long time to find the chapter number, as my association with Eve ended badly before the book’s release, so I never bought a copy. whilst searching for the chapter number, I received two further emails from Eve (all of which I’ve kept), featuring language that concerned me, regarding holding the book from sale whilst waiting for me (which is a lie, as it’s still available on Amazon and to the best of my knowledge, always has been). when I found out the chapter number, I contacted her again and gave her the details she had requested. She replied with the following form, saying I needed to fill it in “in order to protect all parties.”

    “I ……. Author of chapter …. Wish for it to be removed from #OneVoice Fifty Shades Of Abuse. I understand that the charity I nominated …….. Will now forfeit any revenue and that the costs and work involved in replacing my chapter have to be taken into account. I understand that chapter ….. Is my voice and I wish for it to be removed.”

    Now, my concern is the “costs and work involved in replacing my chapter have to be taken into account” bit. Am I alone in thinking that sounds suspiciously like I’ll be charged in some way for removing my chapter??!! I’m not signing it and now I don’t know if my chapter will be removed.

  9. Emma that is absolutely awful. Does Eve not think that survivors of abuse have been through enough without putting them through all this. Her excuse to me was i had to contact her through e mail when ive already explained why i cant. (the e mail account i had which i contacted her on has locked me out (yahoo) and i cant get back in anyway. Not only can i not contact her through e mail for the reasons i have already mentioned I dont particularly want Eve knowing my main e mail address as her recent behaviour proves she cant be trusted and i think the safety of other women is the last thing on her mind.
    In fact after developments late last night regarding the tagging of tabloids in some of her tweets im beginning to wonder if shes not trying to get some kind of validation through fame.
    Sorry if that sounds nasty. Its really not meant to be. Im just trying to work it out in my own head.

    1. It doesn’t sound nasty hun, it sounds – sadly – most likely very accurate. She has spoken to me on the phone before about her intention to get herself on This Morning, GMTV and the like. At the time, I simply believed that she was doing it for her cause, to help all abuse survivors. I’m not so sure anymore.

      All I know is there’s no way I’m signing anything that suggests I might be financially liable for her removing my chapter. It should be as simple as “I want it removed” and it’s done, as far as I’m concerned!

      1. Please, please, please, everyone wanting out do not sign anything. Go now to Amazon like Linda has related in her blog. Get them to remove the book.

        Linda’s blog link is listed above as is my email for those wanting confirmation of their chapter numbers.

        I have to go and literally smell the roses for a bit because I’m that enraged. I see this as nothing more than an attempt at intimidation.

      2. Struggling to find the copyright infringement bit on Amazon’s site, but will use the email address provided in Linda’s blog. Just had ANOTHER email from Eve trying to rush me into signing (the third – all have been screen-capped) and saying the book is currently off sale whilst she has to wait for me to sign. This is a barefaced lie.

      3. Good for you. Tell her you couldn’t possibly sign anything without your attorney (solicitor?) looking it over and to stop harassing you. There is a lawyer that is online who sometimes addresses these questions, when I get back from the roses I’ll look him up and post his website.

        Work with Amazon.

      4. Emma & Elizabeth:

        If you can’t find any other information on the Amazon UK site, send an email to Copyright@amazon.com. Let them know you are the author of a chapter in the book and Eve Thomas does not have a contract with you to publish it. The more information you can give them — chapter number, etc. — the better, but at least get the process started.

        Again, I’m not a lawyer and I’m in the States, with dangerously little knowledge of UK copyright law. (Just enough, in fact, to know it’s different!) But everything Eve Thomas has done on this project has raised red flags with me. I would personally recommend that if you have already demanded removal of your chapter, you have no further contact with her at all, that you contact a lawyer and let Eve deal with a profressional from now on. If she had done that at the beginning, she might have avoided a lot of grief.

  10. Having consulted with my dad, who knows a bit about legal stuff, I’ve replied to Eve, refusing to sign her form and telling her that I wish my chapter to be removed and I will not be responding to any further contact. I’ll let you know if she continues to bombard me. :-/ I hope not.

  11. Well done on this and good luck to everyone caught up in this mess. There is a similar character on Twitter who involves herself in the area of child sexual abuse, so also coming across very vulnerable people to exploit. Her blog is full of lurid news reports and she telephones survivors, encouraging them to relate their stories, under the pretence of all being ‘warriors’ together. Well done on shining a light into dark corners.

  12. E mailed Eve asking her to remove chapter And here is her reply.

    As I’m sure you can understand everything has always been confidential so I need you to state the chapter number, I’m sure you can understand my need to protect the other voices. I am willing to remove them out of kindness and respect but I hope you understand the need for clarification. Most are anon and by copyright law when they were sent you gave me permission for your stories to be included. (All emails, messages etc have been kept.)
    I also ask that as I’m willing to do this once you have clarified the chapter that you cease all negative, bullying, attacking behaviour. Comments have been screen shot, my protection and the protection of #OneVoice is crucial.
    I await your reply with confirmation.
    Please advise your friends that once I’ve received all requests the book will be taken off sale whilst reformatting is done, I’m sure you can understand that we only want to have to do this once as the other charities will be loosing out whilst it isn’t for sale.
    Stay safe
    Eve x

  13. And a second e mail from her.

    I kindly asked for you to cease please.

    Confidentiality is important but if you continue I will be forced to take action.
    Many thanks I’ve respected your wishes please respect mine.
    Eve
    Sent from my iPhone

    Id love to know how she thinks shes respecting anyones wishes.

  14. Remember how I said I wasn’t replying to any more emails and I hoped that would make this all stop? Three ignored emails from Eve later… It doesn’t appear to be going away. 😦 I’m getting warnings to “cease all behaviour” too, when all I’ve done is discuss the facts of this situation, without tagging her on Twitter (I bocked her months ago), whilst she continues to tag me in tweets, in which she calls me a liar and is basically very abusive. I’m also getting the “I have screen shots of all messages” thing, which is interesting, as so do I and I know which one of us comes across badly in them and it’s not me.

  15. Oh Emma. Im sorry. She is working a fucking script isnt she? What she has done is every bit as bad as what an abusive partner does In fact its worse because women have put their trust in her.

    1. >>What she has done is every bit as bad as what an abusive partner does In fact its worse because women have put their trust in her.<<

      This is the very thing I was noticing. It is very concerning to see her behaving in an abusive manner when she is claiming to be helping abuse victims.

  16. It doesn’t look like Eve is going to “go away” at all. She’s going to continue to harass and stall and, indeed, bully the people she knows are most vulnerable, people who trusted her and believed in her.

    Again — if she does not have a publishing contract with you, she does not have the right to publish your story. Period. End of discussion. An email is not a contract. Your stories are not “anonymous,” and her claiming that anonymity protects *her* rights is just plain wrong.

    You absolutely must contact Amazon; they are the only ones who can remove the book from publication for copyright violation, and you are the only ones who can claim the copyright. Beyond that, you must seek professional legal advice.

  17. So, I know this is a little off track from the Eve thing this post was intended to be about. I wanted to thank you for it, anyway.

    I have never heard of “Compassion Fatigue” before this, but after reading it I’m afraid that I have had it at some point (and probably still have it to a lesser degree). I have quite a number of close friends who suffer with severe mental illnesses. Somehow, I am the one they went to the most with it. Basically, after a couple hours long chat with one friend, the next would be waiting outside my door for his turn. I always helped each friend set up meetings with a counselor as soon as they told me there was a problem. However, I don’t think there was ever a time in college where I didn’t have at least one friend with suicidal ideation, or where I wasn’t hiding their sleeping pills or razor blades. One friend eventually developed a fixation to me, which created a greatly unhealthy relationship and caused even more strain.

    I’d like to say I was always happy to help. Unfortunately, that would be a lie. I became bitter. Due to the unhealthy friendship mentioned above and never having time for myself between homework and listening, I had no freedom or control over my life. It took more effort than I’d like to admit to still care, or want to help. It almost seemed hopeless. I didn’t want to hang out with anyone or do anymore. I was just…tired. And I felt like a truly terrible person for it.

    I started taking care of myself more and sought out more professional help before I snapped and said or did something terrible. And things have gotten better, for both me and most of my friends. But knowing that that kind of thing (compassion fatigue) happens to others is a comfort to me, in a way. I hated myself for how I was changing. And I’m better now (but still working to improve). Knowing that I’m not alone, and maybe not as terrible of a person as I thought, is a huge relief. So, sorry for the wall of text. But thank you for the post.

    1. Hi Erin.
      Thank you so much for sharing your experience of CF. I share your experience and also developed Vicarious Trauma. I was lucky to have a fantastic clinical supervisor who supported me to self-help and self-care.
      The more people speak out about it, the greater the awareness and the more likely that those who support and those who are supported will be protected from harm.
      Thank you so much for making the time to comment.

      1. Any advice on how to break free of it? As I said, things have gotten much better. However, I’m still aways very uneasy when someone comes to me now, because I’m terrified of a situation getting to that point again. The biggest things that seemed to help me was setting firm boundaries with my friends, making sure I had some “me-time,” and coming to terms with the fact that at least one of my friends might do something terrible and it might be triggered by something I said but that did not make it my fault (sounds morbid, but that was my life). But as I said, I’m still very uneasy. I want to be able to help anyone who comes my way without things becoming unhealthy or even harmful. If you have anything else that helped you in your experience, I’d love to hear it.

      2. Hi Erin.
        What worked for me was self-help. I researched it, did a self-assessment and looked at the recommended coping strategies. I still experience Vicarious Trauma on occasion: usually brought on by trauma overload. When that happens I take time out: no media, no social media and I do things to distract and soothe: read, watch DVDs, socialise, write blog posts, and sometimes I talk my feelings through. I was lucky in that I have 1-2 people in my life where I can vent: say the unsayable.

        The above may not work for you as self-care is unique. However I think your current strategies sound very helpful. What I have learned about myself is that sometimes, I’m not in the place to support everyone I want to – and I’ve had to respect that. It took time but I got there in the end 🙂

        More on Compassion Fatigue: including help and resources can be found here: http://www.compassionfatigue.org/

        I hope that helps x

  18. Portia~

    I am so distressed at the recent communications I’ve seen from Eve towards DV victims. Thank you for writing this post and for the help you give to people who need it.

    1. It is a post that we all need to read, myself included. I need to be mindful of my own well-being before attempting to support another. Thank you for your kind comment.

  19. Reblogged this on Stalking Investigations and commented:
    It REALLY worries me that even those who you’d expect to be the most sensible and experienced individuals are manipulated by this type of behaviour (of course they don’t recognise it and anyone who alleges this is an abuser / anti-victim / part of the conspiracy etc). I’m not sure why some people can spot this behaviour and others can’t. I’m not even sure it’s about how perceptive they are. I certainly think the vulnerable and those with vested interests / egos / and seeking to raise their profile are vulnerable to being sucked in.

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